Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Last night, I went to sleep, grateful that I had the following day off. It's a rare and beautiful thing to get a full Wednesday off before Thanksgiving and I embraced it with gratitude. So much gratitude that in fact, my intention was to make a list the following morning, after sleeping in a bit, of all of the things in my life that I was grateful for. I slept into the 7 am hour like a champion, snoozing away, happy as can be, but as I turned the corner towards 7:30, my phone rang. It was my mom. I immediately assumed that something was wrong. I thought about all the worst case scenarios, contemplating what horror could warrant such an early wake-up call. After a concerned, disgruntled breath, I answered the phone to hear the innocuous rattling of lipstick, the rustling of receipts and my mom yammering on about canned cranberries. I had been pocket (actually purse) dialed.... at 7:30am... by my Mom.... On my first Wednesday off in ages. My concern for the well-being of my family members diffused into annoyance.
I hrumphed my way back under the covers and attempted to go to sleep to little avail. Suddenly, I was awake in my apartment, early in the morning without agenda. The sun was rising and the air in my apartment was crisp. Traffic had yet to pick up outside and without the morning clock, ticking towards work time (which is later than most peoples.... Thankfully). I felt an overwhelming peace. I didn't bother calling my mom back because I was so content in the quietude that was this morning. In this quietude, I was able to access many things that I was grateful for. The list however, because of the extra hour that my morning had accrued, was able to extend deeper into the realm of my life.
I contemplated my appreciation for the usual things. Friends, family, my job, etc., but I couldn't stop thinking about that pocket dial. I was so annoyed that I had been disturbed from my beauty sleep, and here I was suddenly grateful for what was a thorn in my side for allowing me to have this wonderful morning. I began to think of all of the other things in my life that annoy me, but that ultimately I am grateful for.
Despite traffic, traffic tickets, slow drivers, reckless drivers, road rage, trash in the road, road hogs, people asleep in the road, and roads named after people that make you mad, people talking on their phone while driving, at least we have roads, so today, I'm thankful for roads. Despite fast food, bad food, food that isn't organic, food that comes from animals who were wrongly killed, long lines at the store to get food, food that is burnt, under-cooked, under-seasoned, and underwhelming, food that is over-seasoned, over priced, and overwhelming... today, I am grateful that there is food. Despite death metal, I'm glad there is music. Despite deforestation, I'm glad that there are still forests at all and I'm grateful for the growing global awareness to protect them. Despite racism, I'm thankful for the great leaps of the last 150 years. Despite all the hate has come from the differences of faiths and religion, I am thankful for God and despite people that talk too loud in public places on cell phones, I'm glad we've got ways to communicate with our loved ones in a world that supports travel, relocation because of the pursuit of dreams, adventure... even that means because of that technology, I'm accidentally woken up at 7:30 on my day off. Thanks Mom!
Happy thanksgiving y'all!
Friday, November 20, 2009
My father was a man who took his hobbies seriously. Within each of his hobbies came another hobby entirely. This hobby was a hobby that he was far more passionate about than all of the other hobbies combined. This hobby was the collection of gear. For instance, when it came to golf, my father did not just have a set of clubs and a bag. This wire-haired, 62 year old, gentle giant had the clubs, the bag, the towel, the tees, the training devices, the shirts, shorts, the pants, the hats, the magazines, and even the quirky Nicole Miller golf ties of golfers putting and driving to go along with the game. When he decided to learn to fly fish, he didn’t purchase a cheap rod and reel and a couple of dry flies to test the waters before jumping into the river. He bought the best rod, reel, wet flies, dry flies, boxes for the wet flies, boxes for the dry flies, clippers, waders, pliers, vests, nets, leaders, line, tippet, books, maps, and of course the fancy Nicole Miller ties depicting various fly fishermen at different stages of the fly fishing process, that money could buy. His attitude was that as long as you look as though know what you are doing, everything else would fall into place accordingly.
Being a man whose hobbies placed him in the loving arms of Mother Nature, and also being a man who enjoyed hobbies within hobbies, no one was surprised when he decided to take up birdwatching. This quirky activity could be done between shots while walking from hole to hole on the golf course or in between casts on the banks of a river on a slow fishing day. It could even be done while working in the backyard, another hobby of my fathers, but one that he enjoyed far less. My father was the only man who would go waste deep into river with a pair of heavy, cumbersome binoculars draped around his neck. He was also the only person on the golf course who would stop at the slightest chirp, and peer into a bush and whistle at it, in hopes of coaxing out a sparrow or junko that had he seen taking refuge in it’s branches.
The plus side of being my fathers son was that when he picked up a new hobby, I picked up a new hobby as well, and by picking up the hobby, I mean each Christmas, amongst the various clothing items and electronics that I had asked for would also be a new fly rod and reel or a pair of binoculars. These gifts ultimately became the bridge between my father and me in my early childhood. Whether I was in my angry poet phase of life or my tennis phase, we always found commonality in nature and fishing, which also meant bird watching.
Each winter we would take a trip to Eastern Oklahoma to Beavers Bend State Park on the Mountain Fork River, where we would put on our vests and our waders and make our way into the frigid river waters. It would never occur to my father to spend a penny for a guide when all we really needed to do was to read a book, watch a video, and practice a couple of casts in the front yard. After only ten minutes but what seemed like hours, we shivered, seconds away from hypothermia, each waiting for the other to cry Uncle and head in to the comfort of a warm fire in our cabin which was tucked just off the river in a patch of cedar trees. Though at the age of 17, it was impossible to find joy in the simplicity of something as seemingly inconsequential as a bird, I couldn’t help but be in awe as a bald eagle traced the bank of the river until it vanished from site. As though a sign from God, we decided that instead of a rainbow trout, the balding eagle sighting would be our prize.
One evening on our porch in Northern Michigan, my father suggested that the two of us take a day trip to the Sturgeon River. A river made famous by Hemingway and his character Nick Adams for its multitudes of rainbow and brown trout. After the multiple fishless trips to the Maple River, a river with an abundance of fish was a welcome relief.
It was this same evening that my dad mentioned the Kirtland’s Warbler. This bird was amongst the most endangered animals on the planet. It was a small yellow bird, about the size of a sparrow. It lived primarily in the Caribbean, but annually it would migrate half way across the United States to a small patch of land off the Au Sable River in Central Michigan. A prime spotting for any birdwatcher. He suggested that we stop along the way and see if we could spot this rare bird before hitting the river. Being eager to fish, I obliged.
We woke up early the next morning and loaded our waders, fly rods, reels, vests, etc., and headed south. After a three-hour drive and a Subway sandwich, we exited the highway about ten miles North of where the river was. We headed down a dirt road, which led to the rare birds breeding ground. As we drew nearer to where the bird resided, the signs on the dirt road began to resemble what one would expect as one came close to a nuclear bomb facility or Area 51. A high barbed wire fence ran along side the road and every fifty feet, yellow signs with black lettering warned that we were in a protected breeding area for an endangered species. Also lining the road were an eclectic group of RV driving bird watchers, eager to catch a peak at this rare gem. These individuals ranged from rugged outdoor environmentalists to retired couples traveling state-to-state setting out to see as many birds as possible.
We parked our car and the wait was on. My father told me that we would know the bird because unlike other warblers, this one had a broken ring around its eye. I eagerly pointed out each bird I saw, convinced that it couldn’t be that difficult to find and as soon as we found it I would be off and doing what I wanted to do. As I looked closer I realized that this was going to be more difficult than originally planned. An older couple joined us and immediately my father and a retired man from North Carolina began swapping birding stories like old soldiers talk about World War II. It was rare for my father to find such commonality among people with this interest and he was truly in his element. He told this man about how when I was a child we would go search for the painted bunting on Saturday afternoons and once a year we would take trips to Arkansas to search for warblers and waterfowl. He re-told these stories with great fondness. Meanwhile, I sat and listened indifferently, my boredom turning from indifference to frustration.
As the sun grew higher, my ability to fake interest began to weaken. We were losing daylight and that meant that I was losing fishing time. Clouds began to move in a bit as it grew close to 3pm and then suddenly on a telephone wire appeared a small yellow bird. I pointed it out with newfound selfish enthusiasm. Everyone pulled out their binoculars and tried to get an eye on it. As my binoculars began to come into focus, the little bird flew away as quickly as it arrived.
“That was it! Now lets go!” I exclaimed, desperate to get on the road. I could tell by the look in my father’s eye, he wasn’t convinced.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“Positive!” I lied.
“I didnt see it,” he said. “It doesn’t count.”
“Count?!?” I exclaimed. “Of course it does!”
“Lets see if it pops up one more time,” he said.
“Of course it counts!” I whined selfishly in front of his new group of friends. “I saw the stupid thing! It had a broken ring around its eyes. Now lets go!” I could see the disappointment in my Dad’s face. “Okay. Lets go,” he said. With that he bid his new friends farewell and got into the car.
As I digested his final words, it occurred to me how important this rare bird was to him. It was something that may well have been a once in a lifetime experience and I was too selfish to let him enjoy it. My father had done nothing but talk about how much he loved birdwatching and how much he loved spending time with me and I had embarrassed him. I had let him down. All of the sudden I wanted to go back. Maybe I didn’t see the broken ring after all! I said, now desperate to return but it was too late. All at once I wanted nothing more in the entire world than to help him find this rare bird. “It’s alright,” he said and continued to drive to the river. Seriously! We can find it! I pleaded. But it was too late. We were gone, as was his opportunity to see this rare beautiful bird.
As we arrived to the river, I put on my waders and headed out. A blanket of rain clouds had covered the sky and it was beginning to drizzle. I cast up stream and watched a couple of muskrat play, barely aware that my fly was about to get caught in some brush. All I had wanted that day was to fish and now all I could think about was that he hadn’t found that bird. That we had not found that bird. I optimistically scanned the tree line in hopes that perhaps one of the little yellow birds had gotten lost, but it never came. Soon the drizzle turned to rain, Thunder rolled in the distance and finally we decided to head home. It had been a long day. We got into the car, fishless. Sorry we didn’t catch anything, my dad said.
As we drove silently, I looked at this happy wiry haired man and thought of all the fishing trips we had been on and all the birds we had seen in the process. I thought back to the bald eagle soaring along the banks of the river in Oklahoma and the joy it had brought to both of us. I thought back to Kingfishers on farm ponds in Oklahoma and Mississippi Kites on the lakes at the OKC Golf Course. I thought about how much a part of my childhood my fathers hobby within a hobby was and how important those memories were to me. I didn’t remember the fish we caught on any of those trips. I remembered something more. I remembered the birds we had seen and the joy my father took in pointing them out to me. This had been just another fishing trip but somehow this one was different. On this one we had set out to see something that may never be seen again. Only this time we didn’t see the bird and it was my fault. For a long while we drove home in silence, my mind still back on that dirt road. “We’ll see that bird next year,” I managed to say over the lump in my throat. We kept driving.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Physical Education, AKA P.E. was a time of the day for students to learn the importance of teamwork through organized sports such as basketball, football, and baseball. It was while participating in these activities that students, for the most part gained a stronger sense of self-worth, strength, and independence. "No pain, no gain," the short mustachio'ed Coach Beard whould say. While the ability to demonstrate physical prowess was a blessing for many, for the small minority possessing an assortment of physical and emotional abnormalities, it was a curse. Some children were obese. Others lacked coordination or proper vision and others simply cried. A lucky few were able to embrace their peculiarities by means of music or art, which though didn’t spare them from being socially ostracized, did enable them to channel their energy in a proactive and expressive direction. I fell into the less inclined category of children. When coach said "No pain, no gain" he discounted emotional pain.
As the energy of the hallways would increase as the hours ticked towards this cursed experience that was Physical Education, I shuddered. As if the rolling eyes as a result of missed free throws, wasn’t enough for humiliation, there was the added bonus of changing in the locker room. While some students proudly displayed recently emerged small patches of chest hair, or discussed PG-13 make-out sessions with the girls of our class, I hid in the corner, mortified at my twig-like, hairless, muscle-free appendages. They were talking about doing things with girls that I didn’t feel comfortable even speaking to or for that matter was aware of. Despite the fact that eventually I would grow, I found no peace in this physiological guarantee that one day, I too, would have chest hair.
In addition to being a gym class pariah, there was another social drawback to physical immaturity. Girls. I loved them. I was a helpless romantic and could fall in love at the bat of an eye. This great love for girls, and there were so many, was something that had to exist only within the realm of possibility because of my pre-pubescent purgatory.
This is why, when my mother and father told my sister and I that we were going to Dallas to visit the Fishers, I was delighted. Steven Fisher was my father’s roommate in college. For years my sister and I had heard stories about the college days. Though intoxication wasn’t something we were able to comprehend, they loved to dazzle us with wild tales of college antics. Most of my parent’s friends, as far as I was concerned were simply parents and incapable of any genuine fun. Steven on the other hand, was a legend in our minds. To sweeten this already perfect midsummer jaunt to Texas, we were going to go to Six Flags. I was delighted to learn that they had a daughter who was two years younger than me. Her name was Mandy and though I had not met her, I knew we were in love. How could we not be? She was two years younger than I, so I most certainly would carry a mystique and a confidence about me that she would be hard-pressed to find anywhere in the stuffy surroundings of an immature Texas Middle School. I imagined the two of us, lovers, divided by state lines as pen pals until we finally were able to purge our parental nests and then live happily ever after.
We arrived to their house and it was everything I knew it would be. She was perfect. She had a lovely smile and was slender with long brown hair, just as I had dreamed. The Fishers had a giant front yard with a couple of massive trees, which provided ample space for me to show off my running skills. In addition to being able to run really fast, I could also jump fairly high and was capable of climbing trees in a way unrivaled amongst the boys her age. With every passing hour and each game that I won, I was securing a spot in my damsel’s heart.
I went to sleep confident that I had impressed her with my speed, but the following day it would be my bravery that would be her undoing. The largest wooden rollercoaster in the country lie in wait for us, just a few miles away. I saw it perfectly. We would lock eyes as the ride ticked it’s way to it’s crest before plummeting hundreds of feet on the rickety ride. As she screamed in terror, I would put my hand on her arm in a Zen-like trance, my mere presence assuring her that all was in perfect harmony. We would sit side-by-side, surrendering to the inertia of the cascading ride until it ended at which point, I would look into her eyes and say, “I told you it would be okay.” We would lock hands as we exited the ride and the world would applaud and weep at the witnessing of such a divine union.
The next morning, I moussed my hair, flossed my teeth, and put on my best tee shirt. I refused breakfast because I wanted to focus on the amorous task at hand. I tactfully ignored her as she ate her cereal, instead reading the latest Stephen King novel. Not a book a boy in her grade would read.
We made our way to Six Flags and I continued to ignore her. I was distraught when, after conquering the long line to the roller coaster, I learned that she wanted to sit next to her father. That was okay though. I had heard that girls play hard to get so it was the calm that I exuded after the ride that would seal my place in her heart.
The ride clicked its way up towards the first drop just as it had in my dream the night before. It was all coming true except that sitting next to me was my dad. As the coaster dropped, it was as if I were falling through midair those first few glorious seconds and then something terrible happened….
A pain, like a lightening bolt shot through my entire body. It felt as though a radioactive alien had been set free in my insides and after a couple of moments pingponging around my organs, finally settling at the base of my torso like an asteroid spun off of the sun. Despite my agony, the whipping and weaving of the rollercoaster continued, my shrill, girl-like scream audible even over the clacking of coaster track. The ride ended and I couldn’t stand up. Despite the fact that I was a virgin and also a male, I felt as though I was about to give birth. I couldn’t straighten my torso, nor did would my legs go together in any sort of functional way. I couldn’t speak. Everyone looked at me, displeased at my cowardly behavior on the World’s Largest Wooden Rollercoaster. Mandy shook her head, unimpressed. It was just like gym class.
I painfully shuffled my way to the bathroom and collapsed into a stall as the fire in my crotch expanded through my body, I took my pants off and that is the moment that I saw the most horrifying thing that any eyes should ever have to fall upon. My nuts had twisted into a knot.
My father entered the stall, concerned and disappointed at my weepiness. Upon entry and observation he went sheet white. “ I think something is wrong…” I muttered. He told me to stay put and a moment later, Steven appeared in the stall doorway. “Oh Jesus…” My dad yanked me up, and with that my day at Six Flags ended.
I sat in the back seat of the Fisher’s SUV and all I could see was stars. Not only stars but elaborate galaxies that only come to the forefront of one’s consciousness when one fears an involuntary sex change. My dad kept telling my mom that he hadn’t expected to wind up with another daughter, while Mandy and Mary demanded to know what was wrong with me.
“Are you okay?” my mom would ask. “Does it hurt?” What kind of specific answer did she want? My balls looked like a knotted up freeway exchange at rush hour but how was I to convey that with Mandy, my love, in the seat ahead of me?
“Do you want us to stop for some ice?” my Mom would ask.
“He’s gonna lose his nuts, Libby! We’re not stopping for any god damn ice!” retorted my dad.
“What’s wrong with his nuts?” Mandy would ask. “Nothing….” And so we drove…
“Another god damn daughter…” muttered my Dad.
We made it to Dallas Children’s Hospital where my scrotum was observed with the same intrigue and horror as a UFO that had crashed on an orphanage. After finally settling on surgery, the doctors were able to save my manhood. Because of swelling issues, I wasn’t allowed to travel home for a couple of days, so me and my swollen balls recovered in the Fisher’s downstairs guestroom where out my window, I could hear Mary and my beloved playing in the front yard where once I had run so fast….
Instead of returning from Dallas as a man in love, I returned to Oklahoma City with my nuts in a sling and a gait like a cowboy. My dreams of Mandy fell by the wayside. I sat idly as the kids in my neighborhood played outside. Summer turned to fall and it was once again time to go to school only now I had a medical excuse not to have to endure the toils of gym class or the embarrassment of a locker room. Though I hadn’t achieved the manhood that I’d hoped for in Dallas, I got to endure a pain far beyond that of any of the mere boys in my school. And a man who can endure pain is a man to be admired… and somewhere, on some level, I’m sure my Mandy knew that.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Eight years ago, as a recent graduate from the esteemed Film and Video Studies department of The University of Oklahoma, armed with extensive knowledge of topics ranging from 90s Iranian Cinema to Greek Independent Film headed for Los Angeles to begin my life as what I had hoped to be "the most awesome dude in the world." There were words for people like me, I believed. Then, I would have offered "savvy with a touch of profundity."
I had interned for a high profile producer, albeit one who had left LA for Oklahoma, and had worked on the set of a couple of internationally shot, independent films where my title (or should I say titles) ranged, on the same project from Production Assistant to Assistant Camera Man. Associate Producer to cast member (thankfully I had taken an on-camera acting course in addition to a course in Iranian Cinema). How, with a background as all- encompassing as mine was, could I not arrive to LA and immediately land a salary of mid six figures? In addition to my broad education, my experience as an international man of mystery, my ability to multi-task in the industry and my vast knowledge of aspiring Oklahoma Screenwriters, I also believed I was terribly handsome which was really the key to success. That, and of course, I had met and had my photograph taken with Gary Busey, or Gary as I called him.... Gare Bear... We were tight.
So I arrived to Los Angeles where I immediately (because I was so awesome) landed a job on the television show 24. This meant that I now knew Keifer Sutherland... which combined with indelible knowledge of the world of Greek Cinema and my good looks meant that I was qualified to do one thing. Nothing. One would think that I would have been humbled by the mediocrity of such arduous tasks as xeroxing or refrigerator reorganization, but not me. Instead, determined to make a splash in the world, decided that to set myself apart from the pack of ragtag PA's I worked with, I would make business cards for myself complete with 24 logo. This way people would really think I was amazing and then I would mention Keif and Gare Bear, and then they would just hand me a check for about seven hundred fifty thousand dollars and then invite me to Maestro's along with their beautiful and powerful friends where I would order the lobster mashed potatoes and some steamed asparagus for the table. A culinary masterpiece I knew was the cat's pajamas because I had ordered it once before... with my grandmother.
It was the bravado that accompanies having your very own business card associating you with an emmy-winning television show that I came to the conclusion that the only way to make it in life was to become friends with the people that mattered, so that is what I did. I began to define myself by my relationship with 24 creator Joel Surnow and because he was a writer, obviously, because of my proximity to him, I was pretty much a writer as well, though the only writing I had ever done was a silent film I had made in college. That said, I was hardly discouraged and would tell anyone that listened that my tasks included making sure that all the heads of both the studio and network received their scripts and those studio heads knew me on a first name basis. I believed that somehow this task alone, which was little more than a messenger service, would qualify me to be a member of one of the most acclaimed writing staffs on television at that time. I was wrong. So wrong in fact, that when it came time to get the smallest promotion to actually work for one of the Executive Producers, I was passed over. My looks and relationship with Gary Busey... My knowledge of Maestro's most delectable menu items... my business cards... had let me down. It was then that with great urging, I found myself working in the mailroom at an Agency.
This agency that at the time represented about 25% of the talent in Los Angeles and I met some very good friends here. I was mopped-headed, disheveled, not to mention under-educated and too sensitive for this job which consisted of pushing a mail cart, tossing wadded up paper into trash cans, and tracking down beet juice early in the morning. I hated every second of this job. It was torture. The mailroom was made up of two types of people. Mailroom staffers and Ivy League graduates who had recently read The Mailroom and gave up their parent's supported goal of becoming a lawyer for the more elusive, but sexier, more creative and potentially lucrative goal of working in the entertainment industry. It was around the later type that I realized that even with my photo of Gary B. and my business card, I was in fact, retarded compared to these kids. The objective for each one of us was to work on a "desk" for one of the agents. Some were respectably ambitious and constructive with their criticism but many were out of their fucking minds. Working for them meant that you connected calls to both clients and people seeking clients, sent out packages along with client material and maintained a variety of lists and grids of various projects at studios and networks. What it really meant was that for the most part, you were tethered to a desk and berated by ego-driven, drug addicted, sociopaths whose primary function in life was to be rich without any concept that the goal in life beyond wealth, was to be happy.
Working for these individuals changed the way I saw the world. Each day I would put on my coat and tie and fight back tears. I looked like such a fraud and the tie felt more like a noose than a suit accessory, slowly choking every ounce of passion for Hollywood that I had from my being. Long gone were the days of handsome Matt. Where as most of the people working in the mailroom spent on the average of six weeks pushing a cart before promotion, I spent about four months. I tempt on desks and when the agent would arrive to see me sitting there, forcing a smile would mutter... "fuck...." For the next two hours I would frantically roll phone calls until I hung up on a client or said the wrong name, at which point, I would be told to close their door and to get human resources on the phone for them.
One particularly fond memory I have of this anxiety was on a day on the desk of a man, who even by this agency's standards, was terrifying. I had Ryan Seacrest on a line, Dick Clark on another, Gene Simmons on a third and his wife on the fourth. He told me to connect his wife, and instead I hung up on everyone. He told me that I had just hung up on ten million dollars of commissions, to close his door and call human resources. I hung my head, took off my headset, pushed in the desk chair, and, in my coat and tie, preemptively returned to the mailroom where for the rest of the day, I tossed wadded up paper balls into the trash can with the other mailroom staffers.
It was at this job that I found myself praying that my appendix would burst or perhaps an earthquake would knock out the power of the city so I wouldn't have to go to work. An alien invasion would have been a welcome distraction from my day to day misery. One afternoon, the agency brought in a group of young inner-city filmmakers to speak to the company and a couple of them got internships. Shortly after being kicked off of yet another desk, I washed out an agent's coffee mug and then begrudgingly putting into the dishwasher. One of the interns came in, eyes aglow, amazed that we had a dishwasher. She just looked at it in wonder and I looked at it and just cried.
The upside to all of this was that because I hated my life at this company so much, and because it was so suffocating, my only outlet was in sending strongly worded emails about the insanity to my friends that worked on various desks. Though the emails where infused with despair, depression, and anger, that discord channeled itself as sarcasm which would then create laughter. Suddenly, my misery became my calling card. It was at this moment that I learned that it paid to be cynical and suddenly I was happy again. Happy complaining! I began writing all of the time, and ultimately decided that was a suitable career path. I had read many scripts at this point and had decided I could do better. I was way better. I mean I had written funny emails, so of course I could write a feature that someone would love so much that they would be willing to buy it and to invest millions and millions of dollars.... and this was going to happen very soon. It was time to go shopping for a new car. I could feel it.
Back to feeling confident (and handsome) only this time with the knowledge that being a cynic was my calling card, I began to explore all of the things I disliked in this world. I went to work for people that were far more possessed than any agent I had ever worked for. At the agency, I had only experienced my own desire to have a ruptured appendix to avoid dealing with insane and unreasonable individuals. It was at this job that I actually experienced the desire to physically harm another person. These guys were the biggest assholes in the entire world.
The good news is that it was an easier job so I had time to write. The bad news was that through journalling and cynical writing, I was beginning to find myself in a constant state of negativity that no fancy business card could could extract me from. It was also at this job that I began to rue the title assistant. It just seemed absurd. This is when I learned that in Hollywood, one can distort their job title with the twisting or omission of a single word. Instead of telling people that I wrote a spec episode of 2 1/2 Men, I would say... I wrote a 2 1/2 Men. By omitting the word "spec" I felt validated. Though immediately gratifying in the sense that people you spoke to then assumed you had talent, sadly, it created a gap between who I actually was in my life and who I wanted to be and the space between those two things seemed to get larger with every completed script.
The bending of the truth created in internal emotional rift that became more vast when I began trying to get an agent, a world that I had left and now needed back into (cruel town). This is something that, despite learning a little humility at Endeavor, I did with the same bravado as when I had first moved to LA. I believed that everything I wrote was a masterpiece and it would change the world. I believed that the Curb spec I wrote... where Cheryl thinks Larry cheated.... would change.... the world. A spec script... would change... the world. I gave it to everyone and assured them it was the best. I also believed that just because someone was said they "like" it, actually meant they liked it. Now having read hundreds of scripts, I have learned that the easiest thing to say when you hate something to the degree that it is beyond help, is to say, "I liked it..." So with each "like" I believed I was inching closer to my dreams, when what was really happening was that I was alienating myself. Though my writing improved, the "no's" began to become common practice. The saddest part in all of this was that every "no" was preceded by the hope that my life was about to improve. All at once, I found my entire life beginning to fall apart. Where the F was Gary Busey when I needed him?
This spiral continued for many years. The gap between what I projected and what I believed myself to be became cavernous and insurmountable. I wrote and with each word, I believed less in what I was doing and suddenly, my writing began to feel real. I began to write honestly and emotionally. It was no longer fluff, but it was in knowing the darker parts of myself that I was able to bring dimension to what I was doing. It was seeing what this business was capable of doing to someone that made me actually be able to contribute something to it in an interesting way. My dreams of lobster mashed potatoes became replaced with dreams of being happy. I found myself thrilled to feel like a stranger in this industry.
Though I still find myself caught in the space between "hope" and "no's" my disappointment has changed the way it manifests itself in my life. The good news is that now, though I don't find myself misrepresenting my occupation, I can say confidently that I am a writer. Though I don't think of myself as "handsome", I think of myself as a real person. Though I don't know good ole Gary, I have some amazing people in my life. I love the projects I'm working on and I love the parts of my psyche that I've been able to access through them. Though my life isn't the one I thought I wanted when I moved here, I realize that those early desires weren't desires at all but place holders and signposts leading me in the direction of what was ultimately meant to be. Maybe one day, I'll have a business card again, but in the meantime, I've got a life I enjoy and that's good enough.