“The X factor in all of this is a degree of perseverance that you must have. You’ve got to pursue,” Tom Hanks says.
Linda Sivertsen and Danielle LaPorte recently interviewed Tom Hanks for my favorite podcast, the Beautiful Writers Podcast, to discuss his new book, Uncommon Type: Some Stories. The clacking of his vintage typewriter is music to my ears, as are the goodies he shares on perseverance:
There are people out there “that are wicked talented and creative but they’re waiting for permission to do it or they’re waiting to be invited into the process. They’re waiting to be asked or they’re waiting to be discovered. And that’s not the way it works. You have to pursue twenty-four hours. You’ve always got to be thinking of it, you’ve always got to be thinking of a story, you’ve always gotta be thinking of creating your own outlet for the stuff that is inside you. And it doesn’t matter if it goes anywhere. You know, it’s funny, my daughter, who is a screenwriter, she stumbled upon this reality...if she works really hard and makes it as great as she could possibly make it, it doesn’t actually have to become a movie for her to benefit from the work that she’s done — she’s gotta get paid, you know, that’s nice — but just completing it from the beginning to the end is a reward in and of itself that gives her all the satisfaction in the world.”
Well, I sure needed to hear that. Thanks, Hanks. And it reminded me I had written a thang about sweet Hanks a few years ago that I’ll share here.
My niece sent me the best thank you note I’ve ever seen and I’ve been musing about Thomas Jeffrey Hanks ever since.
I had a fantasy today about meeting Tom Hanks. What would I do? I usually don’t get too star-struck, though I think for Tam Honks (thank you, Fey-Poehler for that nickname) I would make an exception.
I’ve loved you since Bosom Buddies. I had a Steiff kangaroo I named “Kip” after you in Bosom Buddies. I think your character on Bosom Buddies is why I have a strange and maybe slightly fetish-y attraction to drag queens.
My husband suggested if I met the man I just sing the song from Big:
Shimmy shimmy cocoa puff, shimmy shimmy rock
Shimmy shimmy cocoa puff, shimmy shimmy rock
I met a girlfriend — a Triscuit!
She said a Triscuit — a biscuit!
Ice cream soda pop, vanilla on the top
Ooo, Shalita, walkin’ down the street, ten times a week
I meant it, I said it, I stole my mama’s credit
I’m cool, I’m hot, sock me in the stomach three more times
Yeah, that would go over better. I love everything about Big. All I wanted was to stand out the top of that limo with you set to Billy Idol’s “Hot in the City” and then jump on the trampoline with you. I also wanted to play chopsticks on the grandest of pianos in FAO Schwartz with you.
How about that moment at the end of Captain Phillips when you’re with the medics and you break down because you held it together for so long and to save the lives of your crew and keep a strong face? That was incredible. It made me cry, a lot. It was such a real moment. Thank you.
Forrest Gump? Are you fucking kidding me? I think Steve Schuler, who did a lot of around-the-house work for my parents when I was growing up, said it best: “Forrest Gump has EVERYTHING.”
Philadelphia, The Green Mile, Toy Story, You’ve Got Mail, Splash?!! Motherfucking SPLASH!!!
A League of Their Own. The Money Pit. The Burbs. WTF.
Dipping your toe in the Coen brothers water with The Ladykillers. Sleepless in [GDMF] Seattle. And don’t get me started about Saving Private Ryan (which spawned the best porn spoof name I’ve ever heard: Shaving Ryan’s Privates). Come on.
All the while — being NICE. God I HOPE Tom Hanks is as nice in real life as he’s seemed all these years. Maybe it’s best I don’t meet him. But I want to. Not in, like, a stalker-y way. In a I-want-you-to-dress-like-a-woman-and-I’ll-wear-a-mermaid-tail-and-break-glass-with-my-voice-while-jumping-on-a-trampoline-and-we’ll-share-a-box-of-chocolates-while-following-where-feathers-lead way. Yeah… WAY less creepy.
Hanks for the memory
Seattle afternoons, high-pitched mermaid poons
Money pits, pirated ships and 1930s prison goons
How lovely it was
Hanks for the memory
Of boxed chocolates and tiny corn, shaving Ryan's porn
Woody for kids, those Klopeks and The DaVinci Code's Catholic scorn
How lovely it was
Hanks for the memory
Partnered up with Hooch, or rocking one red shoe
The mispronounced “Oneders” in the cute That Thing You Do
How lovely it was
Hanks for the memory
AOL’s “Hello,” you thought of Jenny so
Volcano Joe, perdition roads, volley-bros (<-- that one's a stretch) before hoes
How lovely it was
Ah, Tom. This week I give thanks for you. And writing, the Beautiful Writers Podcast, the Beautiful Writers Group and all of my beautiful fellow writers in it, my husband, my cat, my family, my sweet friends, art, beauty, music, love, drag, the truth, and the click-clack of the keyboard under my fingers. Yes, holidays can be a whole lot of bullshit, but being grateful and making a note of it fills me with more delight than nibbling tiny corn at the Rainbow Room.
Many of us struggle with the idea that we’re adding to the noise when we share our thoughts and feelings about the state of the world. We often pull back because we feel there are more qualified people to say what we think needs to be said. And while there are people more qualified in some ways to do some of the things, we are the only ones who can say it exactly as we can say it. And that makes us super qualified to say a lot of the things.
And also, the people who don’t care about whether they’re qualified at all are sure out there spouting it out. Our considered, measured and passionate ideas are much needed by some. If nothing else than as a reminder that our atmosphere is not completely made up of the hot air of ignorant humans.
You’ve heard it a million times by now, right? The way you say your truth is the exact way someone out there needs to hear it. (Marie Forleo just said it today on the current episode of MarieTV.)
I’ve got a major gripe with the old refrain: “It’s been done.” This is something said by humorless people who are afraid to create anything. Because beneath the stinging surface it sure does let one off the hook. If it’s all been done we can just roll around in the mud of our own despondency. Doesn’t that sound pleasant? When I get a butterfly in my stomach because someone says “it’s been done” I remind myself: hey, so many people have had eyes before me, but I’m sure glad I have eyes, too, regardless of how derivative that might seem. Boom. Done.
So we kind of have to employ our inner bitch to get through some of this. Yes, there is a lot of noise, yes a lot of things have been done, but I’m going to trust myself and my desire to create more than I’m going to listen to those disembodied voices (most in my own head, by the way) saying I’m unworthy, why bother, there’s already too much noise.
Here I am in this point in time. Here you are in this point in time. Here we all are now. Oh, Michael Hutchence — popping into my head with the lyrics to INXS’ “Need You Tonight”: “All you got is this moment / Twenty-first century’s yesterday / You can care all you want / Everybody does, yeah, that's OK.”
While I’m not going to ask you to slide over here and give me a moment, and I’m not sure if your moves are “so raw,” but I do have to let you know, you’re one of my kind. And if there is something about you that makes me sweat it is that you are out there in the world doing it. Or in your cave doing it (that’s where I like to do it). Keep at it.
Recently I fell in love with Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile’s joint album, Lotta Sea Lice. The title alone should tell you they’re not taking themselves too seriously. They recorded the album in eight days spread over fifteen months while they had enough time to be in the same place at once (Kurt's from Philly, Courtney's from Melbourne and they both tour extensively). It is precisely that they gave themselves room to breathe on this album and did not force perfection before creating it that is what’s so great about it. It is a breath of fresh, sometimes-goofy air and tender, with an expected vein of blue mold running through side B: The goofiest song on the album is called “Blue Cheese,” which Kurt Vile wrote most of when he was a teenager.
“BLUE CHEESE!” an audience member yells when we’re watching Courtney and Kurt play at The Moore Theater in Seattle (with The Sea Lice, an all-star band including Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag’s Janet Weiss on drums).
“Alright,” Kurt says. “Let’s get this over with.”
I so feel his pain. In the sense of, like, I made this thing, it’s only OK, but it’s out in the world now. But there is something so charming and free about the song, because it was perhaps flippantly written, that it allows all of us listening to let out a big sigh. Let our shoulders drop. Because for a few minutes we’re not scribbling out ways to be better or more worthy in our heads or erecting justifications for making any noise at all in the world. It is of value. The fact that we’re even considering whether what we have to say is of value at all, in my opinion, proves it is. Not that we have to prove it. But hey, welcome to my spiral of brain activity. I’m glad I’ve got one, whether or not it’s obsessing (which has, oh, my baby, been done and done and done and done and done).
A moment of respite from our brain machinations during the wildly goofy "Blue Cheese" makes the song something pretty special, however much Kurt, the creator of it, feels otherwise. You know -- it's a metaphor for what we're talking about here. (Audience breathes sigh of relief thanks to the quirky singularity of a song while artist berates self for said song being an imperfect creation.)
Also, how much do I love this line (from their song “Continental Breakfast”): “I walk like a bruised ego along shorefront property un-owned to me / But I'm feelin' inferior on the interior don't ya see.”
I think that ties it up pretty nicely. See, they are literally talking about feeling small. I feel like that’s always a good place to start. If you’re afraid of making noise, write about that to start. I promise you this gal right here (and so many artists we love) will be able to relate big time.
Here's the official video for one of the singles off Lotta Sea Lice. And, like Courtney, I do cherish our intercontinental friendships and would love to talk it over continental breakfast with you. "Somewhere on this sphere, around here."
(By the way: "Kurt and Courtney have partnered with Plus 1 so that $1 from every ticket goes to support the ACLU and their work defending and protecting our individual rights and liberties." Daw, I love these guys!)
The irony of the “#MeToo” situation — where (mostly) women are sharing their experiences of having been sexually assaulted, violated, etc. — is that the people who are sharing are not the ones who should be feeling shame or carrying this burden. But due to our bullshit social and cultural constructs, in which women are devalued because of fear of their power (that’s the stem, in my opinion), it is the people who have been violated who are feeling shame. And yet, these men, the people who have perpetrated all of this bullshit, are just nebulously out there, not feeling shame at all. The reality is that what THEY have done is shameful, but because of our bullshit culture, it is the people who have been hurt by them that then feel the double sting. And then, AND THEN, the TRIPLE sting because they then, if they can find it in themselves, have to come forward and share.
ONCE AGAIN women are carrying the mental and emotional load, including where it comes to sexual assault. Let that sink in for a second. Please.
I wonder about all the men who have perpetrated these crimes. They’re just out there. I think about so many women I’ve known who have been violated and not only haven’t believed each other, but also have been silenced by friends because “the guy is already so troubled.” BOOFUCKINGHOO.
I’ve unfriended and blocked most of my friends’ abusive partners/boyfriends/ex-husbands and guys who have harbored rapists. Most of them. And yet, because we are in the culture we are in, people just get to float around as if nothing has ever happened and women ONCE AGAIN are left holding the bloody fucking stick and the trauma. How is a man not traumatized that he could be such a monster as to abuse someone? How? Because our culture harbors him? Probably.
So where are the #metoo men that caused the necessity for everyone’s “#metoo”? “I took advantage of a girl because she was too drunk. #metoo.” “I blamed the woman for sex with me she didn’t want because she was wearing a short skirt. #metoo.” “My parents taught me I could take whatever I wanted in this world, because that’s what American men do, so that’s what I do, including women and having sex with them. #metoo.” “I knew my friend raped my female friend but I let it go and told my other friends to let it go because that’s what you do and the women are the ones who have to carry the burden of everything always so let’s just let them continue to carry the burden and I’m a dude so I’m just going to go eat some chips I guess. #metoo.”
So, basically I feel like this — I’ll share my #metoo (and have). But what about you, perpetrators? I’ve carried part of a burden I had no hand in creating other than existing. Where’s your big, strong masculinity now? Can’t carry a little burden a tiny woman carried all on her own without you (that you caused)? Didn’t think so. What should I do? Perhaps refuse to continue to carry this burden. So that’s what I’m deciding. Get it off me.
And this isn’t all just about rape and dominating women. It is about toxic masculinity and men dominating each other. Ever work in a professional kitchen or have someone you love work in a kitchen? It might seem hilarious to some people to show their dicks to each other all the time, or show their dicks to one guy, or whatever. But you know, that’s a big fat #metoo, in my humble opinion. We need to shift. (Luckily restaurants are starting to make this shift.) And yeah, I see you, and I know who you are, dick-presenters and ass-grabbers and scrotum-fondlers. Your way is dying, and I bet it feels really bad to you, too, and like, “Oh no, people who don’t want to be touched without consent are taking over my kitchen.” Sound familiar? Yeah, awfully similar to wanting to keep people “not like us” out of here. Because: #toxicmasculinity and #privilege.
One positive thing out of this shitstorm of a presidency is that, similar to Whack-A-Mole, I think because so many of these violating assholes feel emboldened by having a leader who grabs women “by the pussy,” etc., is that spotlights are being shone on almost each and every one of these assholes and society is starting to no longer accept the old way — which was rape her and tell her to shut up and then she shuts up; if she doesn’t shut up, drag her name through the mud, ruin her life and make it seem like it was all her fault. Disgusting. Redundant, yes, but I needed to say it.
Here is the reality, cleaned of the societal conditioning: the abused is not the one who should feel shame. We feel shame because we have been told we should feel shame. This is a construct that has existed for a long time but is squarely NOT the reality. Yes, that shame feels real and hurts and ruins lives, but it is NOT based in anything real other than a hegemonic ball rolled through the ages. For example, we know witches were burned because men were afraid of their power and most of us place no shame on those women — how about no shame on us? How about seeing it for what it is? No. More. Shame.
It's me, Jennifer Bernice (rhymes with "Furnace": it was my Granny's name) Sutkowski
• More details about my writing here.