Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Things I'd Love to See (But Know I Never Will) on Days of Our Lives

Since I am a Fallonite first and a Days fan second this is gonna be a fairly Nick-centric list. You have been warned.

1. Countess W and Mad World should, primarily, be parfumeries. Because two companies going to extreme lengths to extract essences and craft unforgettable scents would be so much sexier than the battle of the anti-aging creams. I mean, I know we didn't see much of that battle but I think there's a reason we didn't: because it would've been boring as hell. But scent is seductive and elusive. Days could send characters to interesting locations to obtain one-of-a-kind ingredients. Or they could take a page from Patrick Suskind's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer and have the competing companies go to increasingly dangerous and deadly lengths to obtain their raw materials. 

2. Make the Dimeras art thieves. I kind of like the recent development that Sami feels insecure about not being cultured and educated enough to bond with her fiancĂ© over topics, like fine art, that he finds interesting. The Dimeras have a reputation for appreciating the finer things in life. I'd love to see them stealing priceless artifacts from history museums or collaborating with forgers to pass off fakes of great masterworks. Something lucrative and fun, not their regular skulking around the DiMansion shenanigans. 

3. Use Bev and Rory more. Because JJ's far less interesting now that he's reformed and fallen for goody-goody Paige. If they're the sweet couple then Rory and Bev could be the fun-loving troublemakers. Every age group needs a couple of those and Rory and Bev are already fairly interesting, layered characters. Plus they're played by some truly charming young talents who deserve more time on our screens.

4. Use Kayla more. Because she's Kayla and she's awesome.

5. More Nick and EJ. Until recently I've been pretty uninterested in Elvis but the fling with Abigail and the rest of the "Nick returns from the dead" coverup have made me see him in a new light. I appreciate his calm, cool approach to the situation. I appreciate that he comes closest to being as clever as Nick. Because as much as I like seeing Nick make mischief for his adversaries it's less fun to watch when his adversaries act like a bunch of childish idiots. I think there's some small part of EJ that respects Nick's intelligence and cunning. As long as Days continues to write Nick as more black hat than gray I think I'd like to see him interact primarily with EJ. They have a compelling dynamic. And, dare I say it? They have some serious chemistry. I know that both characters have been established as heterosexual but since when has Days adhered to established character traits? What I'm trying to say is I could get on board with a dark, twisted, angst-ridden romantic entanglement between the two of them. But I know that out of all the impossible things on this list this is easily the one I'm most unlikely to see. It may be time for me to finally try my hand at fan fiction . . .

6. Bring back Chelsea. As much fun as Elick might be to explore I think Chelsea has always been the one for the Fallonator. There were so many times where she made me angry (her absurd love affair with Doctor Dan ranks particularly high on the list) but I think, out of all of Nick's love interests, she's the one who truly cared about him and his well being and really loved him. In addition, I can't see her falling for his machinations and that's exactly what he needs; he needs someone who won't allow herself to be manipulated by him, who will call him out when he's acting inappropriately but who cares for him all the same. Someone who can see both the good and bad in him and recognize the same in herself. A partner, not a pawn. That's the story I'd love to see. It's the one I've wanted to see for years.

Dear Blake Berris,

It would've made more sense for me to write this letter last week, so I could give you a physical copy at this past weekend's fan event. I probably had it in my head that I'd be able to have an actual conversation with you this time - since it'd be the third time I'd be meeting you - and not just stammer and stare and go all red in the face like before. I would have the presence of mind to ask you about the Kubrick exhibit you saw at LACMA last year (and which my husband and I are hoping to see later this year in Toronto). I would finally remember to ask you what it was like to meet Werner Herzog, because it must have been incredible. But I'm not sure why I thought I'd be able to pull any of that off. Every time I'm anywhere near you my brain shuts down and my thoughts scatter away and hide from me. And I end up kicking myself afterwards for being such a silly, cliche fangirl. It was maybe kinda cute when I met you for the first time last August but, at this point, it's incredibly embarrassing.

But in the grand scheme of things it probably isn't all that big of a deal. I've been vocal on this blog and on various forms of social media about my affection for your alter ego, Nick Fallon, and my admiration for your work in the role but I'm hardly the only one who feels that way. Though it's still worth repeating that you've got a wicked talent, young man, and there's no doubt in my mind that you've got great things ahead for you. Which means that us fans have great things to look forward to as well and that makes me supremely happy.

But as much as I've written about and tweeted about your work on Days of Our Lives I always feel like I'm dancing around what I really want to say. I tend to stop short of explaining my affection for Nick by saying "I'm not really sure why I love the character so much, I just know that I do." But I think I do know, I think I've always known. It's because I see myself in him. Maybe not the parts of me that I like to acknowledge but parts that are there all the same. There's a hunger and a loneliness to that character that speaks so clearly to me. There are times when it damned near hurts to watch you in the role because it rings so true and it's so honest and raw. And I can't justify or condone most of Nick's actions but I can't bring myself to condemn him for his mistakes because who's to say I wouldn't act the same way as him in certain situations? The bitterness and the contempt he feels, the way he tries, against all odds, to get what he wants, those are qualities I can understand. I just want to say to him "I hear you Nick. Loud and clear."

This is why I get so upset with the show when I feel like they won't allow Nick to grow and change, just a little bit. We only ever see him at his worst but, even still, he's the most compelling and relatable character for me. Despite the fact that he's usually calm and calculating I think he's a man who's not fully in control of his emotions. I don't think he wants to do wrong, he just gets carried away. I still wish he could be given a chance at redemption, because if the show treats him as a throw-away villain it says to me that there's no place in the world for people like Nick. And that breaks my heart. 

And, look, I know Nick isn't real and that you are not your character. Obviously, I know that. But I so appreciate you for bringing Nick to life, the way I appreciate Donna Tartt's writing or Robert Rauschenberg's passionate expressive works of art. It makes me wish I were talented enough to create something you could admire as much as I admire your work. I feel like I owe you that. But, for now at least, you'll have to settle for my admiration. And my gratitude, because, even though I'm just a flush-faced, tongue-tied fangirl when I'm in your presence, you are always so gracious and kind and generous. You, sir, are simply the best.

Thank Heaven for Western North Carolina

Land of jaw-dropping overlooks:

And waterfalls:

And miles and miles of excellent hiking trails:

I love you for your quiet, peaceful beauty and your unassuming majesty. You must surely be one of the best places on earth.

Monday, April 14, 2014

"The Lonesome Foghorn Blows . . ."

Twenty-four years and six days ago Twin Peaks made its television debut as an ABC Sunday Night Movie. I remember being not particularly excited about it but, oddly enough, my mom was really keen to check out the heavily-advertised special "about the homecoming queen being murdered." It took Mom exactly one episode to conclude that David Lynch's take on Peyton Place wasn't really her cup of tea. I, on the other hand, fell hard for the show in a matter of minutes. And as I took another look at that first episode last Tuesday night I found that it still cast a strong spell over my psyche. It's more than nostalgia, although that certainly has something to do with it. I remember feeling something akin to a sense of nostalgia for the series almost immediately after I began watching it, as if it were something I was always meant to watch and love.

Love it I did. It's not an overstatement to say that I obsessed over the show. And during that first brief season everyone seemed to obsess over David Lynch's foray into network television programming. There was nothing else even remotely like it on television at the time. It was odd and moody and, even though it was set in the present day, it had a decades-old feel to it. The town and its denizens were like something out of another era. Laura Palmer's troubled, brooding friends had more in common with the angst-ridden teenagers in Rebel Without A Cause than they did the beach bums and brats of Beverly Hills 90210. And the heroes were reminiscent of straight-shooting, awe-shucks types like Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper. But in addition to the classic, old-fashioned trappings there was an undercurrent of weirdness that pervaded the series. Angelo Badalamenti's haunting score could lend the scenes an air of gravitas or melodrama. The camera would cut away to things like sawmill blades slicing through logs and Douglas Fir branches blowing in the breeze, because Twin Peaks was as interested in establishing a quiet, peculiar mood as it was about advancing the story. A woman carried a log around with her everywhere because she believed her dead husband's spirit was trapped in the wood and the show's primary protagonist, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, was both a by-the-books professional, hard-working and gifted with amazing powers of deduction, and an eccentric iconoclast, wild about Tibetan Mysticism and unconventional crime-solving techniques. Dream sequences, visions, portals into other dimensions hidden deep in the forest - Twin Peaks had all of those things, too.

When I took another look at the pilot episode last Tuesday night I realized how much Twin Peaks defined my personal aesthetic and my interests. Surely my affection for hiking in the forest and rustic log cabins is due, in part, to the beauty of the show's locations. Twin Peaks devoted a lot of time and energy to exploring the dual nature of most of its characters, to peeling back the presentable layers and exposing the rot or the fragility or the secret desire hidden underneath. Even the town itself had a light, wholesome side and a dark, foreboding, unknowable side. I find that I seek out, on a regular basis, art that explores this theme. Movies like Shadow of a Doubt and Lynch's own Mulholland Drive are among my personal favorites. One of my favorite authors, Shirley Jackson, covers similar ground in her novels and short stories. And the movies of Luis Bunuel, with their dream logic and their biting social commentary, spoke very clearly to me when I started watching them in my twenties. I can't help but think of Bunuel and Lynch as kindred spirits. 

I love a lot of television shows but I was at just the right age when Twin Peaks came along for it to have a profound impact on me. That's one of the reasons I will always love it, because it helped make me who I am today.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

One Year Ago Today

A playlist I made for myself on this date last year. I didn't know what to call it so I just dubbed it "2013.04.13." Thought it'd be fun to share it on its one year anniversary.

Middle Prong Trail

This is a beautiful hike just inside the park at the Tremont Institute. Like lots of folks my age who grew up in this area I have fond memories of my seventh grade class trip to Tremont. At that age I didn't truly appreciate how lucky I was to have an incredible resource like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park so close to home but I liked being in the park with my classmates and enjoyed hiking, learning about the wildlife and being taught the importance of conservation. Tremont is not an area of the park that I've explored much as an adult so this hike was a new one for the husband and me. I was disappointed that we couldn't complete the trail on our first attempt but hopefully we can make it to the junction with Greenbrier Ridge and Lynn Camp Prong Trails and explore Indian Flats Falls on our next visit. All the waterfalls we encountered along the way were certainly lovely and I was thrilled that we were able to see the old Cadillac remains at the two mile mark. Overall this was a nice experience. Definitely looking forward to revisiting this one in the future. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Stone House Ruins and Sugarlands Cemetery

Mission accomplished! Despite one slight navigational misstep on my part we were able to find the gorgeous stone house ruins off Old Sugarlands Trail this past Saturday. This marks the first time we've ventured off the official park trails but, luckily, the final stretch, a narrow foot path, sees enough traffic that it's easy to follow. There's a creek crossing at the end and I've heard it can be treacherous when the park has seen a lot of rain but we had no problems rock-hopping across. Then it's a short scramble up a steep hill and there, behind the rhododendron thicket, sit the ruins. They are eerily beautiful and the stone craftsmanship is impressive, especially considering how intact the structure is after so many decades. I tried my best to get decent pictures but photos alone cannot convey how stunning this particular site is in person. This joins Gregory Bald and LeConte Lodge as one of my favorite destinations in the Smokies. And, at just under six miles round trip, you get a terrific reward for putting in minimal effort. And the lovely Sugarlands Cemetery is so close by that it makes no sense not to go and visit that as well. What a peaceful, serene place. I hope we can do this hike again when the rhododendron is in bloom. I imagine that really must be something to see.