Thunder and Secrets

“I never liked the way my family treated me.”

Currently shooting Illusion Travels by Boxcar

There is thunder and lightening on the horizon in Tulsa, with a light rain. Patty sits outside the motel room on the balcony and lights up a joint. “I’ve never told anyone this before, John,” she says. For an hour, she tells me how it feels to be the one member of the family considered least intelligent, least respected, and most likely to screw up. Her pain at having to give up her children had been stabbing away at her all day as we drove past old houses she used to live in and neighborhoods where her reputation was sealed as a wild girl.

Diane, her closest childhood friend who she saw this year for the first time since 1971, lives in a beautiful Victorian house near downtown. The still rooms, appointed in her deceased mother’s thick oak furniture and bathed in a milky light from ancient curtains, point to solidity and tradition. Into their calm, unrattled silence comes Patty, who is at this point on her best behavior. She and Diane reminisce about Tulsa in the early sixties, about Patty’s reputation for beating up boys in school as well as girls, and the intervening 34 years during which Patty had one bad boyfriend or husband after another.

During lunch at a Mexican restaurant, Patty decides to buy two Corona beers. She reveals to me what my production assistant Frank Bollinger had already told me, that she sneaked away and bought a wine cooler last night. In the restaurant, the alcohol finally unwinds all the tension that was prevening her from “having a good time.” She dances a Hootchy-coo dance for a couple of Latino guys, bouncing her breasts and flirting with them.

Patty insists on getting another wine cooler, but I give her an ultimatum: “Either you get a wine cooler and get driven to the Salvation Army tonight or stay away from drinking and stay in the motel.” How do I feel about her drinking? I think it’s sad and unfortunate, but there is absolutely nothing in this world that I or anybody else can do about it. I told her she was an incorrigible alcoholic who was destroying her liver.

Earlier in the day, we had gone to the Woodland Acres Baptist church and listened to the sermon for Mother’s day. I kept thinking about Dee Ann, the daughter who won’t see Patty. And I thought about my own mother, whom I forgot to call all day. My mother ended up calling me late in the evening, and I told her I had just gotten back to the motel, which was true—and was about to call her—which I hope would have been true in the best of all possible worlds. Anyway, after the sermon, Patty and I filed out of the sanctuary and into the pastor’s office to ask for church assistance with housing. The pastor said to call some church official on Monday, and that maybe the Benevolent Committee could come up with a couple of nights’ room and board somewhere.

At night, we went back to a Latino shopping center and rode Go-Karts. I had to convince the owner of the Go-Kart ride to let Patty ride. He saw that she was clearly enibriated and was nervous about her safety and his liability.

Posted at 3am on 05/09/2005 |

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