After 42 years of partnership, Lily and Jane were married on New Year’s Eve. Here is a wonderful article they co-wrote and produced for us back in July 2008.
How Lily and I Tried to Celebrate July the 4th
We were looking forward to spending the morning by the pool, relaxing in the hot tub, then a cold plunge, then a picnic lunch with some plump, guilt- and nitrate-free hot dogs prepared with thinly sliced organic scallions and Dijon mustard (also organic) mixed with just a soupcon of chili sauce. “We’ll never miss the delicious nitrate flavor which we so closely associate with hot dogs,” I thought to myself.
Of course, I still had the shopping to do since I didn’t get it done on the third (I thought the stores would be too crowded). And the housekeepers couldn’t shop — they had their own plans to celebrate the Fourth.
Went to Whole Foods, Gelson’s and on down the food chain to Ralph’s and Albertsons. They were all either sold out of nitrate-free hot dogs or I suspect never heard of them in the first place.
Desperate, I even popped into the 7-Eleven. Not a total waste — never is, really. I found some low-salt, low-fat, “baked” organic potato chips and I got two non-trans-fat iced doughnuts to make up for the hot dogs I didn’t get.
Thought of a backup plan to our picnic. I didn’t feel like making potato salad anyway. Besides, I forgot to get organic potatoes — so that settles it: Plan B coming up.
Got home, found Lily rummaging through drawers in downstairs bathroom.
Jane: I thought you’d be out by the pool.
Lily: I can’t find any sunscreen.
Jane: Oh, I forgot, I got us a new stronger sunscreen. I threw all the old sunscreen away.
Lily: I’ve used that sunscreen for years.
Jane: I know, me too. And we’ve got sunspots as big as falafels. See, I’ve read there are some new sunrays that our old sunscreen hasn’t beenprotecting us from: UVS/UVA or UVH — no UVH isn’t right. Anyway, I was afraid we’d forget and use the old kind if I didn’t just throw them away.
Lily: Maybe someone could’ve used them.
Jane: And get cancer? That wouldn’t be right. I read there’s a sunscreen you can wash with now.
Lily: As you washed, wouldn’t you wash the sunscreen away?
Jane: You’d think.
Lily: Kathy Najimy e-mailed to check if we were coming tonight for food and fireworks. From her house, you can see displays all across the city.
Jane: We should’ve let her know before today.
Lily: I know. You were supposed to call her.
Jane: I thought you were.
Lily: That’s what I told her — that I thought you called and you must’ve thought I called.
Jane: Sounds reasonable.
Lily: If you know us, it does.
Jane: Listen. I have an idea. Let’s forget about having a picnic by the pool. It’s too hot now anyway.
Lily: Actually, it’s not that hot.
Jane: Well, but let’s forget about it anyway. Look, I hate to break it to you, but I didn’t find any hot dogs that were nitrate-free. I went everywhere.
Lily: Did you go to Wild Oats?
Jane: Wild Oats?
Lily: That’s where they have them.
Jane: Well, I’m not going shopping again. I haven’t been shopping in more than a year and I’m not going twice in one day; it’s horrible.
Lily: Are the stores crowded?
Jane: No, they’re empty. And it’s depressing to think everybody’s already settled on how they’re celebrating their Fourths — but us!
Lily: But we have plans —
Jane: But those plans included me making potato salad — which I am so out of the mood for now. So, how does this sound? We go to Pink’s for their legendary chili hot dogs. Then we go to see “Chimps in Space” at Universal City Walk. Then home to dress to go to Kathy and Dan’s.
Lily: (laughing) It’s “Space Chimps.” Not “Chimps in Space.” Hasn’t opened. We could see “Hancock.” You know, all these years, I have never been to Pink’s.
Jane: Me neither.
Lily: (reading label) Look, on these baked potato chips, it says “partially hydrogenated oil.” If the chips are baked, then why —?
Jane: I don’t know anymore — I give up.
Lily: When you buy potato chips, just make sure it says “no trans fat” so then if it’s fried or baked, at least —
Jane: At least what? Look, I got these doughnuts that say “no trans fat.” These are really good.
Lily: What’s the difference in partially hydrogenated or fully hydrogenated?
Jane: Life and death, I think. Some fats are good for you.
Lily: Not where we’re going.
Jane: I forgot to tell you — the Prius was acting funny.
Lily: The Prius never acts funny. (Starts car, engine chokes.) Except when it’s out of gas.
Jane: I never heard of a Prius being out of gas. Doesn’t it go over to a battery or something? Let’s just take the Dodge. The movie’s at three o’clock.
Lily: It’s almost one o’clock. I’m starved, aren’t you?
Jane: Here, I bought two doughnuts. They’ll hold us till we get to Pink’s.
Lily: This isn’t the right place. I’m thinking of the place shaped like a big hot dog in a bun.
Jane: So was I, but this place is famous, too. We’re here now — let’s try their hot dogs and then we can find that hot-dog-shaped place and compare hot dogs. This place is famous for their chili dogs.
Jane: (settling at table) I got two hot dogs with everything on them.
Lily: That’s a little overkill since the chili itself has everything in it.
Jane: I never expected they’d put Cheez Whiz on it.
Lily: (putting on sunglasses) Do you see who I see?
Jane: I never saw so many celebs — looks like People magazine in here. All of new Hollywood is here for a hot dog. See, they don’t know what to do with their lives either. They probably got out of rehab and made a beeline here. Look at this grease — I don’t know how this bunch does it: they drink, do drugs, club all night, eat here and still have healthy babies.
Lily: Well, if New Hollywood eats here very often, there won’t be any Old Hollywood.
Jane: Some of this grease is from the cheese which we can just pour right off in the same manner it was poured on. I think it’s so great that Bloomberg banned trans fats in New York. I wish we had a mayor who cared.
Lily: Let’s get out of here before nobody recognizes me and I get depressed. Bring the French fries.
Jane: Let’s get a new order at that other place. I just thought of the name, Tail O’ the Pup — on San Vicente.
Lily: Apparently, you’ve been there.
EXT. TAIL O’ THE PUP
Lily: I can’t believe it’s not here. It’s closed down. Oh my God, the big plaster hot dog and bun are gone.
Jane: This is devastating. This place was built in 1946. A major L.A. landmark. Tom Wolfe said architects from all over the world come to see iconic places like this hot-dog-shaped hot-dog stand.
Lily: (driving away) I’m sure they don’t come for the hot dogs.
Jane: At 7-Eleven, today, they had hot dogs. Not nitrate-free but they looked really good. We can eat them on the way to the movie. Carney’s got great hot dogs!
Lily: God, you know an awful lot about hot dogs in L.A.
Jane: (getting in with hot dogs) Can we drive by the Hollywood sign. It’s not far.
Lily: Why do you still like to do that?
Jane: I’ll just never forget the rush I got when I first came here — and there was that sign. I suddenly knew that all the awfulizing done about Los Angeles was off the mark. Raymond Chandler was way wrong when he said, “L.A. was a big, hard-boiled city with no more personality than a paper cup.” Paper cup? Hardly! Just think of the architects, alone, who have worked here — Wallace Neff, Neutra, Schindler, Paul Williams. And I love the kitsch stuff like this sign, too.
Lily: Well, Herb Caen said, “I went to L.A. once and I couldn’t find it.” And that goes for me and the Hollywood sign.
Jane: We do this every time. We’ve never actually been right there by the sign. I wanted some photos.
Lily: But I can’t find the access. There’s just a lot of beer cans, condoms and no telling what up there.
Jane: You’re worse than Raymond Chandler. How come when we’re down there, we can see the sign so well? But, when we’re so close to it, up here, it disappears?
Lily: Do you know how we get down?
Jane: Does my face look red?
Lily: A little. Why?
Jane: I think I might be getting rosacea.
Lily: What’s that?
Jane: A skin condition.
Lily: Too much sun, that’s all.
Jane: No, too much chili. Or maybe stress. Stress can cause it.
Jane: When I went shopping, I couldn’t find the right hot dogs. Then I realized I had just bought ordinary potatoes, not organic like you said — you have no idea how stealthfully critical you can be.
Lily: Oh, so I’ve given you rosacea — a condition that can be caused by chili or stress or me! Aren’t you being a little critical when you call me critical?
Jane: I’m not blaming you. I don’t even know if I have it. But, if I have it, it can be kicked off by a lot of things. And I’m sure criticism is one.
Lily: What are the symptoms?
Jane: A red face!!! Are you blind?
INT. MOVIE LOBBY – REFRESHMENT STAND
Lily: I can’t believe we’re late for this movie.
Jane: Oh, we know all about it anyway. Plus, the trailers come on first.
Lily: I don’t want this popcorn — I just want popcorn out of habit.
Jane: Me too. I can watch a movie at home and not have popcorn but, out at the movies, I have to have popcorn.
Lily: The butter they use is bad for us. Eat it dry like I do.
Jane: I can’t do that. Can’t you have Diet Coke? That regular Coke has, oh, maybe 35 teaspoons of sugar.
Lily: Aspartame is bad for you, too — worse than sugar.
Jane: I wish they’d use Stevia. Did you know that Donald Rumsfeld was the one who pushed for aspartame to be approved? The FDA said “No” for ten years and then, suddenly, OK’d it.
NT. SEATED IN THEATER
Lily: (whispers) Are you okay?
Jane: Yeah, why?
Lily: (whispers) You’ve been burping.
Jane: Burping!? Out loud!? I’m so sorry. What is acid reflux, exactly?
Lily: Is that what you think you have?
Jane: I don’t know. I have something. I’ve been burping.
(Person behind: “Shut up.”)
Jane & Lily: Sorry.
Lily: (whispers) Don’t eat any more of your popcorn.
Jane: I already ate it. That butter substance should be illegal. I wonder what Bloomberg allows on popcorn in New York. What a great mayor.
Lily: We have got to stop eating junk food. And a day like today convinces me — we have got to become vegetarian. Maybe even vegan.
EXT. CITY STREET – DRIVING HOME
Lily: I don’t feel so great.
Jane: Me neither.
Lily: I think your redness may be fading.
Jane: It just seems that way because it’s getting dark.
Lily: Oh, Kathy! The fireworks will start soon.
Jane: They’ve already started in my stomach.
Lily: I don’t feel well enough to go out tonight. I dread the fireworks anyway.
Jane: And I dread you going into a rant about how traumatic fireworks must be for the poor animals, causing miscarriages and sterility, scaring little newborns. Dogs, frightened to death, running through the canyons, terrified.
Lily: Why shouldn’t I speak up?
Jane: Because it spoils the fireworks for everyone else.
Lily: So, who’s going to tell Kathy we’re not coming? I talked with her last; it’s your turn.
Jane: What kind of logic is that? Just a little while ago, we were coming; won’t it seem odd that we both got sick all of a sudden?
Lily: Well, it’s the truth, for a change.
Jane: We could e-mail.
Lily: Okay. What are you going to say?
Jane: Why don’t we just let the night pass — then, later, we can say that I thought you had called her and you can say you thought that I had called her.
Lily: You have so much integrity in so many ways; yet, in social matters like this, there seems to be a chink missing.
Jane: You know what’s awful? It’s the Fourth of July and we haven’t given one thought to our beautiful country.
LATER THAT NIGHT
Jane: You’ll never believe what’s on TV.
Lily: Fireworks, I’m sure.
Jane: “Seventeen-Seventy-Six.” Remember the movie musical about the Declaration of —
Lily: I know what it’s about —
Jane: There’s this long scene at the end. Totally non-cinematic. One by one, the men go up to sign the Declaration of Independence. Voiceover, you hear, “John Hancock” — he goes up and signs the document. Thomas Jefferson is called up last. No editing, no close-ups, no inserts. You just get the feeling of how important the document was. Not how self-important the men felt — and that they were keenly aware of being a part of something profound. How could they have been so brilliant?
Lily: For one thing, they weren’t brought up on nitrate-infused hot dogs.
Jane: How does a period of Enlightenment like that come about? Here’s Craig Nelson’s book, Thomas Paine. It gives you such an understanding of our forefathers. Their thinking was so advanced.
Lily: How could they be so advanced and yet so blind when it came to women and slaves?
Jane: (continues reading) “The most extravagant idea that can be born in the head of a political thinker is to believe that it suffices for people to enter, weapons in hand, among a foreign people and expect to have its laws and constitution embraced. No one loves armed missionaries.”
Jane: (continues) “When it shall be said in any country in the world, ‘my poor are happy, neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets empty of beggars; the aged are not in want; the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am the friend of its happiness’; when these things can be said, then may that country boast its constitution and its government.” You’ve got to read Craig’s book.
Lily: (takes book) “Should an independency be brought about … we have every opportunity and every encouragement before us, to form the noblest, purest, constitution on the face of the earth. We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” I just wish we had it in our power to begin the day over again.
Jane: (taking turns now, reads) “If we look back to the riots and tumults which at various times have happened in England, we shall find that they did not proceed from want of a government, but that government was itself the generating cause; instead of consolidating society it divided it … Whatever the apparent cause of any riots may be, the real one is always want of happiness. It shows that something is wrong in the system of government that injures the felicity by which society is to be preserved.”
Lily: (her turn, reading) “On June 24, 1826, the dying Thomas Jefferson wrote his final letter. Declining the mayor of Washington’s request to attend the city’s Fourth of July celebration, he set aside his terrible disappointment at the recent course of world history in order to offer one last bravura manifesto combining the ideas of the Enlightenment, the American and French revolutions and Thomas Paine: ‘May it be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government … All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth … the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few, booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of God. These are the grounds of hope for others; for ourselves, let the annual return to this day forever refresh our recollection of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”
Lily: He’s realized that he’s been one of the “booted and spurred.” He’s on his deathbed yet he sounds so enlightened and hopeful there. Sometimes, these guys sound a bit bipolar, don’t you think?
Jane: Maybe he wanted to sound upbeat on his deathbed.
Lily: I read somewhere that Jefferson may have had Asperger syndrome.
Jane: And what Thomas Paine said: “Whatever the apparent cause of any riots may be the real one is always want of happiness.”
Lily: When I think of that phrase, “the pursuit of happiness” — it’s so moving. And to think we spent the whole day pursuing hot dogs when we shouldn’teven be eating meat. We should be ashamed.
Jane: I am.