The Granger-Weasley Wedding: A Muggle Perspective (Fan-Fic)

The car rolled over the moors, lumbering through the humid June morning. It was a respectable car, certainly nothing flashy, moving at a reasonable pace. Seated in the front seat was a couple that were similarly respectable, reasonable, and certainly nothing flashy. The driver was a middle-aged man with thinning red-brown hair and a slightly ruddy complexion; seated beside him, poring over maps printed from the internet, was his wife, whose brown hair was tied loosely back. Both wore spectacles and were the model of middle-class practicality.

Filtering from the Peugeot’s speakers was a CD by the Australian rock band Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, which the couple had bought on a year-long holiday down under a couple of years prior. That trip had been one of the few impulsive things either of them had ever done: Looking back, they were hard-pressed to explain what had driven them to suspend their dentistry practice and leave for Australia for an entire year.

“Lovely country, isn’t it?” the husband said to his wife. “Do you think they’re going to stay out here after the wedding?” She looked up from the maps that she was studiously examining and smiled.

“Well, they both work in London so I imagine they might end up at least a little closer to us. Oh, look,” she added, pointing to a signpost, “Ottery St. Catchpole, 1 mile. It should be coming up.” She buried her head back into the maps.

As the narrow road curved around a bulbous little hill, they spotted a narrow drive cutting through a bog marked by what appeared to be a freshly painted sign:

No. 127

The husband was about to ask his wife if this was the driveway they were looking for, but realized he had no need: This was certainly it.

The evidence was a man standing some ways down from the sign, who began waving excitedly as soon as he saw the car slow down. He was middle-aged, with thinning hair that still retained much of its original bright red, wearing what could only be described as a wizard’s robe.

“The Grangers, at long last!” he exclaimed as the car pulled to a stop and Mr. Granger rolled down the window.

“Hello, Arthur! You didn’t have to meet us at the end of the drive,” said Mr. Granger by way of greeting, as Mrs. Granger leaned across her husband to wave her hello.

“Oh, it was no problem at all! I wasn’t sure if I did the number right — our home is usually unmarked. We don’t get your post, you know. Besides, I’m always fascinated by how unmodified muggle cars work.”

The Granger shared a bemused look, before Mrs. Granger spoke. “Would you like to drive it back to your house, then?” she asked.

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Frozen Grapes and Apple Juice Saved My Actor’s Life

Labor Day weekend 2017 was an extraordinarily hot one in the Bay Area. Headlines shouted that the heat wave “shattered” all-time records in San Francisco, with the thermometer hitting 106 in The City. Santa Cruz was the hottest it’s ever been, since records started being kept in 1874. Beforehand, news reports warned of “potentially deadly” heat, though I can’t find any reports of deaths. In Berkeley, where I was scheduled to shoot a short film in an un-air conditioned apartment (because very few people in San Francisco, Oakland, or Berkeley have AC) it hit 99 on Saturday. This posed problems.

I’d been working on this shoot since May, when I first wrote the script. While my professional commitment is to publishing and the general spread of knowledge, I still love writing and wanted to graduate from writing scripts solely as exercises. So I decided to write something I could actually shoot. On June 2, I met with my first actor, a co-worker of mine with a theater degree, for whom I had written the lead role. On June 19, I had what I considered to be the “Go/No Go” meeting: I called my father-in-law and asked if I could borrow his camera for the production. He said yes. So, with one actor and a camera — and with my wife lined up as producer and production designer — it was time to get going.

With Franny in charge of props, set dressing, and wardrobe, I was freed up to work through July and August on securing the rest of the talent (two more actors), scouting and securing locations, rehearsing, and learning how to shoot video well. In theory, this was plenty of time to prepare.

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I Don’t Blog in June

Last year, I only posted one item between May 1 and the end of June: this post about how I had been neglecting my blog so much that I had let the URL lapse. This year, I was able to remember to renew my domain registration. (I keep doing a one-year registration, because it never feels like I can afford the payment for a multi-year one, even though that saves money long-term.) But still, I haven’t posted anything since May 29.

Part of that is that I’ve been busy. I wrote a short film that I’m shooting in September. Most of my free creative time has been taken up by planning and budgeting and hiring and casting. Even though this short is of modest ambitions, there’s still a ton to do. The bad news is that I haven’t had time to do any writing — I’m behind on my personal journal-keeping as well as my blogging, and haven’t done any creative writing beyond tweaking that short script — though the good news is that I really, really enjoy all the minute production tasks that I’ve been working on.

The other part of my silence over the last month and a half is that I am, quite simply, behind on things I want to write about. The further behind you get, the harder it is to catch up. I have about half a dozen book reports I want to write, about things I’ve read and enjoyed and learned from over the five months since my last one. I want to write more in-depth about producing this short, and learning to direct, to create shot lists and storyboards, to cast, and to do all the other minute tasks that go into a film production. I want to write all this and more.

But for now, there is no time. I have about 30 headshots and actor resumes to look over, and I need to figure out where to do these auditions.

Yesterday’s Animals

This is a post-script to my post from two days ago about the animals I see on my long runs. Right now is an especially active time in the hills behind my apartment — late spring, as the summer heat is really beginning to come in (albeit inconsistently), in a year that saw extraordinary amounts of rain. This winter’s rains, of course, came after several years of historic drought, so many plants that went dormant to survive the drought are coming back with a vengeance. This means, of course, more food for the little animals, meaning more little animals, meaning more food for the big animals.

On yesterday’s run, an 8-mile run in which I climbed almost exactly 1,300 feet — over 100 feet per mile is a lot of uphill — I didn’t see any mammals except for squirrels. But the birds — oh, the birds! At the end of my third mile, I hobbled to some shade atop a ridge looking north out towards the Carquinez Strait. The wind was whipping up through the valley and birds were singing and it was peaceful. I stood long enough and quietly enough that the birds began zooming back and forth. They were gorgeous red-winged blackbirds.

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The Animals I See

Running is my favorite thing, rivaled only by writing. Running is when I feel sane, healthy, whole. It’s what lifts me when I feel down. It’s how I punish myself for my sins, real or perceived. It’s also my gift to myself; the endorphin glow is my reward for intense, personal labor. Like writing, running is a labor that I undertake with serious deliberation, doing it only (or primarily) for myself.

Running is how I commune with nature. Now that the rains are over, I can go back through the narrow path about half a mile from my apartment, the one that leads to the Shell Ridge Open Space. If my run is taking me far enough, I can follow the open space’s trails up and over the ridge, to the base of Mt. Diablo. I haven’t run that far in a long time.

Even if I stay on this side of the ridge, I can run high along the western side of the hill or low in the valley created by Indian Creek. Staying high along the ridge means I’m going to get blasted by the sun and have to put in greater effort over the big climbs. Flying low in the valley, I stay in the shade of the laurels and cottonwoods and buckeyes that grow along the creek bed, feeling like Daniel Day-Lewis in Last of the Mohicans. For a brief time this spring, there was water in the creek, but most of the time it’s dry.


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On Writing and Being a Cliche

Most cliches are cliches for a reason: Carrying the germ of truth, they allow a person who is creeping into cliche to assess the originality and motivations behind whatever they’re doing. We all think we are unique and individual, but as we creep into cliche we can ask, “Is this what people like me do? If so, why?” Or if you’re writing a character and they say or do something utterly trite, identifying this allows the creator to reassess that character and her emotions. How do we make this more original?

All of that, of course, requires a certain amount of critical introspection. Still, finding yourself slipping into cliche allows you to place your individual decisions into a broader social framework.

I have this on the mind because I am — like everyone is, in one way or another — a massive cliche. As a 30 year old white guy, of course I’ve written a screenplay. I don’t expect to ever be a professional screenwriter. In fact, that seems like a pretty disappointing job, hustling to get hired to do a rewrite on Iron Man 8 or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Now With Even More Turtle Power. Yet I do it, writing almost every day.

Why, though? If I’m just doing the same thing that so many people exactly like me do, why keep going? Why not find something that makes me unique?

The short answer is that it makes me happy. That’s why I maintain this blog, even though I only have time to post a couple times a month — and nobody reads anyway.  In my late teens and early twenties, I thought I was going to write the Great American Novel and wrote constantly. (That’s another cliche, of course, though the difference for me is that I actually dropped out of college to pursue it.) Sometimes I still fantasize about one of my screenplays getting optioned and turned into a Major Motion Picture and earning me an Oscar. Even if that never happens — and it won’t — I will continue to write.

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What Not to Do When Cooking for a Date

Earlier this week, my old Eater colleague and friend-of-the-blog, Paula Forbes, wrote an article for called “Six Tips for Cooking Your Date a Better Dinner.” My first reaction to this was: GQ! Paula is among the best writers I’ve worked with, and it’s cool seeing Eater alumni with stuff in places like GQ. After that vicarious pride, though, it got me thinking about times I cooked for a date, and all of the different ways it went wrong. I could have used her advice seven or eight years ago.

The worst experience I had cooking for a date was when I lived in New Orleans. At some point or another, I bragged to a girl about my pizza. I make good pizza, and at 23 that was a rare thing. She was impressed. She wanted to experience this pizza. I imagine I said something like, “Totally! Let’s make pizza.” Though this was before Jason Segal introduced “totally” into my everyday speech.

The problem with making pizza on a date is that pizza dough takes forever, and it’s mostly passive. Not having Paula’s post to guide me, I was neither smart about the menu, nor did I prep like a fiend. I walked over to her apartment on St. Charles Avenue with flour, yeast, cheese, tomato sauce, and an endless supply of nerves.

I showed her how to make pizza dough: We measured, we mixed, we kneaded. Then it was time to let it rise. What, oh Lord, do we do now?

Because I was nervous and pizza takes forever and also pizza is a terrible thing to make from scratch on a date, I rushed it, not letting the dough rise nearly long enough. I gave this dough like an hour to rise, when normally I give my pizza dough at least two hour-and-a-half rises.

(This is where I’m glad that I’m surrounded by fewer food snobs than I used to be, so I’m less likely to have know-it-alls tell me my regular pizza method is wrong. This is what I’ve developed after 10 years or so of cooking pizza at home, so shove it.)

The dough was impossible to work with and the pizzas were ugly as hell. When we ate them, the crust was chewy and awful and everything was the worst. This was a bad meal, and this woman really knew good food. It was one of many embarrassing things I did in front of her over the course of our dating.

Paula’s fifth suggestion for cooking for your date is, “Let them bring something.” This date was at her house, so I guess she brought the oven. But her real contribution was that if I was going to make my favorite food, we would watch her favorite movie. So earlier that day, I went to the Blockbuster in Uptown New Orleans (remember those?) and rented Life Is Beautiful.

Remember Life Is Beautiful? It’s the 1997 comedy-drama that takes place largely in a Naza concentration camp, directed by and starring the wonderful Roberto Benigni. Benigni won the Best Actor and Best Foreign Language Film Oscars for it. It’s a really good movie. But it’s a terrible date movie.

Here’s this date in a nutshell: I sat around with a girl I didn’t know that well waiting for pizza dough to rise. I rushed the dough and made the absolute worst pizza I’ve ever had. When it was time to watch the movie, I sat down on her couch. She came over to the living room and sat as far away from me as possible and crossed her arms. Then we watched a Holocaust movie.

It was a very, very bad date.

Five years later, though, she and I got married. We never talk about that date.