So I've been silent on here for a few weeks. Considering the lack of posts on my website and this blog, you might think I've just been lazy. For the multi-tasker, "lazy" is a four-letter word (okay, for anyone who can spell it, it's also a four-letter word). How about this? "Managing my time" is a four-letter word. Or, rather, managing my time is a big pain in my butt.
It's been almost a month since I was officially released from federal grand jury duty. If I haven't mentioned it on here before, it was an 18-month tour of duty for the fine state of Illinois and its federal court. For one to three days each month for a year and a half, 23 of us selected lucky stiffs got to sit in the courthouse and determine whether there was enough evidence in each case for them to go on to trial. While it was a long time to serve and some of the cases were difficult to hear (believe me, you don't want to hear cases having to do with children), overall it was a good experience. I have a greater respect for federal agents, police and others dealing with crimes. By the time someone goes to trial, a whole lot of evidence has been built up against them. It's not random or quick, but it's thorough. These are jobs I'm thankful that I don't have to do.
And now back to the my point ...
I feel like pinball. I'm a multi-tasker. I'm here, I'm there, I'm way over that-a-way and back again. While I've been focusing on this project, "Forever Silent," and keep my mind on finding out as much as possible about silent film actresses' lives and burial locations, I've also been zinging around to other projects.
1. I've been asked to lead a tour at Oakdale Memorial Gardens in Davenport, Iowa, which features escaped slaves who took part in the Underground Railroad. This is huge. I had no idea that 11 escaped slaves were buried there. I had only known of a couple before this. The tour will take place next Sunday.
2. I've been asked to give a presentation to two groups early next year.
3. I recently submitted my course proposal for next year's CommUniversity community classes. I've taught a cemetery class for five years and hope this will be my sixth. I really enjoy teaching for them.
4. I'm mentally outlining a new presentation on tourism and cemeteries, yesterday and today. I think it will be a really cool topic.
Add to that all the books I'm working on reading about the silent actresses and silent film era, researching Kickstarter, and jotting down notes for another couple projects that keep sticking in my head, and it's no wonder that my brain is zig-zagging all over the place. I haven't posted an issue of the Epitaphs Magazine enewsletter in a few months, but that's just going to have to wait. If there's one thing I've realized as I've gotten older, it's that you can't do it all. And it's unrealistic to expect that you can. Especially when you want to do SO many things. And there are those pesky things like having a kid and a husband and laundry and four thousand cats (okay, four) and a full-time job and ... you get my point.
I guess the point of this blog post is to remind myself that it's okay to step back and refocus. It's funny how we can look at other people and say, "Hey, you're doing way too much. No one expects that much of you. You're doing fine. You don't need to push yourself so hard that you go crazy." Yet it's really difficult to say that to ourselves.
One of the biggest things I've struggled with nearly my entire life is thinking that I'm not doing enough. But enough of what? There's no rule book that says "Minda Powers-Douglas MUST regularly update her website, post daily on her Facebook page and profile, visit a cemetery every week, constantly promote her books and presentations, book many presentations, think up new presentations and create them, and write a book in one month." Yet, this is how my mind thinks. My husband gets frustrated with me because I think I need to do all these things. No one is making me do these things or probably even paying attention as to whether or not they happen. Ah, but that "Goonies never say die" voice in my head is almost always nudging me forward.
It's too bad that my Goonie adventures are via a keyboard, Internet research and book reading. I haven't found a secret panel in my bookshelf leading to a pirate ship yet. Maybe if I take on just one more project ...
Somewhere at an event right now where he's doing caricatures, my husband's eye just started twitching.
Breathe in, breathe out ... and step away from the keyboard.
I haven't. Not near enough.
Do you find yourself visiting the same cemeteries over and over? Yeah, I do that, too. I've visited Chippiannock in Rock Island, Riverside in Illinois and Oakdale in Davenport so many times each, I've lost count. I can't help it. They're beautiful, and they fell like home. I'm comfortable in them. And I always find something I've never seen before, even if it's something small.
There are so many cemeteries out there I want to visit. So many little ones even in my own area. But, as most of you know, it's not easy. There are those little things called day jobs and responsibilities and family and .... It's a wonder we barely have time to breathe.
I also haven't watched near enough silent films. I have so much catching up to do! Who has time for a life when there are so many interesting things out in the world!
How do you balance it all?
As obsessive as I’ve been about wanting to fly out to Los Angeles on Nov. 1, my bubble has finally burst. I had three things in mind for this trip: 1) To take photos of the grave sites of the silent film actresses I’ve been pouring over for months, 2) To finally experience the Day of the Dead festivities at Hollywood Forever and also in Rose Hill Cemetery, and 3) Meet people in person that I could interview for the book. Those are the project-related reason for wanting to go to Hollywood again. The other reason is that I miss being out there. There is SO much I want to see that I didn’t get to see or want to see again.
So why did the bubble burst? Why did I suddenly mentally land flat on my butt about the trip I so badly wanted to take? The cemeteries. The reason I wanted to go out there most became the harsh slap of reality. Reality sucks. Thanks, Obama! (this is a tongue-in-cheek reference to a Jenna Marble video on YouTube—I don’t actually blame President Obama for this.)
So I’ve been trying to locate the burial locations for all of these silent stars. It’s been interesting research, but I’ve been all over the place online until my head started to spin. I originally thought, naïve taphophile that I am, that most of the cemeteries would be totally cool with someone taking photos on their grounds. Most cemeteries I’ve been to across the country have no problem with that. And to be in Hollywood Forever was a cemetery and movie star fan’s dream. And yet …
Here’s what I’ve discovered. A number of the cemeteries have policies stating that any commercial photography (among other kinds) must be approved by the cemetery ahead of time. This did not surprise me. Of course, I contact a number of them last week but haven’t gotten a response yet.
Then I spoke with my new pal Bob Marlowe, and he told me that Hollywood Forever (the cemetery I thought would be a ringer) has told him that only photography of celebrities is allowed … and then they told him later that NO photography is allowed. I thought Hollywood Forever would be completely open to allowing photos. I mean, they host movies and concerts (Lana Del Ray is performing two shows there later this month). The big Day of the Dead celebration is coming up. And he’s been told “no photography is allowed”?
On top of all this, there are a number of books out there that feature photos from all of the cemeteries in question. Perhaps the policies came into being after they were published.
My hope is that I’ll meet someone (someones?) who are involved with the cemeteries who can put in a good word for me and help me get photo permission. Because, really, what good is a trip out there to get photos of silent film stars’ graves when you find out you can’t use them?
So as of right now I am no longer actively figuring out a way to go to L.A. in November like I’ve been wishfully thinking. I’m putting it off until I have a new game plan in place for the book. I am not giving up hope, though! I just need a strategy … and some connections.
Don’t worry, I’m still working on the book. And I have another project I’ve been working on I may resurrect in the meantime.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. What do you do when you hit a snag in a project?
I'm the author of a number of cemetery books and am now writing one about the graves of silent film stars, starting with the ladies. Who would you like to see included?
More Silent Film Resources
• Silentology blog