This is Me

2006_friends_with_money_008If you have seen the movie, Friends with Money, you probably remember the scene where Frances McDormand’s character, Jane, has a meltdown at this couple who have cut in the line at Old Navy.  I’ve posted it here if you haven’t seen it: it’s perfect.  In fact, I highly suggest watching all of Nicole Holofcener’s movies, she’s my favorite director. (More on her later.) There are many things that I love about this scene and this character, she’s so self-righteous and funny and sensitive.  She’s a crusader for integrity but her mission has made her crazy.  When you watch the scene, you see that her actions affect everyone around her, but most of all, her actions affect her.  She’s taken this moral high ground, but it’s taken a toll on her soul.

I’ve certainly written about such themes before, specifically here.  Every day I feel like behaving the way Jane behaves.  I’ve talked about how crazy it makes me when people run the stop signs while I’m walking my dogs.  I yell to them, “Hey, you missed your stop sign.” And then even louder, “JUST SO YOU KNOW, THERE ARE A LOT OF SMALL CHILDREN THAT LIVE IN THIS NEIGHBORHOOD!!”  Sometimes, they flip me off, sometimes, they don’t even notice.  Most of them are too busy rushing to their game at the Tennis club.  And as they drive off, completely unfazed, my heart is always racing and I’m so filled with fury that people don’t think the laws of the land apply to them.  All of this self-righteousness is taking its toll on me.  

The thing about the scene in the movie, is we see that there is something deeper going on than outrage at people cutting in line at a checkout lane.  It’s a depression.  She is a woman looking at her life, grieving for lost youth, burdened by inadequacies and that feeling that her life has not amounted to all that she’d hoped it would be.  And most of us can relate to at least a smidge of that, maybe even more than a smidge.

I’ll end on an upbeat note, though.  A couple of years ago, I was at West Elm with my friend Carrie.  I saw a woman who looked familiar, in fact she looked like Nicole Holofcener.  Carrie and I had been to happy hour at Border Grill a few doors down and emboldened with margarita courage, I went over to her and asked if, by chance, she was a director.  I did not say her name, because to this day, I do not know how to pronounce her last name.  She told me she WAS a director and I told her that I was her biggest fan.  I told her that we had had parrallel lives because her Walking and Talking reminded me of my life when I lived in New York and that Lovely and Amazing and Friends with Money rang true to my life in Los Angeles.  I said that the scene in Lovely and Amazing at the McDonald’s between Catherine Keener and Raven Goodwin is my favorite movie scene ever.  I’ve included it here, too.  Anyway, she was very gracious, even if Carrie was standing by the pillows mouthing the words, “You’re crazy,” over and over.  I told her I would love to work with her in any capacity and even went so far as to write my name and phone number on a slip of paper and give it to her.  She told me, “You never know, you might hear from me.”  It’s been a while now, that slip of paper has probably long been thrown away.  It was an exciting moment though, I actually felt like a character in one of her movies.  And every once in a while, when my phone rings and I don’t recognize the number, I think, maybe it’s my future friend Nicole, because, well, you never know…

Pretty, Funny Ladies

Mary

Mary

I have always been a sucker for a pretty lady who could make me laugh.  If you are reading this and you are my friend and you are female, the odds are 100% that you are a pretty lady that makes me laugh.  I am very blessed in the pretty, funny friend department, so I thought I’d post a few pictures of the pretty, funny ladies who’ve made me laugh since I was little.  I know it’s an incomplete list, I’ll probably go back and add pictures for the next few days because someone will occur to me and I’ll return here and make an addition.  Some of these women are known for their beauty, some of these women are known for their comedy, and some are known for both.  If you think of someone I HAVE to add, please tell me, there’s always room for one more pretty, funny lady!

Don’t Try So Hard

Amy_Grant“It’s the stuff we love when we’re young that sticks with us the most,” said Amy Grant last night while she was in concert at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.  I think I had thought that sentiment before, but I’d never verbalized it.  It’s something that I’ve thought about since her concert, which was amazing.  I believe everyone has a singer or music group that resonates for them the way Amy Grant resonates for me.  She is central to my adolescence and college and even early 20’s.  For my entire life, friendships have been built over a shared love of this woman.  

I experienced a wide range of emotions last night.  When she walked out after a cursory introduction and started singing You’re not Alone in this World, I was ebullient to be at an Amy Grant concert again after a 22 year gap.  When she sang, 1974, I remembered being in my Bible college dorm listening to her on my Sony Walkman.  When she sang Hope Set High, I thought about my years as a youth minister and the kids that were in my youth group and how for years after leaving the ministry, I felt like I’d let them down.  When she sang Sing Your Praise to the Lord, I thought about its songwriter, Rich Mullins, who sang at nearly every Christ in Youth conference I ever attended.  When she sang a cover of Put a Little Love in Your Heart for her encore, I thought it was a perfect choice because, in my mind, Amy Grant has always been about love.  

The crowd was very electic last night.  My friend Richard and I were sandwiched between straight couples in their fifties.  There were also young straight couples, girls night out groups, and of course, several members of the GLBT community.  Richard and I became friends when we met through mutual friends at a Happy Hour in a Mexican restaurant in Silver Lake and one of us mentioned Amy Grant.  I actually think that I gravitated to Amy Grant as a boy because I was gay. She’s Christian music’s Cher.

There was a lesbian couple sitting in the row in front of us. When Amy Grant started singing one of her new songs, Don’t Try So Hard, I saw them lean in and whisper something to each other. One of them reached out and rubbed the other woman’s back. The lyrics about the gift of God’s grace resonated with them and then I looked around at the audience, many of whom were having an emotional reaction. And I myself, absorbed the lyrics, I remembered my 17 or 18 or 19-year-old self who tried so hard to not be gay. When did I realize or will I ever fully realize that I’m lovely even with my scars?

What’s in Your Locker?

53-119Some of you might be familiar with the story of Vivian Maier.  She was an American woman who worked as a nanny for the majority of her life.  She was a private person who often took pictures on her days off.  It was really only after her death, that the world discovered her photographs, when a stranger bought the contents of her storage locker in an auction.  Many of the rolls of film had never been developed.  Her work is now considered among the finest American street photography, with comparisons to Diane Arbus and Lisette Model. It’s scary to think that it could easily have never been discovered.  I doubt Vivian herself could have imagined the way her art would come to light and continue to touch the hearts of people.  I saw the exhibition that was held at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery a couple of years ago and the photos are beautiful and haunting and sad and whimsical and rich.  Vivian Maier had a gift and I’m glad someone discovered her gift and shared it with the rest of us.

What is in your storage locker?  We are all artists, every one of us.  You can read more about her at vivianmaier.com, you won’t be the only one to sit and wonder what her life must have been like.  As the website says, she is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.  You can look at her story as tragic or hopeful or both. But we all have something magical that we store away and we hope that someday, somehow, our art will see the light of day.

Who is Your Favorite Angel?

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I’ve been chomping at the bit to try out the poll feature on this blog.  I’ve been trying to come up with the perfect question with the right blend of importance, humor, passion, and whimsy.  Favorite book?  Favorite movie?  Favorite ice cream?  And then it hit me yesterday.  Who is your favorite Charlie’s Angel?  I realize some of you are purists who think the movie Angels should not be in consideration, but I’ve included them.  I thought Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu were all so good and Demi Moore, she wasn’t good, she was GREAT! (extra points for remembering when the line occurs in the movie)  Also, if you must include the 2011 TV reboot, there is a write-in option. Anyway, here’s the poll.  Yes, I have a favorite, but I’ll reveal it later.  

It’s a Mean World

bette-midler-8-25-11There is a video that’s travelling around Facebook and other social networking sites right now of Bette Midler talking on the phone to a young cancer patient named Anna Greenberg as she sits in her hospital bed with loved ones gathered round her.  The 8 minute video ends with Bette singing an emotional, vulnerable version of Wind Beneath My Wings.  I’ve thought about the video a lot in the days since I first watched it.  There is a moment in the video that I’ve most wrestled with.  At one point, Bette tells Anna, “It’s a mean world, a really mean world and I think the idea that people are kind and they enhance the world, their life enhancing, it’s so important.”  I think that Ms. Midler was talking about how cruel it is that people suffer from deadly cancers, but I think she was also referring to the unkindnesses that occur in this world.  

Just last week, I wrote a blog post about something unkind that I did as well as something unkind that was done to me.  Both parties involved were culpable.  I think about the things I write about here on this blog and I think the theme I’m most obsessed with, particularly at this point in my life, is the way we vacillate between kindness and cruelty.  It’s a theme that’s amplified in my work environment, but it’s also always everywhere I turn.  On Facebook, I see the nicest people say the most hateful things about our president.  I have neighbors that greet me kindly on the sidewalk that seemingly don’t know how to stop at a stop sign when they are driving in their cars.  

The fact that Bette Midler took time out of her day, especially during a very busy time in her life, speaks volumes as to how big her heart is.  I don’t think she did it as a publicity stunt, I actually think she had a connection to this young girl, saw something of herself or perhaps her daughter, and it made her want to do what she could to lift Anna’s spirits.  I could be wrong about this, but I do believe Bette’s gestures, Bette’s involvement, made Anna’s exit from this world a little bit easier.  At least, I hope so.

The internet is littered with stories of unkind acts committed by celebrities, Bette Midler is no different.  Google Bette Midler bitch and you’ll have reading material for hours.  I don’t think all the stories or true, but I suppose some are.  I’ve only had two interactions with Bette Midler.  The first was not face to face: I attended one of her concerts in Oakland over 15 years ago.  It was the most amazing concert I’ve ever attended (Sorry, Amy Grant!) and the entire audience went crazy, laughing at every thing she said, crying when she sang The Rose, riveted by every word and movement.  And the funny this was, she kept telling us what an ungrateful audience we were, that we didn’t seem to be enjoying ourselves or appreciating her enough.  We 4,000 gay guys and 10 straight women looked at each other incredulously and thought, HOW COULD WE LOVE HER ANYMORE?  I’ve thought about that night so often.  Here was one of the wealthiest, most talented, most revered performers in the world pleading with an audience, “Love me. No, that’s not enough, love me a little more.”  

My other interaction, I can’t actually talk about here, but I will say it was face to face and I would not say that she was kind to me.  For a while after the interaction, I felt a little sad when her name came up in a conversation or she was interviewed on television.  I had loved her so much for so long and my thoughts reverted to the memory of our interaction, where I felt like she didn’t really like me very much or take me in as a fellow human being.  When I listen to The Rose or From A Distance or Hello in There, I feel like she is singing to me, just to sensitive, easily crestfallen Ray Barnhart.  It’s so personal and poetic and beautiful and it’s a gift.

There are any number of people that I know that could tell you stories about their interactions with me.  There are folks who would tell you how sweet I am and folks who would tell you I am cruel.  And the people who really know me would tell you I am both.  We are all both. I actually think I started this blog to “work out” some of the themes that play out in my life, to try to make sense of them.  Yes, Ms. Midler, this is a mean world, a mean, mean world.  But it’s also a beautiful world and you taking the time to sing to your friend Anna Greenberg one of her favorite songs is an indelible, magical example of this world’s beauty.

Guest Blogger: Theresa Barnhart

carrie-closet-1040kk052410-500x399A few days ago, some friends of mine suggested to me that I ask my Mom to write a guest blog.  When I asked her about it, she hesitated initially, but I think the idea appealed to her.  She IS a writer, she’s been writing me letters since I was 12, when I went away to camp for the first time.  If you think my writing leans toward the sentimental, you only have to read the following to see where I get it.  Enjoy:

I was asked to write a guest blog for Ray. I told him I wouldn’t know what to write.  Later, after our conversation, I thought, yes, I will write about my summer experience.  First, you have to know that I save everything.  I have boxes, manila folders and file cabinets filled with my memory keepers.  We have eleven closets in this house and I bet I have some memory keepers in each one.  Does it sound like I am trying to find an excuse not to get rid of the Christmas cards or baby teeth from my son’s mouth or those special drawings and homemade cards from my grandchildren?   Of the eleven closets, three of them are walk-in, including the closet in our bedroom that doubles as our tornado safe room. I have tried all summer (school starts next month, I work at the high school) to get rid of some of these boxes and folders and other paraphernalia. I started with a box here and a folder there, not finishing  one.  I got rid of a few things, but I just couldn’t part with a newspaper article about my son and his bunny rabbits and how they came to live with us.   Another newspaper article about a play called “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” with a picture of a boy with a bag over his head.  I knew it was my son even with the bag over his head, a mother knows these things.  Right?  So back in the folder with these other special treasures they go.  Now back to the safe room, my closet.  One afternoon, the tornado sirens started, so I gathered my dog Ruby and a chair.  Why a chair? I knew if I sat down on the floor it would take a tornado to get me up.  There we sat, Ruby and I,  only Ruby wanted to look in my boxes where some of my treasures were stored.  My thinking was, if there is a tornado I wanted to save my treasures or at least the ones in my closet.  As I tried to get her nose out of the box, I discovered what one might call the “mother lode”. I found three accordion folders!  Each one had hundreds of papers in them dating from the mid 80’s through the mid 90’s.  I had written down appointments, how many hours I worked, prayer requests, praises, books I read, movies I’d seen, movies I wanted to see, personal thoughts and prayers and more. Well, I couldn’t shred them ’til I read them, so you can guess what happened.  I shredded a lot, but I couldn’t part with all my memory treasures.  I guess there will be another summer to clean out those treasure boxes.  I still have all my Christmas cards, birthday cards, etc. from this past Christmas and birthdays.  Next summer for them!