Installment #5 Chloe & Fran Pull a Geographic



Chloe in TX

Chloe in TX


Fran in Mexico

Fran in Mexico


It seems like we are oftentimes on a similar schedule with one another.  When you are kinda manic, I am kinda manic — both writing a lot, getting excited about certain podcasts, books, movies, shows.  And then there are times that we both write to each other saying how depressed and uninspired we are, bitching endlessly about shitty weather and overly chatty yoga teachers.

A long time ago, I told you that I thought that we were karmic sisters.  Some people call each other “chosen family”.  The latter sounds dumb to me, as if they are in a cult together or a shitty cover band.

Nonetheless, I do feel that we are connected by a strong karmic bond.  A writerly friend just wrote to me saying that you and I write similarly and she felt that is why we get along so well.  That got me to thinking a bit and I started wondering what is similar about our writing styles.  I feel that it comes down to the fact that we are both right there on the page.  You might talk about orgasms and I might talk about wanting to smash my husband’s skull to pieces — both things that some people might not be willing to write about.  We’ve talked a lot about vulnerability and disclosure and shame.


Chosen family is so sleazy, but karmic sisters works. We support each other in an entirely healthy way. It’s almost like it’s re-doing a lot of my toxic and/or codependent female friendships. You’re like a family member to me at this point, it’s weird. I looked up karmic sisters when you told me that, and it mentioned there’s certain people in your life that you often have the same things going on at the same time with and more but i’m too caffeinated to explain.


When I listened to Marc Maron and Louis on WTF Pod yesterday he says he gets choked up when he talks about their friendship. Its kinda like when I sent you that essay I wrote, Sisterless, and i mention the karmic sister thing, you said it choked you up. I was surprisedactually I dont know if either of us have cried in front of each other, kind of hard to believe, no?

I know how so far in these installments, weve compared ourselves to Marc Maron, Louis CK, Jerry Stahl, and Jack Kerouac. Who do we think we are?


Why the fuck do you think we might have such a fierce desire to be so honest in our work?


I think we both get bored with non honesty. It’s uninteresting, predictable, and it doesn’t make you close to people and I think we both crave intimacy.  


Back to usually being on a similar schedule, right now we are both out of town.  You are in Austin visiting with a friend and you did a reading the other night. I am down in Mexico with my husband chilling and working on some writing.  When I go away, as long as I am in an inspiring place, my mind often expands and I begin to think bigger picture about my work.  Something about getting away from the usual routine, the same old fucking furniture to stare at all the time, the same coffee shops, things like this.  I’m curious to know where your head is at right now, being away in a super rad city like Austin.  I have been getting a sense that you have been coming down from a long couple of months of stress and unknowns around your work, maybe not feeling super spacious or inspired, but I could be wrong.  Plus, summer can really be a strange time to write, it’s so intense and distracting.

It’s now safe to say that you have a book coming out next year.  That’s gotta be a relief for you in a lot of ways.  The shit is finally sorted.

That being said, where are you at with your writing and your head right now?


Yes, I have come down, and it feels amazing. I feel so restored right now. I just read somewhere, someone wrote, You know that peaceful feeling that comes after a hard time,and I was like OMG YES. I was at the Ft. Lauderdale airport when someone I’ve never met tweeted and emailed me the announcement in Publisher’s Marketplace so it’s a weird memory. I was so relieved.

At this exact moment i’m on a plane from Austin to Baltimore and I’m drinking club soda and eating honey roasted peanuts. But I feel better then I’ve felt on months. I’m excited and relieved to have months to work on my collection and get it to a point i’m comfortable with and proud of. It was awesome to wake up in Austin everyday and not immediately walk to my desk and open my computer. I didn’t look at my computer much all week.

Summer is my least favorite season to write, definitely. Im a winter writer. However, sometimes you have to suck it up and do it anyway. Luckily Im a seven to two or eight to three writer and after that I try to get my ass outside. But, I do have fantasies of checking into a hotel to write. If I ever did that, I would tell the people at the desk not to give me the wifi password.

Okay now its a week later and Im back from Austin. Im in my apartment drinking coffee and listening to Elliott Smith. I still feel restored. I feel really happy that Im not flying anywhere this summer. I did a lot of travel this past year. Cali twice, the mid-west, Portland, Austin, Marthas Vineyard. Im excited to root down and work on my essays and do my teaching gigs in NYC. Get grounded. Yesterday I rearranged and re-organized my apartment.


If I were in Austin right now, I’d be heading up to hill country for a tube down the river in a pair of old sneakers and cutoff shorts and a bikini top.

Have you ever been to Mexico?

When you asked me this I WAS wearing cut-offs and a bikini top. Austin was rad. I accidentally ate this salty chili powdered watermelon (actually I spit it out), a few migas breakfast tacos, coffee at Jos, did a reading, saw a reading, bought Frye boots, swam. Most importantly I got spend time with my friend Erika and meet her husband and 2 daughters.

I only went to Mexico once by way of San Diego. I think we went to Mexico for like, a day. My brother got food or sun poisoning. I was eight.

I think we should go together to Mexico in 2016. Mexico or Paris. What do you think???

You called me yesterday morning and told me a funny story. Do you want to talk about how you lost then found $800 in Mexico or no?


We should for sure go somewhere together and colab on the project that we’ve been talking about pretty much since the day we met and bonded over our mutual love for the movie Frances Ha.  I figured this dialogue would help us work out some material that could eventually morph into a bigger project, maybe a book, a screenplay, who the fuck knows, we’ll know when it is ready to rear it’s head I suppose.  But tucking away somewhere other than our usual digs would be a perfect way to get the shit out of our asses.  Either that, or we’ll just sit around for days making fun of yoga teachers.

Wherever we go, we need a pool and breakfast included, I am obsessed with breakfast offerings at hotels.  If there is not good coffee or breakfast, I get very anxious about life.

Dude, I just got back from Mexico the other day and had an epic trip with my husband.  The kid stayed at home with his grandma.  The day before I flew back to Portland, I was thinking that this trip was all-time and how I needed it to melt away all the darkness out of my bones.  I mean, I could feel the magic sun working it’s way into my bone marrow.  So I’m packing and shit to go home, the husband is out surfing and I go into my passport to pull out eight hundo in cash to pay the hotel bill cash to avoid taxes.  The shit wasn’t there.  I immediately knew someone stole.  It was awful and sad and I didn’t know what the fuck I was gonna do.  I mean, what a dumb fucking gringa bitch I was, so senseless and dumb.  I talk to the manager, I talk to the owner (he looked exactly like George Michael), we brokered a deal that I wouldn’t say shit online if he let me walk.  I felt like a character out of Goodfella’s.  I felt dirty.  But I knew that loot was tucked away in the passport because I am super OCD and never misplace shit.  Next morning, I am unpacking and what do I find?  Yup, the grip of hundies were in my wallet.  In my motherfucking wallet!!!!  My stomach dropped and for the first thirty seconds I thought about pocketing that loot, not for the loot itself, but to avoid the shame that was about to wash all over me for telling those people that someone stole.

That morning I had asked the universe to show me a sign.  I never did that before and have no idea why I did it. Nonetheless, I did the right thing and emailed the owner of the hotel right away and sorted out an immediate wire transfer.

Show me a sign.  And this is what I got.

#tbt 199 N 6th Street


I keep forgetting, but I want to do this throwback Thursday thing on my website where I post a photo and my correlating essays. So here is a photo of my friend Noelle and I when we lived in Williamsburg in 2006/2007 before we moved to Greenpoint. I think I’m collaging and she’s writing songs.  I LOVED this apartment, and mention it in ‘That Was Called Love” and “Last City I Loved.” We had a friend named Vance that we called LSD for short (?) and that’s why it’s graffiti-ed on our cabinet. On the left hanging up is the gold “jam-box” we bought at Urban Outfitters.

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jumpstart yr creativity w intimacy & candor


Teaching my ass off this summer. Online I’m teaching my cult hit (JK) Polish & Publish Your Personal Essay, and in NYC I’m teaching Memoir 1. But I’m also really excited about this one-day-workshop in NYC: Expose Yourself: Jumpstart Your Creativity with Intimacy and Candor. Details below. Applications accepted here.  The class is through the wonderful Electric Literature and Catapult. They’re serving cocktails after our long day of work.

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Just finished Sarah Hepola’s memoir BLACK OUT, as well as Ryan O’Connell’s essay collection I’M SPECIAL and Other Lives We Tell Ourselves.

My cousin sent me a rando Barnes & Noble card w $33 on it, so I bought the anthology Money Changes Everything, edited by Jenny Offill & Elissa Schappell & I Was Told There Would Be Cake by Sloane Crosley because I love devouring essay collections as I write my own.

What are you reading/watching/listening to???

A Chloe Caldwell Reading List

A Chloe Caldwell Reading List


Incredibly moved by this piece on Longreads today, a round up of my work.

Originally posted on Longreads Blog:

On Tuesday, author Chloe Caldwell announced her second collection of essays, I’ll Tell You in Person: Essays on Intimacy & Identity, is forthcoming from indie publishers Emily Books/Coffee House Press in 2016. Caldwell is one of those writers who, once you encounter her work, inspires you to read everything she’s written, akin to Leslie Jamison or Cheryl Strayed (who happens to be her friend and mentor). My best friend introduced me to Chloe’s first collection of essays, Legs Get Led Astray, and it’s a book I carry with me when I’m in need of comfort. Caldwell’s second book, a novella called Women, garnered critical acclaim (and an Instagram shoutout from Lena Dunham). She’ll show you her demons if you’ll show her yours–her style is deeply personal, almost confessional, but Chloe never seems to write from a place of exhibitionism. She’s simply honest, and in an age of Internet posturing, that feels important. Chloe…

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I’ll Tell You In Person.


So pleased, honored, grateful, excited, and all of the other positive adjectives to announce that my next collection of essays, I’ll Tell You In Person, will be one of the 2 books published in 2016 by CoffeeHouse Press/Emily Books.

Really indebted to my agent Chelsea Lindman for her belief in me and this book! And to all the people who’ve listened to me bitch and complain for the past 3 months, and the ones who have helped me in writing some of these essays. I’m pumped to work with the CH/EB team consisting of Ruth Curry, Emily Gould, Chris Fischbach, and Caroline Casey. I came up with the title because I constantly say “I’ll tell you in person” to my friends, all of who find it profoundly obnoxious.

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From electric literature:

The Minneapolis-based publisher Coffee House Press will partner with Emily Books to launch its first imprint in 2016. Coffee House has been making waves in recent years with award-winning books like Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station, Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, and Valeria Luiselli’s Faces in the Crowd. Emily Books is a Brooklyn-based electronic bookseller founded by Emily Gould and Ruth Curry. Currently, Emily Books functions as a combo book club, subscription service, and digital bookstore, picking titles by authors such as Eileen Myles, Renata Adler, and Karolina Waclawiak. Starting in 2016, though, they will be publishing two original titles a year through Coffee House.

In the press release, Coffee House Press publisher Chris Fischbach said: “We are energized by the opportunity to incubate their move into original work and to offer the kind of exciting selections they’ve made for the book club to a wider base of readers, and in multiple formats.” Emily Books co-founder Emily Gould said: “Their sensibility and ours are a perfect match, and we can’t wait to share the fruits of our collaboration with readers everywhere.”


p.s. There are still spots left in my MEMOIR class in NYC, Sign up!!

Summer of Memoir


I’ll be teaching a 10-week memoir class in NYC this summer, through Gotham Writer’s Workshop.

When: Every Wednesday: July 8th through mid Sept. 7-10pm.

Where: 555 8th Avenue, Gotham HQ

Read the syllabus here.

Enroll here. Sign up. Spread the word.

This course gives you a firm grounding in the basics of memoir craft and gets you writing a short memoir (or two) or a book. Course components:

  • Lectures
  • Writing exercises
  • Workshopping of student projects (each student presenting work two times)

Memoir Writing I is for beginners or anyone who wants to brush up on the fundamentals.

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I was a Gotham student for 4 years, in my early twenties. I was living the life-style below, and going to classes at Gotham grounded me, gave me something to look forward to, built my self-esteem up. I also made friends, and my teachers: Katherine Dykstra, Melissa Febos, Sarah Grace McCandless and Cheryl Burke gave me the female-writer-mentorship that I desperately needed. I pretty much wrote all of Legs Get Led Astray in those classes.

I can’t recommend this class more. Join me this summer, I promise it will be excellent.

Singing 'Nothing Compares To You'

Singing ‘Nothing Compares To You’

Oh, and I love this quote from Mary Karr, on memoir.



I’m also offering a one-day creative nonfiction writing intensive for women only (sorry) this August, in Hudson. If you want in on that, email me. I’m locking it up after 5 students. There are 2 spots left.

Installment #4: Chloe & Frances (pretend to) Write A Screenplay


Installment Number Four

Chloe and Frances Pretend to Write a Screenplay

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When I was around ten years old, after my parents split up and my mom and I moved out of our big four-bedroom house, I would go back to that house, which became “my dad’s”, every weekend.  Before my stepmother came around and fucked everything up, the site of the bedroom that I used to share with my older sister became my office.  It was an expansive room with two closets and shiny hardwoods and I had two desks up against one of the walls, one for me and one for a freelance friend.  My mom would steal pens and pads and tape and shit from work and so my home office was stocked.  Who knows what type of business I was running from that bedroom, but I do remember that I spent many hours in there toiling away and bossing around whatever friend/colleague in question crossed that threshold.

Why I bring this up is because around the time that we first met and started to become friends, we pretty much started playing office together.  During that time, I was renting a small office in Northeast Portland for my psychotherapy practice and so there was no need to convert a bedroom, we had a turnkey operation, whatever the fuck that means.

I would sit in my therapist chair and you would sit across from me on the patient couch. We knew better than to play therapist/patient because that would have been sick in the head, but we did embark on a hysterical mock project.  Like two little girls, we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing, but in so many ways we were pretending that we did.

Sometimes you brought in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  One time we took a lunch break and went to a depressingly empty Mexican place up the street.  I said, What would you do if I ordered a margarita?  I dare you, you said.  I drank water.

You had an exchange with a young LA woman one day at work that was the catalyst to our foray in screenwriting.  What was that first exchange like?


One night, I went to work at Powell’s from 7-11pm to work behind the till, as I did four days a week. I remember Portland was having a heat wave, and I was hot and depressed. I was cashiering, ringing up books, and then some really attractive rich-looking girl came up to me, and said. I’ve been looking for you everywhere. I loved your book. No I really loved it. (I remember thinking, everywhere? Where? At Powell’s?) Powell’s is fucking huge as you know, so she went to the information desk and asked for me and they sent her to the orange room. She made it sound like she’d been all around Oregon searching for me. I’m not hard to find. My email is on my website.

We exchanged numbers. She asked me if I’d be interested in collaborating with her. She wanted me to write a screenplay for LGLA. I loved the attention and the offer, but had no clue how I would do what she was asking. The girl cashiering next to me overheard everything, and when LA Actress left she was like, “Did that girl just ask you to write a screenplay?” That made me feel so legit. I was like, “Yup.”

And then I got a bunch of books out of Powell’s on screenwriting.


I remember you checking out all those books.  After we talked about it, you got me a cheap copy of The Squid and The Whale, which I studied and also Story by Robert McKee, which is a bible-like tome on screenwriting structure.

When you first told me about this young LA Actress and the adaptation of your book into a screenplay, we were sitting in the back patio of a teashop near my house in Portland.  It was dark outside and there was a rat running between the patio and the food carts that sit next to the teashop.  So I remember feeling really excited about the prospect asking you if I could help you with the adaptation but also really disgusted by the rat.  What do you remember about that evening?  Did you think that I was being too forward about saying that I right away had a vision for the film?


That’s an interesting question. I was surprised at your enthusiasm. I didn’t know you well yet, so had no clue how into film you were and how manic you can be (ha). What I remember is going to yoga together, and the teacher said something at the end and I cried. I always cry! Anyway, yeah, we had tea or whatever outside. I don’t remember the rat as well as you.

But now that you opened the floodgates about this I’ve been thinking for the past few days. One is that maybe we wanted to hang out a bunch and didn’t know—like you said in an earlier installment–what our relationship was. Writing a screenplay was a great way to do this, because we basically just talked face to face for 4 hours a day, which is maybe why we’re so close. We didn’t use our phones or computers much. We just talked about our lives. We shared with each other anecdotes and comical things from our past. In some ways you were my therapist, but a friend first. We drank that black tea called morning thunder.

I was flattered you want to help me, and that you were taking me seriously, when I wasn’t even taking myself that seriously. I liked the enthusiasm and creativity you brought to it.


Right away, I could see the scenes from LGLA on film.  I knew that it would be a challenging project, but at the same time I knew we could do it if we put our minds to it.

I also straightaway started getting into a producer-like mindset, thinking about where we would film it and what things might cost, who would shoot it and who would direct. My biggest fear was that the LA chick would want full control of this project.

You first had a coffee date alone with the young LA Actress to talk about the project.  From what I recall, you didn’t feel super comfortable being around her, something about her clothes and the way that she looked.  Where did you meet her and what was your first impression of her?


I’m always uncomfortable around a) really attractive people and b) rich people. She was both. I get too much in my head and I know that they know I am not really attractive or really rich. She was nice and sweet though, I just never clicked with her, or knew what she wanted from me, which is a feeling that’s come up a lot for me re: people who reach out to me about my books, particularly LGLA. She was wearing all white and cream and I was wearing all black. I was wearing H&M clothes and she was wearing Marc Jacobs or whatever. She did make an interesting comment about LGLA being ‘selfish’.

I think sometimes when people read personal nonfiction, hyper-personal like mine was – they get confused about the writer. They project themselves onto the writer.

We had coffee on the couch at The Ace Hotel. I remember she told me to sit close to her.  She was like, “Get cozy.” Maybe she just wanted to be my friend, but she also related to the book on some level. But why didn’t she just ask me to go get a drink? is my  question.


I guess I got a vibe that something was up with this chick from the start, an ulterior motive.  But I also thought it would be interesting to play it out.

The next thing I know, it is a Saturday morning and I am biking to meet you at The Ace Hotel in downtown Portland.  We met in the lobby, both wearing blazers, professional.  You were running late and had parked (I think you had Cheryl’s car) in the Vitamin Shoppe parking lot, saying that you can park there for an hour if you buy something. I think you bought some Emergen-C packets.  That made me anxious for you for some reason, worrying about that car sitting in that lot.  We got coffees from Stumptown and chatted nervously about meeting the young LA Actress for breakfast to talk about the screenplay.  All I remember from that breakfast is that I ordered granola and fruit some breakfast tea and the young LA Actress ordered the same thing but didn’t eat it.  Do you remember what you ordered?  I also remember that our conversation didn’t have a lot of substance but the young LA Actress paid cash for our breakfasts and didn’t even take her uneaten food home.  What a waste, I thought.  What were you feeling and thinking during this meeting?  Did you really think this woman was really interested in making your book into a film?  Do you think that she just trying to be your friend under the guise of this pretend project?


I ordered a side of scrambled eggs and black tea. I remember because later you said, “You ordered those weird eggs.”

It seemed too good to be true. While I’m thinking about it now, maybe, since i was living at Cheryl’s and saw that behind the scenes stuff about Wild being made into a film, maybe I thought it was possible. I’d already been lucky, publishing a book. My dad always says I lead a charmed life, so part of me was like: I’m so lucky! and the other part of me was like, This is stupid and unrealistic. After that lunch I went on a hike and thought all about it. I called my parents at one point and told them about the situation.

At one point, she sent us a few shorts she’d done. You came over to watch them, and we couldn’t get through them they were so cheesy. That was really depressing….


I’m so glad that you remembered those short films because they were so terrible, laughable.  She was really proud of them and I could see that the production quality was actually quite good and there was one good actor, but the content was a disaster. I think more than anything we were intrigued by her, a pretty zoo animal in boutique clothes.

About a week or so after the breakfast meeting with the young LA Actress, we were in my kitchen with a kind of friend of yours, someone you knew from the Portland writing community.  Because we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing and because I knew that you knew actual writers, we pulled in your friend as a consultant of sorts.  The three of us had pie together before we met at my house and he seemed interested in helping us sort out this project.

Your writer friend had brought over a loaf of sliced bakery bread and asked if I had any cheese.  He wanted to make grilled cheese at my house.  I had made a pot of miso soup and brown rice and vegetables and boiled egg.  I gave him a small chunk of cheddar and some mozzarella cheese and butter and a cast iron skillet and he made grilled cheeses.

I pulled out a typed page of notes that I had created around finance and budgeting; I had been brainstorming for days about how we should be compensated for the time that we were to spend engaging with the young LA Actress’s project.  I had worked in advertising as a project manager for ten years and know a thing or two about budgeting.  I talked to my good friend who is an actual producer; she gave me some tips on what our time would be worth.  I emailed a friend of a friend in LA who was a real screenwriter and she also gave me tips on phases of development, usual compensation, things like that.

Your writer friend was more concerned about the grilled cheeses than he was about the budgeting.  You and I started talking somewhat jokingly somewhat seriously about the idea of maybe the young LA Actress renting you a loft in Portland’s tony Pearl district so you could comfortably work on the screenplay.  I said, She should buy you a Vitamix.

I said, She should make sure you are outfitted with good artisanal coffee and a yoga pass.  I even thought about how I should add those line items to my budget chart.  I threw out the amount of ten grand to do this project, which I thought was a good number to start with.  With that, your writer friend became despondent, clearly upset.  It seemed as if something about the money talk freaked him out.

After we wrapped up the meeting, I walked the two of you out the front door.  I stood on the front porch and when he got into the driver’s side, you looked back at me and had a really sad look on your face.  He was driving you to therapy.  I knew your therapist.  At this point, did you know that our little foray into screenwriting would be over?  What did you think was going on with your friend?


That was an upsetting lunch. I didn’t know it would be over, but I was having a hard time deciphering fantasy and reality. And I was generally depressed at the time. Yesterday I was taking a hike and thinking about how awful it is when you’re walking in the woods and you walk into a cobweb. When you walk into a cobweb, you can’t stop talking about it, and thinking about it, and you’re afraid to move forward because it might happen again. That’s how this time period was for me.

Yeah—you told me you were gonna drink a little wine and smoke a little weed and email her the budget!

I think my friend couldn’t take our dynamic (mine and yours) cause we had chemistry and got each other on a deep level. I remember making eye contact a bunch during that lunch–we were both like……WTF is going on? But that lunch you made was delicious, I want to have it again.

At one point, the LA actress said, “Money doesn’t scare me.” You and I latched onto that and were like, “Well she SAID money doesn’t scare her!” You really psyched me up about the Vitamix and the unlimited yoga, I was fantasizing about this new comfortable life I was going to have, living in the Pearl District.  I become very desperate when I think that $ is dangling in front of me, it sucks.


We did end up presenting our costs to the young LA Actress.  Pretty soon after she saw those numbers, she told us that she had to pass on the project, that something else had come up for her, an acting job.  It made me realize that she was never really serious about the project.

That didn’t stop us from playing office.  We continued to sit together in my office, in coffee shops around Portland, toying with dialogue and ideas.  Nothing solid ever came to fruition other than a great friendship and some funny shit to remember and to talk about.


We took is seriously without taking it seriously at all. We met a few days a week from like 9 to 1pm until you had to get ready to get your kid at school and I had to go to Powell’s. I had a notebook I was trying to brainstorm in (gotta find that) and books about screenwriting and yes, peanut butter sandwiches. We drank that tea in your office called Black Thunder and honestly we had lots of fun. We both left to pee all the time. I think we both got something out of it we needed: entertainment, friendship, inspiration, intimacy, laughter. Maybe we both needed something–I for one needed motivation and a friend. In some way, (and this is totally dramatizing it) we reminded me of the characters in that movie Afternoon Delight. You helped me better my life (you hired me as a nanny and gave me a gift certificate to a soak & sauna place) and we got all meddled in each other’s lives. It was fun and interesting.

One morning it was cloudy and nothing was going on in my life aside from hanging with you, and cashiering at Powell’s, you told me to move back to NY, and were were like—-But what about the screenplay? You said, “I don’t mind coming there a few times a year, and we can Skype. 

I just love that we were like, but what about the screenplay, (that we’re not really writing?)

I just looked back into my email, this is from LA actress:

I’m thrilled at your enthusiasm.

I’d like to proceed in this way.

Please send me a scene to read

from the script you are diving into.

Then I will evaluate the

freelance fee. Because $1000 is simple

But what if we need $1000 a month

for three months?

And then she told us she had a big call for a job in LA and she really wanted the part. And then her next email said, I’m going to have to stop working with you ladies for the time being. I know I’ll see your beautiful selves in the near future.


Money doesn’t scare me.  That is a brilliant fucking line.  What a character study.  You are right — we both needed this at the time.  Writing can be super isolating and I think we needed each other.  I can only wonder what would have happened if the young LA Actress were actually serious?



Project Proposal

Date:  August 29th 2013

To:  The Young LA Actress

From:   Chloe Caldwell and Frances Badalamenti

Phase One:  Story Synopsis

Timeline – Two weeks

Synopsis due two weeks after kickoff meeting/approval to proceed.

Deliverables –

Writers to provide basic character sketches, scene ideas, possible themes and a loose plot summary.

Creative Fees –

There are no fees for this phase of development, as it is an exploratory time for the writers.

Phase Two:  Film treatment / Initial Research and Development

Timeline – Six Weeks

Full film treatment due no longer than six weeks after approval of story synopsis and okay to proceed.

Deliverables – Full sketches of key characters, locations / exposition, detailed scenes, complete plot summary.

Creative Fees –


This fee includes up to three rounds of comments and revisions.  If revisions go beyond three rounds, writers and producers to re-negotiate terms.  Full payment to be made at completion of phase two.

Phase Three:  

Script Execution

Timeline – Three to Six Months

A complete first draft due three to six months after approval of film treatment.

Deliverables – Execution of complete screenplay.

Creative Fees –


Includes first draft, second draft and final draft. If revisions go beyond three rounds, writers and producers to re-negotiate terms.  Payment to be made in installments at the completion of each draft.


Notes on creative fees:

Creative fees do not include travel expenses for meetings outside of Portland, travel-related research or other research-related materials.  Expenses related to meetings or research and development to be negotiated between producers and writers on a case-by-case basis for approval.

Creative fees are solely based on development of a completed full-length script.  Should the script be “green-lighted” for production of a film, writers and producers to negotiate buyout rights and possible percentage of profits.

Each stage of development will commence with a kick-off meeting (either in person or via Skype) to ensure that all parties involved are on in agreement with timeline, deliverables and creative fees.

Side notes regarding our intentions:

Writers would like to continue to obtain some level of creative input / art direction should the film go into production, terms to be negotiated before the onset of production.  We request to be included in the conversations of choosing a possible director, cinematographer, actors and film score.

Trajectory of a book


Legs Get Led Astray is coming to a close, is going out of print, (my idea) and in honor of that I wanted to post about the trajectory of the book.  Some back story is that in 2011 I’d been writing essays for a few years. I was putting together a manuscript of them. The title I used was Sun Down Yellow Moon and I Am A Human Being and Have a Human Life. I didn’t know where to send it—I’d just recently started reading indie stuff: I’d heard of xTx, Elizabeth Ellen, and Amelia Gray. I sent the book to Elizabeth Ellen at Short Flight/Long Drive because when I Googled her I thought she seemed cool and she had the same Bday as my mom. She didn’t want it but it’s ironic isn’t it, because she ended up publishing Women. She sent me a box of SF/LD books and a flask as a consolation prize. I couldn’t find many places looking for nonfiction—it was all fiction an poetry. Plus I had nothing published online so no one knew who I was. But I saw that Future Tense Books was open to fiction, and non, so I sent to them, and the rest is history!

i was really hardcore back then

i was really hardcore back then. this was me most days for 8 hours.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.02.48 AM

my editor Eric's style sheet, cracks me up

my editor Eric’s style sheet, cracks me up

I love this part, specifically: brie, bloody marys, oxycontin, film forum, chartreuse. Seems like a disturbing to do list. Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 8.00.29 AM

Fun part, deciding what order to place essays in

Fun part, deciding what order to place essays in

Possible LGLA cover by Bryan Coffelt

Possible LGLA cover by Bryan Coffelt

Another possible cover by Bryan

Another possible cover by Bryan

Picking up my book at Time Out Chicago

Picking up my book at Time Out Chicago! Went to Chipotle after. Feb 2012

Signing books at Powell's, thinking I was hot shit

Signing books at Powell’s, thinking I was hot shit

My mom

My mom in our driveway

my cousin, me, and my mom at Powell's

my cousin, me, and my mom at Powell’s

I loved the cover we chose, because it reminded me of this photo of me as kid. Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 12.05.24 PM   Anyway, LGLA has special meaning for me because I was so young when it came out, and it’s such a nuanced slice of my life. If you don’t have it and want it, get it before it’s gone forever! You can buy it here and here. It’s also an audiobook. Love CC

Installment # 3: Louis CK, R.E.M., and putting pee on your face


Installment number three.

In conversation.

Starring Chloe Caldwell and Frances Badalamenti.



Why the F was there no new Louie episode last Thursday? Remember one time you asked me if I met Louis somehow in NYC and had the opportunity to sleep over at his house, would I? And I said, “Yeah but I’d sleep on the couch” and you laughed and were like, “I’d sleep in his bed!” Tell me more about this hypothetical sleepover and what you guys what talk about and eat and do. 


First off, I just realized that you write in Helvetica and I write in Times New Roman.  I used to be into sans serif type and now I am into the more classic style.  Just had to bring that up, maybe it has something to do with age.  Sorry that I keep changing the font, you could change it back if you want, I don’t want to be a font bully.

Maybe we should just switch to Comic Sans. Dude, I have no idea why there was no Louie.  What I do know is that I felt a major void last week. We constantly talk about running into Louie in the city.  I asked a friend recently if she would give him a blowjob.  She said sex but no blowjob.

In my teens and through my twenties, before I started marrying people, I had some super close guy friends.  We would hang out and smoke Camel Lights, get buzzed, yack, listen to music, watch movies, and crack up. It would get super late and the night would inevitably end in a sleepover.  The Louie that I know from his show and stand up is, for me, the culmination of all of my close guy friends that made me really fucking happy. I would share a bed with those dudes and it would be platonic (they all tried hitting on me and I would laugh in their faces, awful) and yet there was this intimacy that filled many voids because I couldn’t seem to score a legit relationship.  I was completely un-dateable back then.

I’m sure the Louie character and I would talk endlessly about film and music and cool New York shit.  I would probe the living hell out of him about super personal things, as I do with pretty much anyone I can get my hands on.  We would go to some rad upscale market and collaborate on a sick meal and cook the fuck out of it whilst sipping good wine and listening to old school jazz.  And then because we are both in our forties and are parents, we would be tired at like midnight and so he’d be like, You could just crash here if you want.  And I’d be like, Okay, I’ll just sleep on the couch.  And then he would say, Just sleep in my bed, I’ll sleep on the couch.  And then I’d say, We could just share a bed, it’s no big deal, I did it all the time with guy friends when I was younger.  And then we would talk and laugh in bed until we fell asleep.


I just listened to Jerry Stahl on Marc Maron’s podcast. They’re so cute together, they get all hyper and were talking so fast, reminded me of us–he’s like, “You’re kind of my best friend, but I don’t even seen you that much.” My friend Andrew read our posts and thought you were “Finn” from my book Women. I explained you’re hetero and I met you when “Finn” and I had our final break up. Have you always made female friends really easily? When my mom read a draft of your memoir, I Don’t Blame You, she commented to me on how you seemed to have rad friends. Did you ever have a period where you had a hard time relating to women? 

Who would be Jerry Stahl and who would be Marc Maron?  You’d probably be Jerry because you were kind of a junky and I’m a neurotic prober like Marc.

My relationship some women in my life has not been an easy one.  It started with my mother and my stepmother who were not ideal female role models.  My mother was the walking definition of a hot mess and my stepmother is cold and mean.  As you know, I have had piles of interpersonal issues with my mother in law and my sister in law.  I have a strong personality and I don’t put up with a lot of bullshit.  I call people out.  I don’t do well with being treated like shit.  Many of my female friendships have ended in some dumb ass fight over a borrowed skirt or a misconstrued phone message.

Every time that I meet a lady and consider starting a friendship, I begin to think about the epic battle that will eventually ensue.  So either I don’t bother with the friendship or I keep a comfortable safe distance.  But I have been getting better about this and I am opening up more and getting softer. Our bestie friendship and our writerly relationship is a great example of this, because we are super connected. You texted me this morning saying that you have been able to feel that I’ve been going through a hard time. You were spot on. I’ve been constantly bumping into myself for the past few months.

I love how your mom noticed how I have curated a lot of super rad people in my life.  She is right.  When I get buzzed and if I am listening to classic REM on vinyl, I get super sad and I miss certain people so much that it can be devastating.

I am definitely not Finn.  I like real dicks too much.


You remind me of Pamela Adlon when you talk that way. One of the things I love about you is how you can relate anything to film or books or TV or comedy. For example, when a LA movie person found me in Portland (we can explain this next week) and told me she wanted to write a movie based on Legs Get Led Astray you told me to watch the film Personal Velocity based on Rebecca Miller’s short story collection. When we pretended to write a screenplay, you told me to watch the show Entourage, and when I worked for a catering company last summer you introduced me to that hilarious show, Party Down. Have you forever been interested in film and shows and books? Who introduced you to a lot of that stuff and when were you really getting into it? Is that your biggest form of escapism? 


Well, like so many single mom latchkey kids who grew up in the 80’s, I was raised by sitcoms.  Because everything else sucked in my life, my brain learned to feel happy while escaping into someone else’s way better life. When I grew up and started piecing myself together, I attended a commuter college in Jersey not far from Manhattan that had killer art and film departments.  At that same time, I tended bar at that indie music venue in Hoboken.  So I was surrounded by a lot of super smart arty people who would tell me about cool books and films.  I spent many an afternoon in small viewing rooms in my college library watching films that we could check out for free for a few hours.  I watched Raging Bull for the first time there with my buddy Jim from philosophy class.  I took film studies classes and learned about experimental film and camera angles and shit.  I got really into Hal Hartley and Jim Jarmush and Kristof Kishlovsky and Wim Wenders and Gus Van Sant. I worked behind the bar with these two groovy well-educated brothers, Butch and Mike, good friends of mine.  They turned me on to the writers Denis Johnson and Hanif Kureishi and Rob Bingham and the poet Elizabeth Bishop.

At this point in my life, books are my biggest form of escapism. Because if my kid hears me watching something at night, he busts into my room to check it out, like he is the only one that can watch shit around here.  Sometimes I let him watch stuff — one of his favorite movies is Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk with Me.  He talks about it all the time.  I let him watch parts of Louie, he loves the scene where Louie deconstructs that doll on Christmas Eve for his daughter.  He’s only seven, but I cannot wait for the day that I can show him some of the things that inspired me.  I can’t wait for him to read Catcher in the Rye.  I can’t wait for him to see Drugstore Cowboy.  And I can’t wait for my kid to grow up so we can get all film noir together.


My life has turned into this thing where I keep saying, “I’ll do it when I have the money.” You often say to me, “When you get a deal, you can buy these Swedish clogs” or, “We’ll go to Oaxaca when you get loot.” It’s pretty hysterical. I was talking with some friends recently about what we’d do if we got a six figure book deal. I said what I always say: save some, buy a few pairs of expensive shoes, a few classic pieces of clothing, go frolic around France, maybe buy a beater car. One of my friends said she’d buy a piece of land. What would you do?


I love how we were making a list of all the shit you should buy if you ever got a big advance.  I was being a total parental figure, telling you to consider taxes first and foremost.  I told you not to get all MTV Cribs and blow the whole nut.  I fantasized about creating a spreadsheet for all the things that you should get and in what order of priority.  I said, Definitely get a car.  You said, That’s what my mom said, she got in on it too.

You know how Portland drives me insane sometimes.  I dream of buying a small house in some groovy little enclave on the Hudson River Valley or on the Jersey coastline, so I could get the funk out of Portland and spend time with the people that mean so much to me.  I dream of taking the train into the city once or twice a week for a culture and food fix.  I would also take some killer trips.  You would come with me.  I wrote to you last week saying, Let’s go to Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and the South of France.  I’ll cook, I said.  I love shopping at the outdoor marketing and making simple meals and pretending that I am a local.


When I was living in Portland, I had a really bad acne break out, horrible, really painful and everywhere, and you told me to use my own pee on my face as toner every day. I did it, and I did see results. This has nothing to do with anything but I think it’s funny to talk about.


I was really worried about you and that acne.  I had heard about piss on the face from my friend who is a makeup artist.  She swore by it.  When I have facials, I probe the shit out of the esthetician about ways to deal with adult acne so I can tell you about them.  They never mention piss and I never bring it up.


You should ask your esthetician! In my book Women, I based the character The Female Woody Allen on you, because you get upset seeing people in exercise clothes, among other things. Once someone who read the book met you, and I told them I based that character on you.

“She’s so chill, she’s nothing like Woody Allen,” they said. “Yeah well that book is fiction” you said, which is true. Why do you think people are so hung up on fiction and non? I find it all so boring, you?


Like Woody, I am quite neurotic and do not have a lot of patience for certain things like the sea of asses that I have to witness daily squeezed into those awful synthetic yoga pants.  Please cover that ass.  Those pants don’t look good, even on the walnut butts.  My day is ruined if I see a thong triangle through those pants.

Francisco Goldman said in an interview a while back that in poetry there is no difference between fiction and non-fiction, why should there be in prose?  That is so perfect.  I think people are hung up because most people are assholes and assholes look for something to be hung up on.  Trolls.  I was at a party a while back and I was talking to this friend of a friend who has published some novels.  I told her that I had recently finished a memoir and she gave me this horrified look and said, Oh.  Total art monster asshole.  Like you, I think it’s all quite boring and is probably just a way for some writers to think they are better than other writers.  That shit is so dated.


Talk about your memoir. How long have you been working on it and how would you describe it? Where do you see it being published? The book reminds me a bit of The Chronology of Water in the sense that it’s experimental and not linear and just generally bad ass and unflinching in dark places. I’ve never read anything quite like it and think when it pubs people will love it. 


My memoir is a total piece of shit.  Just kidding.  Thank you for the kind words.  It really does help.  It’s been sitting in the drawer for a while now, like a sad malnourished dog in a shit-infested kennel waiting to be adopted.  I wrote the first draft in a fever state about a year and a half ago and then worked with Lidia Yuknavich last summer who gave me brilliant feedback that became a second draft.  I am not sure at this point where I can see it being published per se, but it is currently in some hands that could make me a very happy writer person.

The memoir is about a lot of things, but mainly it is about losing my mother two months before I became a mother myself so a lot of the book is about the course of me growing a baby while my mother was killing a cancer.  There is flashbacking to some hard coming of age shit, which I feel shows the reader who my mother was and who I have become.  There is a strong sense of place, as I am pulled between Brooklyn and Jersey and Portland and Amsterdam.  I do not think the book would necessarily resonate with tons but I think it could resonate with people who have worked their way through some heaviness.

You’ve been really supportive about this book.  And your mom was my first reader, does that make us cousins?


It definitely makes us second cousins. Yeah, my mom and I are total memoir junkies, it’s insane. My mom read your book printed out in bed with a pencil marking it up.

Sometimes I get too invested in my friends’ books I begin to think I also wrote the book. I’m like that with movies I deeply love too–I get super offended when people don’t love the movie if I loved it—I begin to think I wrote the movie.

We are totally manic these days. We text and email at the same time. Your book is gonna come out and we’ll go do “conversations” in Europe together, I know it. 

Who Are We?

Who Are We?

Who Are We?  

Installment #2.

Frances Badalamenti: I really enjoyed last week’s conversation.  It seemed to bring a lot of light to an otherwise anxiety-ridden time for us both, which I’ll get to in a bit.

I asked a few people what they thought of our post and a few of them said we had a sweet friendship and that it was a fun read.  One friend said that she got distracted by our poor copy-editing, but she lives in Amsterdam where I guess people don’t make mistakes.  Another friend said all the cussing was cathartic to read.  That made me super stoked because I’ve been called out many times for over-using foul language in my writing, something that makes me bristle.  I’ve often wondered if it’s because I am a lady and ladies aren’t supposed to fuck away but it’s okay for Junot Diaz because he’s a hetero-bro.  I love Junot Diaz (Jersey in the house!) to bits, but it bums me out that he can swear his ass off and I can’t.

Is there anything that you’ve been called out for in your writing that drives you mad?  You’re writing can be sexually charged, do you ever feel that you shouldn’t be transparent about your sexcapades because you are a lady?  Do you ever hold back scenes that you otherwise wouldn’t if you were Junot Diaz?

Chloe Caldwell: I have a good reason (in my opinion) for not copy-editing. I’ve never told anyone this, but the reason I don’t re-read my emails or website posts (Or essays, lol) is because if I linger on my own words that I’ve written motivated by emotion, I become embarrassed, and then won’t want to publish the essay/the blog post/send the email because I’m so over myself. So I stream of consciousness it, like Kerouac. I’m exactly like Kerouac, hehe jk.

Similar to you, when I was first going to writing classes in NYC, I had a few women be v annoyed and offended by my use of “fucking”. This woman couldn’t stand how much I used it. “But that’s how I talk,” I’d tell her. You know, I was super into Bukowski at the time, too…so I was all “He came over to fuck” “we fucked” “fuck that” etc…and maybe she was right and I overused it. But…that’s how we (some of us?) talk. It’s funny how “fuck” is still so shocking at times. I remember opening a Kathy Acker book and the first line was, “I’m 26 and like to fuck” and I thought it was awesome.

Well, I’ve been a little annoyed lately by being called name-droppy if I mention Cheryl…which sucks, because….she’s a big part of my life and the fact that she got famous means I can’t say her name without people thinking I’m an asshole…which is total bullshit. Before she was who she is now, I wrote this essay and this essay about her, and no one cared.  But I’m bitter these days, so…

Even Cheryl said, “Is it name-droppy because it’s MY name?” Yup. I talk a lot about Cheryl in general because she was a huge person for me when I started writing, she was one of the first people reading and supporting my essays before anyone else did and as you know I’m close with her kids and stuff.

As for sex, I don’t know. When I was writing Women, I think I tried to hold back a little in the sex scenes and my editor drew them out of me. I felt embarrassed. And when the book got press in PLAYBOY and was recently on a list of erotica books, I feel a little misunderstood. Like, if you write a sex scene and you’re a woman, you wrote erotica??? Does Junot Diaz write erotica since he writes sex scenes?

FB: I just realized that I had my ear buds in but hadn’t put on any music.  Freak. I put on Sufjan Steven’s newest album Carrie & Lowell, which I have been listening to incessantly while writing for the past month or so.  The song, No Shade in The Shadow of the Cross is mental, I play it over and over and over and over.  As you know, I named my memoir after the Cat Power song, I Don’t Blame You, because I kept it on repeat while writing that book. I heard her say in an interview that the song is about Kurt Cobain, which kills me.  I saw her perform in the early nineties at a club where I worked at the time. She was just starting out and my coworkers and I were blown away, so I feel this deep connection because that was such a special time for me. I tend to get super emotional about music in general and we have talked before about how music informs our writing lives.

You are working on a coming of age essay pretty much about how music influenced your teen years.  Why do you think music was so important to you back then?  Both of our fathers are musicians and long-time music teachers, which I feel is so rad.  Do you think because we both grew up around music and musicians in our homes that writing and music have become this symbiotic thing?

What was the Women theme song or soundtrack?

CC: I feel like you and I don’t talk about music enough, actually. When we met we were nuts over the same books and movies and music fell to the back burner. I think I was worried you didn’t like good music or something. I was wrong. 

I think of you every time I hear “I Don’t Blame You.” Remember I went to see Cat Power live when I was dating that asshole guy who I thought was nice at first and I called you when she played that song.

When I was writing Women, I listened to a lot of Lykke Li and Beach House. I’d gotten into Beach House when I lived in Portland in that Falcon art apartment. My roommate had one of those Urban Outfitters record players and played Beach House a bunch. I also listened to the song “Pink Rabbits” by The National on repeat. When I write, I can listen to the same song all day for six hours. Right now that song is “You can have it all” by Yo La Tengo.

Also right now I’m super into Cat Power’s album Sun. I think it’s my favorite of hers, so badass and raw–I guess that’s back when she was still drinking.

FB: When I met up with you in San Francisco a few months ago, you had arrived the day before and ended up having a one-night stand. You were freaked out and rubbed raw.  That episode pretty much became fodder and psychoanalysis for a lot of our dialogue as we walked up and down many a steep hill.

It was gorgeous out, so warm and sunny, a much-needed reprieve from cold-ass upstate New York (you) and soaking wet Portland (me).  At one point, as we were walking away from Mission Delores Park where we had thick smoothies and a nip of an edible chocolate, you said that you finally realized why you had been carrying around an anxiety ball all day. It was the unbearable heaviness of that sleepless night of wine-drinking and finger-banging.  You were thinking it was a mistake.  I remembered those nights all too well and could feel your pain.  But then you took a deep breath and seemed to release a lot of tension.  You found some insight.  I loved the idea of an anxiety ball, that term is so perfect and contained because at any point you can throw the ball away as long as you know that you are holding it.

CC: No comment. ; ) Ugh last night I had anxiety ball and dealt with it by eating a mozzarella ball in it’s entirety.

FB: The past few months have been a time of major anxiety for the two of us because we are both in the process of having our books considered for publication.  You recently went to NYC and got your ass sniffed by a gaggle of top editors.  That’s a big ass anxiety ball.  Part of me wished I were you and part of me was thankful that I wasn’t.  At the end of it all, you seemed president-tired.

What do you feel like sharing about this experience?

Jesus, I sound like such a shrink…..

CC: It definitely didn’t make me feel v good. Three years ago, if I knew I was going to be going on those meetings, I would have jumped for joy–but when you’re in the thick of it, you can’t really enjoy certain things, you know? It’s unfortunate. At one point, in between my meeting with an editor from Henry Holt, and an editor from CoffeeHouse, I went to H&M and bought a whole new outfit, and changed in the cafe bathroom. I was out of my head a little. Fearful, anxious, neurotic. For someone like me, who is “epically financially struggling” it’s hard to talk to people who have financial power over me, if that makes sense.

I was kidding a few days ago when I tweeted “I used to think writing was fun” but only half kidding. I had literal ‘fun’ while writing LGLA and WOMEN. I could afford to be poor since I was younger. I could afford to live at home. I can’t anymore. It’s turned into something I do for money and it’s really different and kind of a bummer. The submission of my new manuscript has been a real challenge in patience, surrender, and humility, that’s for sure.

I’m at a pivotal time in my life in decision making, it seems. I started publishing online around age 23, and published my first book at 26. I could afford to be poor. I could afford to publish the way I want to. I could afford to live at home. I can’t anymore. So I’ve got to figure out how I’m going to make a living.

You texted me yesterday, “We’ve both been going through existential crises.”

It’s hard, because when our books are rejected, it’s like our life/hearts have been rejected, you know.

FB: I’ve been meaning to ask you what you thought of The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits.

I poured over it; couldn’t get enough, but I was wondering if it was relatable for you since she is a married woman with kids in her forties and is certainly not a writer who still struggles financially.

CC: It took me a minute to get into it. It was so hyped, and I get insane expectations—for books, for people, for life, and that’s an issue for me. I bought the book in NYC at McNally Jackson at an event. Heidi was interviewing Christopher Bollen. Bought the book, and for the first time in my nonfiction life, I was bored. I was like—why are you telling me this? Which is something I almost never think when I read nonfiction.

But then I got totally charmed by the way her brain works and the anecdotes she shared, I couldn’t put it down. I especially love the stuff about competing with her husband in writing, I wonder if I’d be that way if married to or dating a successful writer. I didn’t think much about her financial situation really. 

I’m still finishing it though. I’m a slow reader These days because I’ve been working on my own shit, and teaching my class for 19 students, 19 personal essays a week for 3 weeks to critique. So each night I crawled into bed I’d read some of her stuff. My class ended yesterday so now I can do more pleasure reading.

This morning I took a walk in the woods and was listening to the BookWorm podcast with David Shields and Caleb Powell. They were talking about the book they did together, which is an argument, titled, I Think You’re Totally Wrong. And David Shields said that Caleb always wanted to be an artist but over committed to life, and David himself always wanted a life but he overcommitted to art. What do you think about that?

FB:  Wow, that’s a really interesting concept.  It reminds me so much of my father, who is a long time jazz musician, but worked in the graphic arts by trade and has always gigged on the side.  His younger brother is a very prominent composer of music for film who never did anything outside of music.  I think so much about those two brothers and their relationships to music/art and the different ways that their choices in life have affected the trajectory of their lives.  In a lot of ways, my father overcommitted to life and kept music on the side and my uncle Angelo has possibly overcommitted to art and has maybe kept life on the side. I am not saying that my uncle is an art monster per se, but I often wonder how some legit artists forgo certain aspects of life for the sake of their art.  I personally feel that art and life can be one thing, that the two entities can work together if done right.

But in the end, who the fuck knows.

me and Fran, photo by Justin Hocking

me and Fran, photo by Justin Hocking