Recent Work By Rachel Pollon

Screen Shot 2014-04-12 at 3.47.24 PM

Area woman and aspiring writer Jodi Tannenbaum, after a third attempt at getting published by the literary website McSweeney’s (in its “Lists” section), found herself “totally in the middle of that scene from Swingers.”

“You know that famous scene,” she said, “where the guy, not Vince Vaughn… the other guy…he calls a girl he likes and says something embarrassing on her answering machine, so he calls back again to explain, and then again to explain that—wait—what do you mean you didn’t see it?”

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 7.37.09 PM

She is engrossed in some sort of looming or woodworking that requires her to wear a bib.

He, in overalls with only one strap fastened, is hammering out a poem. Stuck, he can’t find something pleasing that rhymes with “endeavor.”

She suggests “forever.”

He whispers something under his breath, then raises it an octave and yelps.

Hey guys,

So, I’ve been brainstorming. Rolling around some ideas for a possible – gawd, this sounds, I don’t know, pretentious? – television script to develop. I’ve been trying to figure out which one (ones?) to more fully flesh out. It’s a little hard to be objective about my own work, especially when the subjects are all quite diverse, and I could really use some outside input. I was hoping if you had a few minutes you could give this a read and then offer some feedback. Let me know if something’s not clear, or you think needs expanding, or tightening. Otherwise, I’m pretty confident one or more of these could be keepers. Following are a few super short synopses. I await your responses!

Me!

It’s pretty simple, really.

You know and I know there’s only a handful of possible ways to deal with any given issue we find ourselves vexed by.

Oh sure, we try to get creative, stay open-minded, think outside the box. But where does that get us?

I’ll tell you where. Frustrated, alone and afraid, in the midst of a seemingly endless morass of options, feeling buried in the vastness of it all.

Well, have no fear, I’ve done some calculating and found virtually any quandary can be solved with one of the following pieces of advice.

Have a look. Take your pick. You won’t be sorry.

Hey Mom!

Paul.

Paul, your son.

I know, bad connection sometimes on the Bluetooth.

It’s a phone thing.

How are you?

I said, how are you. You good?

Good.

(Verse 1)

 

Girl.

They don’t understand.

You swirl and twirl in your world.

I want to hold your hand.

One day.

 

Dear Lobbyist Bowles,

I recently read about the exciting new venture your organization is embarking on and am very interested in the Social Media position you are no doubt preparing to establish. Having just graduated from the number one party school in the entire southwest, I am eager for an opportunity to get my foot in the door and begin my life in the workforce. Making that happen with a well-established movement such as yours would be a bonus. (Everyone wants some job security these days, am I right?)

On Monday, my friend Polly informed me, via Facebook wall post, that Sarah Palin would be co-hosting the Today Show the following morning.

Lists.

We all make them.

We couldn’t verily live without them.

Things we need from Rite Aid.

Demands we want met before submitting to a lie detector test.

Questions we don’t want to forget to ask our parole officer.

Michael Steele, former bass player for the eighties pop group The Bangles, released a statement this afternoon informing the world at large that due to recent and negative events in the world of politics she has made the decision to formally and legally change her name. Below is the transcript of her statement, read live to a moderately attended group of fans and reporters on stage at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, California.

 

Steele: Fellow Citizens, Seekers of Truth and Peace, STAR-FM Promo Department… thank you for gathering here today.

(She pauses to adjust her bass strap and decides to swing her guitar back behind her so it stops hitting the mic stand as she holds her notes out in front of her.)

Steele: I come before you today to ask a question. (Squints at paper.) When our freedom is compromised, what are we to do?

(…crowd mutters, sound of glass breakage in background, and a Barback yells, ‘Sorry!’…)

Steele (to crowd): I can’t heeeear you!

(Crowd quieter, more confused.)

Steele: I’ll rephrase. When something impedes upon our freedom, we have no choice but to act. Am I right, people?

She covers the mic with her hand in an attempt to mute it but is still audible, though muffled.

Steele (to someone in the wings behind her): Can somebody bring me my reading glasses?

A roadie pulls out his own pair from his t-shirt pocket and runs them over to her. He also offers her his vent brush from his back pocket, but she declines. Almost immediately, she covers the mic again and yells after him, “Why? Do I need it?” He shakes his head no, gives her a double thumbs up. She continues.

Steele: There comes a time in everyone’s life when the fork in the road ahead is bent in such a way that you can’t quite see beyond it to where it leads…and you have to make a decision.

She looks up to assess the crowd.

Steele: You. (She points to someone in the darkness.) There with the ripped Go-Go’s t-shirt. You made a decision to wear that shirt here today. Perhaps you chose to go down that road because it was the only side of the fork that still fit or was clean. But if you would have done your homework, you’d have known it brings up bad mojo. Remember 1987? The Jane Wiedlin comes on to my boyfriend incident? If you would have considered other roads, made an informed decision — a metaphorical pink and black striped spandex mini-dress, say — who knows where it would have led?

Someone in the crowd: Where’s Susanna?

Steele (steeling herself): But I digress.

She adjusts her guitar strap.

Steele: I have arrived at my fork. And I choose to take the road yet traveled.

Someone else in the crowd: Are you going to walk like an Egyptian on it?

Steele (ignoring): In recent weeks, nay months, an unrelenting nag on my psyche has forced me to a decision that will forever alter my sense of self and others’ sense of me.

The crowd is quiet, seeming genuinely interested in what she’s going to reveal.

Steele: Some might think that my parents naming me ‘Michael Steele’ was a burden from the start. Those people would be right. As a young girl, growing up with a boy’s name, I was constantly teased and chastised. I dreamed of the day I would develop breasts and could show them off to my tormentors. ‘Feast your eyes on these!’ I would say. And they would step back in awe and reverence to my luscious mounds.

Audience member: Ah-oooo-gaaa!!!

Steele (reading): But that day was not to come. I took after my grandmother on my father’s side, and grew into an extremely tall and thin thing, who eventually gained favor with her peers by being able to hide joints on the tops of door jams and paint apartment room walls without the aid of a ladder.

Possibly the same audience member: Show us your mounds!

Steele: My point is that I overcame this burden. Time, and the natural cycle of the mystery of the developing body healed some of it. And by locking down my heart so no one could penetrate it and hurt me further, my transformation was complete. I was Michael Steele. Michael ‘I Wouldn’t Fuck With Me If I Were You’ Steele.

A door opens in the back of the room, and daylight is emitted. A silhouette of a man is visible along with a dolly with boxes piled on it. The silhouette says loudly, “Where should I stack the toilet paper?”

Steele (visibly unnerved): Despite my past, and the adversity I have reconciled, in recent weeks the hardship of sharing my name with Republican Chairperson Michael Steele has become too great. The accumulation of his blunders and the imminent firing, forced resignation, or muzzle wearing that inevitably will become part of his story has landed me here. I have been mistaken for him via email, via regular mail, via Facebook – even though I have my actual face as my picture, not a photo of my cat, or the actress most people tell me I look like, or a kitschy shot of some candy I liked from childhood—

Another audience member: I like Abba-Zabas!

Steele: So even though my Caucasian, female image is displayed prominently on my Facebook wall, according to my fan page administrator, Barkley, I’m still getting messages for the black, male politician Michael Steele.

Audience member/possibly a reporter: Is it true you’ll be taking a trip to Afghanistan next month to assuage the concerns of our troops over your statements against the war?

Steele: Can you see me? (Back to her notes.) And so, just as my parents made the decision to name me Michael Steele, setting me on the arduous path that would become my life for lo this many 40 something years, I have made the decision to take back my name… and make it my own. From here forth, thanks to the jackassery of both my parents and the politician Michael Steele, I present you with the new me… the me of my choosing… Michelle Steele.

Number one fan: Hi, Michelle!

Steele: I thank you for your time. And I thank you for respecting my and my family’s privacy during this transitional stage.

Yet another audience member: Do we have to re-like you on Facebook?

Steele: I’m honestly not sure how that works.

Audience member: Can we expense our drinks to the Republican National Committee’s tab?

 

Questions from the audience were taken for another five or so minutes. When the press conference was officially concluded all in attendance were treated to a sound check by Ms. Steele’s newly formed band Rush Limbaugh.

 

Author’s note: The “Ms. Steele” depicted here is a figment of the author’s imagination. The real Ms. Steele simply had the misfortune of sharing a name with a current political figure. Which got the author thinking. And it devolved from there.

It was the night of my dear friend Clara’s birthday party. I can’t quite remember if it was a momentous year–round number, the beginning of a new decade–but I do recall having party nerves and that I’d be going solo. I wasn’t seeing anyone at the time or, if I was, it wasn’t serious. Or maybe I was seeing Mark but he was out of town. None of these details matter, really. This essay is about me and how good I looked at Clara’s party.

During this time I’d been introduced to a man my cousin Daphne referred to as “The Genius.” She called him that because of his remarkable ability to transform. “The Genius” AKA Coleman was an African American man in his, mmm, I’d say late forties at the time, who chemically straightened Jewish girls’ hair. He probably also straightened the hair of women of other persuasions but my breadth of knowledge of his doings only went as far as my cousin Daphne, me, whomever might’ve been sitting in his beauty salon swivel seat when I’d arrive for my appointment, and anyone who’d show up as my final touches were being bestowed.

Actually, our relationship was deeper than that. This picture is bringing about a flood of memories and I’m remembering that Coleman and I would have many a heady conversation. He was a teacher for special needs children and did hair on the side. Hair had been his main career for many years but then, it would seem, he needed something that felt more meaningful. I can’t think of many things more meaningful than making a girl with unmanageable hair feel beautiful, but different strokes, am I right? So we’d talk about his teaching and a little bit about his family. We also tended to talk about controversial situations involving race. I can’t recall anything verbatim but I do know we tended to be on the same page. I worked in TV at the time and I’m pretty sure things came up about the lack of roles for African American actors and, if I’m not mistaken, whether or not Eddie Murphy meant to pick up that prostitute or if he was simply being a nice guy.

Alas, Coleman is no longer. In my life, I mean. As afar as I know he’s still alive. He ended up making a permanent move to Sacramento and I made a move to try to accept my natural curl. But during the time that Coleman was around, things, and my hair, went rather smoothly. Suddenly, I had control. Straight hair made me feel like my life was together. I felt pretty.

So the night of Clara’s party while I had, like I mentioned before, party nerves, and was rocking it solo, I knew my hair looked good. I mean look at it. It’s all straight and shiny. But not too straight… there’s still some body to it.

 



I guess that’s it. I know it’s kind of vain to pick a picture just because you think you look good, but trust me, these days if you get a picture of me, most of the time one or both of my eyes is closed, my hair is suffering from frizz, and what I mean as a knowing or smartass smirk comes off as looking bothered. Here I’m clearly enjoying myself. I’ve spent some time with good company, had a glass of wine or two, and celebrated a great friend. Sometimes it’s the small moments that need to be remembered.



Mr. Gibson requested that he be able to observe me in my natural habitat. Due to the relocation of my family members, and the dissolution of our family compound, this interview took place over two days at Solley’s Deli in Encino, California. A place my family and I inhabited frequently during my most formative years.

Mr. Gibson insisted on a relaxed and casual atmosphere. I showed up on time, but comfortable, in my usual ensemble – an American Apparel zip up hoodie in white, crewneck t-shirt in red, and sweat pants with the gathered ankle in navy blue.

The contents of this interview have been edited. All pauses and blinking removed for the sake of brevity.

==========

CG: Ms. Pollon, I’m going to attempt to pose these questions in an order I believe will be of utmost importance and interest to the American people.

RP: Terrific. I look forward to each and every one of them getting to know me.

CG: Please tell us about the Ticketmaster / U2 concert incident.

RP: Can you be more specific, Charlie?

CG: Regarding Pam Freed in particular.

RP: What aspect of it?

CG: Just after graduating high school, you entered the work force as a clerk at Tower Records in Sherman Oaks, California.

RP: That is correct. I rose from a simple store clerk, to Import Buyer, and then to Shift Manager.

CG: U2 was touring the United States. Your former best friend, Pam Freed, someone you were still in contact with but not as close with as you were the semester previous, knew of your proximity and probable assignment working the Ticketmaster window, and asked you to get her two tickets. You told her you’d try.

RP: That’s right, Charlie.

CG: You didn’t end up getting her those tickets, did you Ms. Pollon?

RP: I didn’t, Charlie.

CG: Why is that?

RP: The tickets were in high demand and Ticketmaster regulations prevented me from being able to make more than one transaction per customer. I did not consider myself above the rules, and so, because I was getting myself tickets, I could not also get her tickets.

CG: Could you not have gotten her tickets bundled along with your tickets? You and your friends could have sat side by side with your former best friend. Everyone would have been happy.

RP: It was against the rules, Charlie.

CG: Were you unable to get Pam Freed tickets or did you simply decide you didn’t want to get her tickets?

RP: I was a Shift Manager, Charlie. There were parameters I was not going to breech.

CG: Our records show you had not been promoted to Shift Manager at that time.

RP: I was on a fast track, Charlie. I wouldn’t allow personal relationships to jeopardize the greater good.

==========

CG: In ninth grade you tripped and fell during Nutrition. You ended up leaving campus and didn’t return until the following Monday. Tell the American people what caused this extreme reaction.

RP: I fainted, Charlie.

CG: You fainted.

RP: Yes, Charlie. People faint.

CG: Is it not also true that on the day in question, you were wearing, for your first time, a pair of high-heeled Kork-Ease?

RP: That is true. But beside the point. You know, if we must go here, in order to clear my record, I’ll let you know that I’m pretty sure on that day I was also in the midst of the glory that is the female reproductive cycle.

CG: Let me get this straight. You were wearing unwieldy high-heeled shoes, may or may not have been suffering from menstrual cramps, and you fainted.

RP: I’m not sure my footwear is an important component in this mix but, yes, I’d just gotten the Kork-Ease, was pretty excited about them, and took them for a spin on the campus quad.

CG: ABC was able to locate your yearbook from that time and found various comments throughout the book seeming to address the incident.

RP: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

CG: Quote: “I’m going to use that ‘fainting’ story next time I embarrass myself. Don’t ever change, Lori Baumbach.”

RP: Kids say the darndest things, Charlie.

CG: Another quote: “You think fast on your feet, even though you can’t walk in your shoes. You are 2 sweet 2 B 4gotten, Seth O’ Shanahan.”

RP: Rumors get started.

CG: Speaking of rumors, it’s been reported that The National Enquirer is delving into this piece of your history. Trying to get to the bottom of it.

RP: I’ve got nothing to hide, Charlie. It’s my word against Lori’s and Seth’s.

==========

CG: History has shown that you are basically a relationship person. You go on a few dates with someone and they either don’t work out or they end up your boyfriend.

RP: I’m single-minded when it comes to love, Charlie. I like to focus on one man, give him my all. It’s truly a metaphor for how devoted I am to our great country.

CG: However, at one juncture in your life you had an overlap. You were in a relationship with one man, and before you ended it with him, met another man of interest. You couldn’t decide which one was “righter” for you… this according to journal records.

RP: Well, Charlie. Both men had admirable qualities and I needed time to assess which path to take.

CG: What does this say about your loyalty, Ms. Pollon?

RP: The man I was in a relationship had taken to focusing on his heavy metal band to the detriment of our partnership. I had needs. Just like the hard working men and women of this country have needs.

CG: Where did you draw the line, “romantically,” with these men, Ms. Pollon?

RP: Charlie, I don’t think the American people want to be dragged in to smut talk like this.

CG: The question is valid, Ms. Pollon, because according to transcripts taken from your private journal, when “Man X” found out about “Man Z” and confronted you, you admit you “totally evaded answering the question.” What are you hiding?

RP: Charlie, evading does not connote lying. Evading means avoiding. The words even sound alike. I think the American people want someone in charge who can avoid conflict and I have a long history of avoiding conflict. I tell conflict, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

==========

Preview of The Rachel Pollon Interview – Part 2, with Charlie Gibson:

Lies My Hair Told – The Chemically Straightened Years

Why I Pulled The Leather Waistband Tag Off of My Levi’s 501s – What Size Pant Was I Concealing?

How Often I Listen To Jennifer Lopez On My iPod During Cardio Workouts at the Gym

(Note: At my handlers’ discretion, interviewer Charlie Gibson may be replaced with Project Runway’s Tim Gunn. He seems so nice!)

My boyfriend and I were driving home from the movies the other night. Which movie is not the point, but for the sake of setting the mood, it was a comedy and we laughed and we laughed.

The point is he’s got satellite radio in his car and he was flipping around to find something decent for us to listen to.

We tend toward a channel called Deep Tracks (AKA excuse to play understandably forgotten Emerson, Lake, and Palmer tunes) or Top Tracks (AKA excuse to play “Won’t Get Fooled Again” again, but with the benefit of really crisp acoustics.)

One can also find some decent comedy from time to time. And a hardcore rap show hosted by Ludacris. He and his partner swear and everything. We never listen to indie rock on satellite. I don’t know why.

Sometimes Mark turns to Hank’s Place, a channel that usually plays fine and classic country tunes. This time around, we found ourselves in the midst of a ditty with lyrics about getting old, and likening the aging dilemma to having the value of a precious, antique violin.

For reason that are probably apparent, Mark kept hitting the satellite radio remote, scrolling through our many other options to see what else we might find.

We came upon a jazz channel called High Standards.

Tony Bennett was singing.

I’m sorry to say that the name of the song he was singing now escapes me. Whatever the song was, it was quite good and not one I was familiar with.

A factoid emerged from my brain.

 

 

Tony Bennett is known to have been a fan of the marijuana. He went so far as to document it in his autobiography. Apparently it became a problem, but I prefer to think of him as a groovy velvety-smooth-voiced, cannabis-smoking man who lit up way before it became associated with hippies and lazy people. His whole crowd probably did it. You know the jazzbos — they were cutting edge, did dark things on the down low.

Anyway, I’m listening to Tony Bennett and I start thinking about his digging grass and it suddenly hits me, “Damn, I bet it would be really cool to get high to Tony Bennett.”

I don’t get high anymore.

I have an unfortunately sensitive disposition. Afflicted with a tendency for over-thinking, and the old cliche of fear and loathing whilst under the influence of most artificial substances (though thankfully not sugar or wine), I had to stop all forms of partaking in my early-20s.



I was instantaneously saddened at the thought that, in all likelihood, I would never smoke a joint, or load a pipe — fashioned from a Coke can or otherwise — with marijuana and have the experience enhanced by the dulcet sound of Tony Bennett’s voice.

My single-minded concentration on hard rock during my most prolific and potent smoking years started to seem really short-sighted. Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin both opened and blew my mind for sure. But clearly not enough. Not enough for Tony Bennett to enter my consciousness.



I considered that if my grandmother had played a more influential role in my life during my teenagehood, perhaps then I might have had my time with Tony Bennett. Or, conversely, ridden a real bummer in the form of the soundtrack to YentyI thought about the people I know who still smoke. And how the world was still their oyster. As it applied to the possibility of hearing Tony Bennett while altered.

I thought about my dad and how he surely listed to Tony Bennett. While drinking. Which is different. If my dad had ever smoked, I imagine he would have put on The Band or Leon Redbone.

Then I wondered what my mother might put on while she was smoking.

It felt like I was onto a new smoking game. “What Would So-And-So Listen To?”

Thinking about all the fun I was most likely never going to have made me tired.



Songs with the word “tired” came into my head.

I thought of The Kinks’ “Tired of Waiting.”

And of The Beatles’ “I’m So Tired.”

Current artists didn’t seem to be writing songs about being tired. Or they didn’t seem to be writing songs that will stand the test of time about being tired. Maybe it has something to do with ecstasy and cocaine.

Getting high makes you tired.

I often have bouts of insomnia.

Getting high to Tony Bennett and then falling asleep sounded like heaven.

I wished that could be my plan.

It occurred to me that my desire to get high to Tony Bennett represented something else. A desire to be carefree. Relaxed. Spontaneous. Unafraid. All worthy aims. All goals I’ve been working on from different angles.

They say the shortest distance between two points is a straight line…

Anyway, satellite radio has some real hidden gems. I highly recommend it.