Monday, October 8, 2012

Logline - Have your cake and eat your veggies too

"A skinny man sells his soul to the devil in order to protect the love of his life, and then wins it back  by becoming  the best obese king that walks this earth  (and lives happily ever after, once he figures out his midlife crisis)"

"Are we really going to do this?"

My protest falls on deaf ears. A split second later I realize I am sitting in the first chair to the left of the honorable writer friend who has just proposed to do a round of what he casually calls "what have you been up to for the last 20 years".  I'm a clockwise person and thus first in line to put my head on the block in my book.

I'm not particularly keen on impromptu reviews of extensive periods of my life time. Especially not with 1, 2, 3, 3½ writers at the table.

20 years. Can we have your logline, please!


Luck has it I am dealing with a counter-clock person. Looking around the extensive table, I realize this also means I am going to be second last. That is, if I put aside my suspicion that the instigator won't be doing too much sharing himself and concentrate on watching and listening instead. Either way, knowing this bunch of people so well, it means they will be utterly bored and restless by the time we get to the last story.

I wonder what is the better deal: making a fool of myself while every one is listening attentively, or doing the same thing with all of them  dozing off.

Half way through the thing I notice the women and the men have somehow ended up sitting at opposite sides of the table. How does that happen so often? The social dynamics of picking your chair at a table. A potpourri of strategy, luck, insight, and apparently also sheer gender preference. I wonder whether this is initiated by the men or the women, or both, and decide the second option to be the most viable.

I usually stink at choosing chairs, but this time I had picked a good one upon arrival. Just right of center with a good view on all guests at the table and within conversation range with all of them, including the hosts at both ends of the table.

After a quick visit to the bathroom I find my seat taken.

I don't want to make a fuss about getting my chair back, so I end up in the aforementioned chair at the far right of the table that makes me 'last in line'.

When I see who the chair-thief is, I smile. He would have done the same thing 20 years ago. "People never change", I think.

Midlife crisis

Being 47 years of age, there is no denying I'm midlife. Being the youngest of three children, I have seen both my sister and my brother go in before me, so I kind of knew what was coming my way. 

In essence, a midlife crisis is nothing more than turning on your heels and looking back instead of eagerly stretching out your neck to see what is coming at you from the horizon. It is seeing a multitude of moments in the past suddenly add up to a story. Your story.

Being smack in the middle of it myself at the moment, and at the same time dealing with the very real financial crisis, gracefully provided by a failing European Union, I don't really understand the full extent of this transition yet, but it's starting to look like it is going to be just about as impressive as the time that, as a child, I started piecing things together and Santa became a guy in a costume with a beard. I remember keeping it to myself that I  saw two Santas almost bump into each other in the streets. Could it be you didn't get  presents any longer, once you where in on this dirty little secret? I didn't want to take the chance, and waited to confront my parents until after the holidays.

My mother used to say: "There are people who give and there are people who take". As a youngster I never really knew what she meant, but now, a couple of decades later, I look around the table and make a quick assessment. Giver, taker, taker, taker, giver, taker, taker, taker, giver, giver. 

I am shocked about how easy that was.

Only the good...

Listening to the stories of the others, I wonder what I will be going to say when it is my turn. 

Some of us have turned into writers or directors, some have remained actors, most of us are still working with the talents and skills we so eagerly accumulated and developed over the four years we spent together in school. 

Except for one, whose picture is on the table, frozen in time. Only the good die young.

He was an amazing guy, and an even more amazing actor. A few years after we graduated we ended up all working together. It took him two rehearsals to find his rather complicated character. He dived in deep and invariably came to the surface with pearls, the likes of which you rarely see. 

Together with his best bud at the time I'm trying to remember the details of his solo project. 'Fragments from the dark' it was appropriately called. Neither of us can come up with a story. All we remember is we both were crying like babies when it was over. I make a mental note to contact the director who probably still has a copy on file for me to read.

When it finally is my turn, and most attention spans have indeed far exceeded their limits, my logline even surprises myself.

I'm talking about my marriage, now two years ago. And just when I want to go into how grateful I am to live in a country that supports same sex marriage, the most successful writer at the table interrupts.

"But you are not saying where he is from. He's not really local, is he?"

It never even crossed my mind.

"No, indeed he isn't. He's Venezuelan"

Realizing this is probably a lot more important to the world than it is to me, I deliberate on the absurdities of love found on strange shores. How I needed to go on my knees for the national government to be able to be with the one I loved, whilst any random European citizen, under another set of rules could quietly settle in my city with his overseas partner without as much as a question asked.

"And now, with the crisis around, how do you provide for him?" another writer asks.

In a way this table of people is quickly becoming a nice illustration of the rampant confusion about a unified Europe, I can't help thinking.

"Well, he works his ass off.... As a matter of fact, without him I would be in serious trouble."

 Bonus Points

To be able to be together, I needed to proof that I could provide for my partner. Fair enough. In legal terms that means showing a so called 'steady contract'. Actors rarely work on steady contracts. So I set out and found a way to make it work: a commercial campaign that was going to be running for a year. Instead of cashing in one go, I arranged for the client to put me on their pay roll. I had my 'steady contract' and the love of my life by my side.

The campaign was the most surreal period in my life, in retrospect. I became the face of a bank that went belly up. Acclaimed (well...) comedians virtually killed me on stage. There were games on the net in which you could throw me around a room. Putting my head in the fire place would yield bonus points.

Hiding in a puppet

I  had to hide my face from TV for a while after that, and was put in touch with a wonderful Dutch director in charge of making and developing a  popular children's show, involving... puppets. I spent a good two years melting away in a full body suit. And I loved every second of it.

People tend to start displaying Teletubby-behavior whenever this subject comes up. Today was no exception.

"So, just to be sure, you don't see your face?"

No. And I didn't see nothing much either. Skinny assed me spent two years as an obese friendly father,  finding my way on set through the left nostril of my equally obese nose. But what a blast it  was. There is something deeply gratifying about being the anonymous center of attention of an entire generation of toddlers. Especially when your head is put into fire places for bonus points on a regular virtual basis...

Unusual Ingredients

A skinny man sells his soul to the devil in order to protect the love of his life, and then wins it back  by becoming  the best obese king that walks this earth  (and lives happily ever after, once he figures out his midlife crisis)

Good stories usually have unusual ingredients. And, to end this on a culinary note; that is also the case with some recipes. Sometimes that one ingredient you never thought could work, does work in a way you could not possibly have imagined or anticipated...

Nigel Slater's (extremely moist) Chocolate, Beet & Espresso Cake

This is by far the earthiest, moistest cake I have ever devoured, and the combination of ingredients is indeed a tad unusual. But let that not put you off. Keep an open mind: remember, good stories....

I baked this Bundt, together with a dozen muffin-style cakes. I had them devoured by my test panel at the Hard Rock Café Amsterdam. None of them identified the beet root and all of them praised the amazing depth of flavor this recipe produces. Have your cake and eat your veggies too!

The recipe came to me by means of the ever watchful Dutch baking Diva Levine. It was made by Nigel Slater, and here is where you can find it! Enjoy!