There aren’t very many great adventures left in America, at least for kids whose lives have been as easy as mine; but in a season devoted to reflection, I find myself dwelling – thankfully and at times nostalgically – on my own adventure in the west.
There’s a lot to remember and though I promised myself I wouldn’t – even more to forget. But while my memory still holds, I’d like to devote this post to a few one-line stories that never made it into this blog. These are jumping-off points for their own adventures and they point towards a broader truth that you learn when you’re lost at sea in your lifeboat: you never know where the next wave will take you.
This post would also be incomplete without my heartfelt thanks to all of you who have read this blog, sent me your kind thoughts, and acknowledged my ongoing existence. Your interest in my sanity did much to help me keep it and I am glad to report that I have landed in a great job that was worth all the sweat.
Here are the one-liners:
October 2011, The Standard Beer Garden, Washington, DC: You meet a friend for a drink and make a new friend at the table: a bi-coastal publicist for TV channels in every home. One beer on a Saturday begins it all.
I-66, Virginia. June 2013: DC blends into Virginia. You are headed west, expecting the enormity of this decision to hit you at any minute, but it doesn’t. Too much to think about, too much to do. No time for feelings, only time for forward.
New Orleans, LA. June 2013: 1,000 miles into a 3,000 mile roadtrip you explain to the passenger you picked up at the airport that your “Check Engine” light just went on and it’s either wait here and miss his flight home or keep going. You keep going.
Marfa, TX. June 2013: You’re in a dirt floor saloon. Craft beers and hipsters. A cowboy everyone calls the Eyepatch Man, his border collie, and a guy named Hank are at the bar. Hank’s headed from New Orleans to LA to be an actor. Cheers.
VLA, New Mexio. June 2013: You drive through an empty basin, thirty-six miles across. No cell phone service for hours, no radio for miles. The two-lane highway cuts between fields of satellite dishes. The sun reflects off a windshield in the distance.
Grand Canyon, AZ. June 2013: Out of the dessert, now among pine trees. You race the falling sun on a straight mountain highway.
Mojave Desert, CA. June 2103: Cars with steaming hoods popped open line the highway. You beg your car not to break down today.
I-210 Inland Empire, CA. June 2013: You’re 45 minutes from downtown LA and can’t escape the feeling that every driver on this road is trying to kill you. You see the city lights in the distance and you feel that life is getting very, very real.
Lunch Time, Westwood, CA. July 2013: You’re lost in West LA traffic with no clue where there is food, much less where to park your car. You realize now that the days of the corner stores and neighborhood pubs are gone.
Pico-Robertson. July 2013: Russian hookers dropped-off from black Mercedes show you an apartment whose last tenant is “We do not know where he went.”
Fox Lot. Century City. July 2013: You have your first interview in LA. You wear a suit across from someone in jeans and have an abiding feeling that this is going to be easy.
The Coffee Bean, Beverly Street. August 2013: You pay for parking outside the coffee shop and a chummy British producer chides you, then points you towards free parking. You meet for coffee every month from then on.
Main Street, Santa Monica. August 2103: A chiropractor named Craig stops you on the street. He sees your Penn hat and tells you that he went to Wharton, quit his job in ‘98, and moved west with a girl. He hands you a business card and asks, “Please let me be a part of your journey.”
Sidestreet, Santa Monica. September 2013: You return to LA from a wedding in St. Louis and find a parking ticket on your car and homesickness in bags.
Doctor’s Office. September 2013: Your doctor introducers herself to you and talks about how she moved to LA to write medical dramas. She’s optimistic that her next script will sell and recommends some writing courses if you know anyone who’s interested.
Sony Lot, Culver City. October 2013: You meet with a cable TV showrunner who admits that his assistant shouldn’t have put you on his schedule. You laugh. An hour later he puts you up for a job.
Sky Tacos, Los Angeles. October 2013: An actor friend books a deal for nation-wide Best Buy ad campaign. He buys lunch to celebrate.
Shopping Mall. October 2013: You acknowledge that longterm unemployment won’t work. You swallow your pride and fill out an application to work in retail. You go home and thank your fashion industry friend for the referral.
West Hollywood. October 2013: A friend calls and needs a last-second date. The event: happy 100th Episode party for Parks and Recreation. There is lots of whiskey but you don’t to get Rashida Jones’ number.
Shopping Mall. November 2013: You learn that retail staff isn’t full of losers, just 23 year-olds trying to book their first acting gig, sell a screenplay, or make ends meet on a talent agency salary. Everyone talks the business when the customers leave.
Santa Monica. November 2013: The weather gets cold on the east coast. You have three straight weekends of fly-in guests.
The Townhouse. Venice. November 2013: You walk in and see a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle sitting behind the bar unopened. When you leave at midnight, it’s still untouched. More evidence that California is a different place.
Olympic Boulevard. Nighttime. November 2013: You receive email and voicemail rejections from all remaining jobs at once. “Skinny Love” on the radio builds-out a unified sense hopelessness, a longing for your old cubicle, and a budding question: is this worth it?
Thanksgiving. Beverly Hills: 2013 You meet a friend for a drink in a hotel lobby. LA has never been so quiet. There are fall colors on the leaves up and down Crescent Street and you begin to imagine what California used to be.
Thanksgiving. Valley Village. 2013: You have dinner with an adopted family. The outskirts of Hollywood are at the table. Set designers, former actors, personal shoppers, and Grandma from Napoleon Dynamite share a turkey.
Friday nap. Santa Monica. December. 2103: You wake up when your phone rings. A number you recognize but can’t place. It’s a job you interviewed for months ago. Can you start Tuesday? Yes, I can.
LAX. Christmas. 2013: You head home with a story to tell. You’re looking forward to a taste of winter and with it, the irreplicable pleasure of coming in from the cold.
Merry Christmas and safe travels.