My firstborn Zach Clark is an indie filmmaker. And a successful one at that. He is the writer, director, and editor of all of his films. All five of them have played in festivals all over the world including SXSW. Gifted with his own unique John Waters sensibility, his movies are dark, quirky, funny, and sad.
Zach’s movies are autobiographical but not literally so. The characters are composites and each film a mosaic, pieced together from his experience and boundless creativity.
Zach is also partial to holidays. At 34 he is still just a great big kid at Christmas. His previous film White Reindeer came out in 2013. It is an outrageous, hysterical, and touching film about grief and loss at Christmas. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll feature throughout. The New Yorker called it “and instant holiday cult classic.” It’s available on Hulu! Click here to watch trailer!
And Zach’s newest film, Little Sister, is now playing in 20 cities and available on demand. And the critics are raving about this one too!
“As sweetly funky and improbably pure hearted as its young heroine, a trainee nun and erstwhile Goth making peace with her troubled North Carolina family…” Variety
“A strange spiky movie that refuses to beg for our attention. ‘Little Sister…molds the classic homecoming drama into a quirky reconciliation between faith and family.”
The New York Times
“Nothing less than an up-to-date vision of the new weird America.” The New Yorker
Again autobiographical but far from literal, Zach developed the story with his “creative life partner” and coproducer Melodie Sisk. And the lead characters share our family names and some of our traits — all mixed up. “Colleen” is the hopeful young nun (played by Addison Timlin.) “Joani” is the manic depressive mom (played by Ally Sheedy. Yes, Ally Sheedy!) And “Jacob” is the wounded older brother (played by Keith Poulson.)
Politics lurk in the background in the election season of 2008. And Zach’s favorite holiday – Halloween plays into the plot:
“October 2008. Young nun Colleen is avoiding all contact with her family, until an email from her mother announces, “Your brother is home.”…Her parents are happy enough to see her but unease and awkwardness abounds. Her brother is living as a recluse in the guest house since returning from the Iraq War…Tenions rise and fall with a little help from Halloween, pot cupcakes, and GWAR. Little Sister is a sad comedy about family — a schmaltz-free, pathos drenched, feel good movie for the little goth girl inside all of us.”
Really timely topics this crazy election cycle, when dark and darkness, depression, and despair pervade our public discourse. Little Sister takes on faith, and family, and politics with a deeply personal lens. Its not a happily ever after movie, but it is a very hopeful one.
Lord, knows we could all use a little hope right now.
And every ticket sale and every rental goes right back to the filmmakers, cast, and crew!
So pop some popcorn, invite over some friends, and watch Little Sister. Its a balm for your soul.
This time last year, I was feeling “Bookish”.
Having met Meredith Maslich, at the Story District rebrand bash, I was psyched to learn that she heads – Possibilities Publishing – a unique, boutique, partnership approach to the book trade.
Maybe I could turn Unorthodox & Unhinged into a book? A radically manic idea! Meredith and I met over coffee to discuss the possibility. But the journey, from blogger to author, is in reality a gargantuan leap.
Long story short: U&U has not morphed into a book.
But short story long: U&U has made into a book.
A reflective piece I wrote, Make New Friends and…, is the opening chapter in Besties, Bromances & Soulmates, this year’s Possibilities Publishing anthology. Between its covers, half a dozen writers explore “pivotal relationships” and the gift of friendship through short story, essay, fiction and non.
So is it any wonder that”Thank you for being my friend”, the old Golden Girls’ theme song, is ringing in my ears. And this post election week, it rings all the more dearly and resonates all the more deeply.
Our country has just come “through the great ordeal”. Well, we are not actually through anything.
Post election, I am experiencing waves of grief. I am stumbling, disoriented as if awoken from a bad dream. My bleeding heart liberal sensibilities have been overwhelmed. Knocked down and beneath these waves, I struggle to come up for air.
How about you?
As a coping mechanism, I have poured myself into my work. In just two days, I plowed through two week’s worth. I have stayed up later and gotten up earlier, cramming 27 plus hours into my day. Possibly by abandoning sleep, my busyness will belay my fears.
Mania, for a day or two or three, is awesome.
Mania, for a week or two or three, not so much.
So how do I – do we – rein in the mania when we are feeling so unmoored?
Well, very simply, by tightening the ties that bind.
By calling friends,
talking with friends,
having coffee with friends, dinner with friends,
walking with friends,
hiking with friends,
biking with friends,
Netflix/Hulu binge watching with friends,
cocktail partying with friends,
road tripping with friends,
book clubbing with friends,
bar hopping with friends,
pew sitting with friends,
praying with friends,
couch surfing with friends,
shooting the breeze or catching a movie with friends,
cooking with friends,
baking with friends,
crafting with friends,
board gaming with friends,
protesting with friends,
witnessing with friends,
volunteering with friends,
peace making with friends,
reconciling with friends.
Common ground, mutual support, trust, concern and compassion.
Love, respect, and admiration.
Friends restore one another’s souls and revive one another’s spirits.
This art of “befriending” is fueled by our tending to our friendships. Befriending the other, the new, the stranger, in this post-election season, is desperately what we need. Not rushing to an easy or happy-clappy reconciliation, but working towards deep, honest, life affirming connections.
Working towards a radical “we”.
Which brings me back to Besties, Bromances & Soulmate, a perfect little book to honor a friend or tuck into a Christmas stocking (or for Chanukah, Kwanzaa, etc.). These half a dozen stories celebrate the pivotal relationships in our lives.
Friendship begets friendship.
Love begets love.
December 11th at 4:00 PM, this little book is going to be launched. Its a friendly affair with author readings, book signings, and refreshments at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 1608 Russell Rd in Alexandria, VA.
Bring a friend, a family member, an acquaintance, a coworker. Invite a Muslim friend, a Mormon friend, a Jewish friend, a Buddhist friend, an agnostic friend, an immigrant friend, an LGBTQ friend, an African American friend, a Hispanic friend, an old friend, your BFF, your next door neighbor, or the new guy who just moved in from across the street.
Ask a Hillary voter or a Trump supporter to come along.
It’s the Christian thing to do.
A friend in need is a friend indeed.
“On December 5, 1900, the New York Herald headlines screamed:”
Amelie Rives First Husband
IS OUT OF ASYLUM
Search Fails to Find Wealthy Demented Man
Who Left Bloomingdale Institution…
Former Wife, Princess Troubetzkoy, Also Insane.”
This is the dark and delicious tale of doomed passion: meticulously researched and wonderfully told in Archie and Amelie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age by Donna M. Lucey.
Archie is John Armstrong Chanler, born in 1862, and heir to the estate of his great –grandfather John Jacob Astor of New York.
Amelie Rives, born in 1863, is the goddaughter of Robert E. Lee and descendant of a storied first family of Virginia.
Archie’s family fortune was built on the fur trade, clear-eyed capitalism, and Presbyterian rectitude. Orphaned at a tender age, Archie and his siblings were raised by committee. “A wild and willful bunch” they were tamed by “nannies, tutors, and distant guardians.”
The eldest and legally responsible for his younger siblings, Archie, at Eton honed a refined and reasonable self-control — while underneath simmered his literary and artistic appetites.
A nephew of Julia Ward Howe, a progressive scion of the salon, Archie was intellectually curious and cautiously broad-minded. A romantic and eccentric soul, he was also an inventive young man full of ideas and boundless generosity.
Amelie Rives of Castle Hill was a gifted young writer — gifted — with a dark sensuality. The provocative prose of her first novel, The Quick or the Dead?, garnered her both notoriety and the notice of the literary lions of her day – including the likes of Oscar Wilde and Willa Cather.
Amelie’s Virginia home had “an air of civilized taste and ancient leisure.” Her noble ancestors included revolutionary war heroes and ambassadors to France. But the “War between the States” left the family homestead in tatters. Her father, a civil engineer, like a nomad wandered from post to post to keep his family financially afloat.
And so women, strong women, ruled the roost at Castle Hill. Captured in an 1880 photograph “Amelie, a young beauty at seventeen, stands behind the powerful figures of her grandmother and her granite faced Aunt Ella – as if she were next in line in a dynasty.”
Seductively, Ameilie wielded both her pen and her person to woo the men in her life. Though a woman of the Gilded Age, she boldly bucked the constricting conventions of her time.
Amelie cast aside her corset and wore exotic flowing gowns. Described as “a sizzling vessel of molten lava”, she was also surprisingly religiously devout. Most passionate and erotic in her prose, she made her reviewers blush and made her suitors swoon.
Archie madly, deeply, hopelessly pursued her. After three persistent marriage proposals, Amelie accepted and they were engaged.
Hot and cold, like fire and ice, their eight-year love affair was doomed to failure. The first two years the couple skipped across Europe — settling down long enough only to become unsettled.
Amelie seemed to love Archie the most when he was absent. And when he was absent, Archie was a tortured soul never quite knowing how to rekindle Amelie’s ardor.
Eight years after their nuptials at Castle Hill, Amelie runs off with a dashing and penniless prince, a Russian royal named Troubetzkoy.
Divorced and disgraced, Archie, still hopelessly in love with Amelie, supports her until the day he dies.
The truth be told, they drove each other mad.
Separately they suffer bouts of insanity. Some real and some feigned.
Amelie is prone to melancholy and takes up some unusual cures in the sanitariums of the Gilded Age.
Archie, wrongly committed by his scheming siblings for seven years, escapes the asylum only to descend deeper into a manic kind of madness. He becomes a prolific automatic writer of the self-published kind. A most generous and penniless philanthropist, he ends his days scribbling his name on the walls.
Archie, posthumously, is believed to have come by his bipolar disorder quite honestly. It runs in the family. A gift that keeps giving.
Amelie’s madness is of a similar kind. Euphoric, grandiose, verbose, and highly creative, she cannot help but crash from time to time.
Their marriage was both heaven and hell: Brief episodes of bliss, bright bursts of passion. Disrupted by storms, overwhelmed by sadness.
It could not possibly last. And indeed, it did not.
The madness of such love, can it possibly be worth it?
My sensible side says “NO!”, of course. Who wants to end up on the shores of life an emotional wreck?
But my bipolar soul, the manic-depressive me, screams “YES!”
Let me have a mad, deep, intoxicating, engaging, infuriating, invigorating, reckless, mad, mad love affair…
at least one, or two, or three.
Good for a novel, a movie, a play, a memoir. Good for some crazy tall tales to tell my grandchildren some day.
And maybe good for a blog post — or two, or three.
Who knows? Stay tuned, U&U followers.
I’ll keep you up to date one week at a time – – at Sex & The Single Vicar!
U&U readers, most of you know that a little over a month ago I started a second blog :Sex & The Single Vicar: Tales of Ecclesiastical Dating.
But if not, let me catch you up!
Unlike the Pied Piper, unfortunately, I can’t just bring my followers along from one blog to the other. But for those who are intrigued, I would certainly like to!
So I thought I would post my recent S&TSV posts here. After reading a few, I hope to entice you to click “follow” to sign up for email updates. (Not here, but in S&TSV.)
So please join me and read and laugh along!
If you read this far, I know you are interested. If you read them all, I hope you are hooked.
I plan to file field reports from the battlefield every week or so.
So friends, let’s stay connected. This venture is so much more fun when shared with fellow comrades in arms.
See you next time on S&TSV!
Joani’s got a brand new blog.
Hmmmm…… What’s that about?
Well, my loyal readers, Unorthodox & Unhinged has been around now for more than two years. Eighty-eight “Tales of a Manic Christian” – true stories on life with my bipolar brain.
U&U’s most popular post is “Sex and the Single Vicar”. Not a surprise. If you put “sex” in the title you are sure to get a rise!
And this theme – of love lost and found — has popped up more and more on U&U. It has because I recognize in myself a deep and genuine desire for intimacy. Yes, at at age sixty-one, I am game to find someone who might just like to try and keep up with me: intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and of course, skin to skin.
So how to begin? Well by writing about it of course!
I want to write about it authentically, honestly, and humorously.
I will chronicle my fits and starts: social experiments; wardrobe malfunctions; and dating site episodes. S&TSV will include book reviews; interviews with fellow seekers, family, and friends; literary pieces; and investigative journalism — well as much as I can muster!
Sex & The Single Vicar – a passionate endeavor — one post at a time.
Want to know how this goes? I certainly do. How about you? Click on “follow” in S&TSV and come along.
This is a falling out of love story. It happens slowly, incrementally. It happens so slowly you barely notice it.
It happened to me after 28 years of marriage to the boy next door.
His name was William. He was witty and smart and wrote poetry. We would sit on our front lawns talking long after the sun went down. I asked him out first — to the Queen of Hearts dance at my all girls high school. But our first date was to to the movies to see Easy Rider. It was 1970.
We were very hippie-dippy, very crunchy granola. William and I both had long hair down to our shoulders. We both wore “granny glasses” with wire frames. We both bought our jeans and flannel shirts at Sunny Surplus.
We spent our Saturdays at beatnik bookstores and cruising head shops. We’d go to foreign films at the Biograph Theater and drink pitchers of beer at the Tombs — a bar so loud you could barely hear yourself speak.
Just a year older than me, William was my best friend not just my boyfriend. And being just a year younger, I skipped my senior year at Immaculata so that we could matriculate together at Catholic U.
William and I got married in a little civil service at the courthouse. We set up household in a tiny little efficiency on Connecticut Avenue. We even worked together at bilingual daycare center in Adams-Morgan.
It seemed we were meant to be.
I was happily, happily hyphenated for 28 years as Joani Peacock-Clark. Together we juggled jobs, school, three children, friends, family, vacations, church, and just about anything else that you can think of. We juggled things beautifully for a very long time.
William was a stay at home dad and a fabulous cook, and he did all the grocery shopping. I was the career mom who was very good at doing the dishes. And when it came to parenting Zach, Colleen, and Jacob, we were very simpatico — at least on the things that mattered most.
But the last two years of our marriage were bloody awful, god awful. All the things that we had been juggling came crashing down on our heads. And just like Humpty Dumpty, we couldn’t quite put our marriage back together again.
“I love you.” became just something we said but no longer did. Some might consider my marriage a failure. I certainly felt like a failure for a very long time. But it was death that we were dealing with. Our marriage had died.
Marriages die. Relationships die. Some by neglect and some by design. Some by both.
In 2003, I signed the divorce papers. And this Peacock, after 28 years, uncoupled herself from the Clark.
Uncoupling is a railroad term. Circa 1985, The Potomac Yards in Alexandria were the largest railroad switching yards in the country. Struggling to fall asleep in our Delray Bungalow at 212 E. Windsor, we could hear the train cars crashing in the middle of the night. We’d hear the cars coming together and being pulled apart. It sounded like bombs going off. It sounded of wrenching, tearing, coupling, thrashing, and crashing. Passionate and tortuous lovemaking and hearts breaking in the middle of the night.
Now I have only been married once but I have been divorced many times.
I uncoupled from William in 2003.
I uncoupled from a soul destroying boss in 2005.
I have uncoupled from two different life depleting congregations.
I have uncoupled from my toxic and twisted younger sister.
I have uncoupled from a dark and dysfunctional friend.
I have uncoupled from a therapist who thought she knew me better than I know myself.
I have uncoupled from a lover who loved me in words but never in deed.
And I am happier for it, healthier for it, and stronger for it.
Uncoupled, I am on on my own but not alone. And I am not at all lonely.
Uncoupled, I am free to fall in love again and to be loved again. I am open to love wherever I may find it. Professional, personal, playful, passionate or platonic.
I am not looking to get married again. (You could not pay me enough money to get married again!) I am looking for someone who might like to try and keep up with me. Someone who drinks as deeply from the well of life as I do. Someone with a sense of adventure, a desire for intimacy. Someone who reads. Someone who laughs. A partner in crime.
Should this someone come along, that would be lovely. Should this someone also like to share my bed from time to time that would be lovelier still.
Maybe we will find one another walking the Rock & Roll Half Marathon, or drinking coffee at Killer ESP, or hiking Roosevelt Island, or campaigning for Hilary. Maybe we’ll meet at a Story District 2nd Tuesday show, or in the stacks at the library, or in the pool at the rec center, or standing in line at Trader Joe’s. Maybe on a road trip. In March, I am headed to Austin, in April to Denver, and in October to Ireland. Who knows?
I’m game. I am open.
Sometimes you have to fall out of love to find it again.
Sometimes you have to fall out of love to be free.