Movin' On Up...

April 20, 1998
  There are big changes and small progress going on around here, kids. It's simultaneously exciting, nerve-wracking and maddening.

First, the exciting, big news: we're moving. Or, as Beth has taken to singing discordantly, "We're moving on up/To a deluxe house in Valley Glen..." George and Weezy's ears never had it so bad. Where we're moving is to a new house. As I mentioned here awhile ago, we've been house-hunting. We haven't been doing it with any real sense of purpose or gusto; we've just sort of been toying with the idea of buying a new house and going to open houses for shits and giggles. Until a week ago today. That's when the giggles stopped and the "oh shit" began.

It's not too far from where we live now, but it's in an entirely different galaxy, neighborhood-wise. We now live in the heart of Van Nuys -- what I call the armpit of Los Angeles, in a small pocket of nice homes on a nice street surrounded by nice people, which is in turn surrounded by everything that makes Van Nuys Van Nuys: gangs, crime, prostitution, a militaristic police presence, nightly helicopter overflights, etc... An illustration: Remember the latest L.A. bank robbery where the cops got the drop on the bad guys instead of the other way around and proceeded to kill one and lose the others? That was about 10 blocks from my house, right across the street from my old bank. The new house, in contrast, is on a quiet street of expensive homes, is right around the corner from Valley College, is away from the Van Nuys and Burbank airport flight paths, doesn't have graffitti on every spare surface, and I'll bet the only time cops cruise there is when they're looking for a place to nap.

It's a gorgeous house. 3,000 square feet of home in the best condition of any we've seen yet. It looks like it was built yesterday. Five bedrooms -- one of them a master suite, three bathrooms, a huge family room, living room with fireplace looking out french doors onto the enormous back yard, Berber carpet everywhere, recessed lighting, etc... One of the bedrooms (to be my office) is set off alone as a second floor with a balcony overlooking the back yard. Two of the bedrooms are perfect kid-size, which gives Zoe and a sibling-to-be-named-(and conceived)-later their own rooms, the fourth will be Beth's office/quilting room with its built-in desk unit and bookcases. And the master... Hoo boy. It's really big, has a walk-in closet, skylights, french doors to the back yard, and the master bath... Well, as Beth puts it: "It rocks." Quite simply, it's huge. It's about twice the size of our current bathroom, has twin sinks, a built-in dressing table, another skylight, a jacuzzi tub identical to the one we had at the New York Four Seasons, and a soccer field sized glass-enclosed shower that has twin shower heads, yet another skylight, and a built-in bench that's perfect for... Well, for sitting down to wash your toes, let's say. There's a two-car garage out back, and a circular driveway out front, along with a little couryard area set off by split-rail fencing at the front entrances.

Like the way it sounds? It looks even better. We saw it on Monday and were in escrow by Friday. Yikes. It's exciting and nerve-wracking, all at the same time. I don't think we've moved this fast on anything, ever.

The small progress I mentioned is that I finally finished my "Frasier" spec. Now that in itself is no small progress. If you'll recall, I spent months stymied by an idea I just couldn't make work before I tanked it and moved on with a new one. Not quite a month after succumbing to the new idea, I was typing "END OF SHOW." As I wrote this one, I kept some advice in mind that I got from a producer on "Suddenly Susan." He said that when he reads specs, he's looking for jokes, not story. He says he can teach -- expects to teach -- story and structure to new writers, but they've got to have the funny to start with. So on this one I concentrated more on the humor than the story -- even though I think the story's pretty good. I made it as funny as I possibly could, then went back through it again and tried to add one new laugh per page. End result: I think this is my best spec yet, definitely the funniest.

But it's small progress because even though it's finally finished and ready for the world, I can't get anyone to read the fucking thing. That's maddening. I finished it relatively late for staffing season, so I had to get it to my agent as quickly as possible. I asked a couple of people to read it for notes before I sent it off, and none of them -- NONE of them -- came through in time. They didn't even get back to me to say "no"; they just didn't get back to me at all. So I gave it to my agent cold on Friday, then called him today to see if he'd read it... And got, a-fucking-gain, his voicemail. And of course, he hasn't called me back yet.

And so my frustration was compounded. I was so pissed off at him this afternoon for not even getting back to me to at least say "No, I haven't read it yet" that I decided "Fuck it, I'm shopping around." I've had another agent's card in my back pocket, figuratively speaking, for awhile now, and I called him to ask if I could send the script to him. And guess what? He's not at that agency anymore. Apparently he's in Pennsylvania, and God only knows what an agent is doing there. So much for that plan...

I'm in knots over this thing. I've written what I think is a pretty solid script, but I need to hear other people say that to believe it -- or hear them deny it so I can fix it, and as of now nobody has read it but Beth. Now, I appreciate her comments and she has good insights from time to time, but I'm nervous about taking her word for it that it's good. Having your non-writer spouse critique your work is kind of like asking your mother if you're good-looking. What, she's going to say you're ugly? Meanwhile the clock is ticking on staffing season, and each day that passes makes it more likely the script will have to go out as is if I run out of time to fix any problems my readers might find.

"Gee, Chuck, you're buying a beautiful house and your biggest problem is that your agent hasn't read your script? I should have such problems." Yeah, yeah, I know. But still: Waaaaahhhhh!

Copyright © 1998
Chuck Atkins