birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


I returned from dinner with Gary Oldman and his manager at 10 pm, ready to write my story. I hadn't had much to drink, anticipating a long night at my computer. And I was still jet-lagged after only a couple of nights in Cannes and unable to fall asleep so many hours ahead of my usual LA bedtime. This would be easy. I was wide awake.

In a small hotel room overlooking the harbor a 30 minute walk from the Croissette, the noise from the non-stop film festival partying was muted. I opened my computer at what passed for a desk, a stool in front of a vanity mirror set up for a serious makeup application session. The bed was two feet behind me. I had a couple of diet cokes and a bag of gummy candies, worms and bears.

My notes were spread out across the bed. I stared at my computer. Typed a word. Erased it. And thought about the day. It was a jumble. What was the story?

I was there shadowing the cast and crew of LA Confidential. I'd loved the movie when I saw it at a screening in Los Angeles. The young stars were newcomers -- Russell Crowe and Guy Pierce. Kevin Spacey has just a smidgen more exposure. Kim Basinger, still beautiful, had seemed washed up before this.

The film was a sensation at Cannes, the debut of enormously talented new stars. And I was to write the Newsweek piece announcing their debut. I'd been with them for the entire day and attended the premiere the night before. Too buzzed to write after that, I'd put it off until tonight, the next moment in my hectic Cannes schedule when I'd had time to sit and think.

I looked over my notes. Wrote a few sentences. Stood up and looked at the harbor lights. The multi-million dollar yachts. The speed boats ferrying celebrities from yacht to yacht. I took a shower and washed my hair.

I felt revived when I again sat down to write. Midnight. Time for a gummy worm and a diet Coke.

The words came slowly. My eyes hurt. I closed them for a moment, pushing aside my notes and laying face to the ceiling on the bed. Fearing sleep, I sat bolt upright. Back to the vanity/desk. More words. Dull words. Nothing matched the thrill of being there. I understood why celebrity writers turn to gushy words with themselves as the subject of their stories. So much easier to talk about my own experience instead of working to give that experience to someone else. I kept having to wack myself out of the way.

By 3 am, I knew I was in trouble. I left my room and took the elevator down to the lobby. Stepping outside, the cool May night air was a welcome slap in the face. I told the doorman I would be back soon. Just going for a short walk. He looked worried. "You can't do that here," he warned. "It's not safe." It seems Cannes is crawling with petty thieves who prey on the glitterati who gather each year for the film festival. Easy marks. Especially after a night of partying.

Back up in my room, I started again. Repeating my routine of sweets and caffeine. At dawn, I allowed myself to fall asleep for a couple of hours. When the front desk rang with my wake up call, I dreaded reading what I'd written. As I suspected, garbage. Rewriting in the bright morning light was easier. Better? Hard to say. I'd lost all perspective.

Bourbon, Beatles, Trashcan Fire

On purpose, or not.