The year was 2002. I was sitting in the restaurant-bar of the Hotel Atlantic in Hamburg. Across from me was a chain-smoking Swiss-German film producer. At the time I was the companion of a cult film director from Los Angeles. Cameron was hysterical. Charismatic and biting, he was the center of any room in a self-described ‘bitchy, gay way’. I’d started out working part-time as his assistant and moved up to writing a screenplay with him. He would fly me out from my snowy town in Vermont where I went to school and deposit me in his warm ocean-side apartment in Santa Monica. He would hand me scripts he didn’t have time to read and ask me to comment on them. I was good at it. I would scrawl out pages of notes and tell him what I thought was interesting and not-so-interesting and make notes on character. Cameron. He would take me to film premieres and tell me about his boyfriends. He took me into the swank homes of television actresses and dragged me along to see edgy New York City performance art which left me covering my eyes in the theaters. Los Angeles was too much for me. New York was definitely too much for me. In retrospect, Cameron was a bit much for me too. He once took me to a performance by a friend of his named Jonathan Ames which featured the writer/actor naked with the exception of an anatomically correct prosthetic vagina, which he wore in an effort to get in touch with his ‘feminine’ side. Cameron’s nickname for me was ‘country girl’. It didn’t take much to shock me. The characters which populated Cameron’s world often left me wincing. He, in turn found my puritanism oddly refreshing.
Back to the Hotel Atlantic. Back to Hamburg. Cameron had just optioned the film rights to a book about a gay love affair set during the Holocaust. The story was a true one. Were were writing it in conjunction with a historian with a doctorate from Harvard who happened to be one of my writing mentors. John, Cameron and I would spend long afternoons at Cameron’s place in Santa Monica going through the book. Cameron taught me to break a book down into sections and chapter by chapter, re-script the text into scenes. I loved working with Cameron and John. But often felt far out of my element. I was in my twenties; my mentors were close to thirty years my senior. While John frequently recommended Holocaust literature for me to read: Primo Levi’s IF THIS IS A MAN and Eli Wiesel’s NIGHT, Cameron introduced me to films like ‘Europa, Europa’, ‘Sophie’s Choice’ and ‘Schindler’s List’. The three of us collaborated for four years. After several years, Cameron and I broke off into a bit of a duo. By 2002 we were at the Berlinale. I was gobsmacked. I fell for Germany. Instantly. The moment I stepped off the plane, my universe tipped. Everything felt so very…right. Admittedly, I was provincial. I had little international experience. My only European endeavor had consisted of 10 days in Paris. My only other ventures beyond the States had been small trips to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Cameron and I went to the Berlinale on a search for German producers. After Berlin, we went to Hamburg to meet with a producer who was interested. Hamburg was lovely that afternoon. Charming. I knew then I would make a life for myself in Germany. I never imagined it would take more than 10 years to get here.
Cameron and I never did make our film. Our funding fell through. And then the film producer died. After five years of film hopes, I decided to get a masters degree in literature and delved into familiar territory: books. I decided I would write them. I gave up film. I moved to Poland. I met someone who totally changed my life. I fell in love and traveled around with him. I sent Cameron postcards from places like Shanghai, Cape Town and Monte Carlo. I read compulsively and taught myself to be a writer. I got married. And then got divorced. After country-hopping for too many years, I decided to settle down. One morning in Belgium my husband left for work – and I started packing.