"The universe was a place of wonders, and only habituation, the anaesthesia of the everday, dulled our sight." -Salman Rushdie, "The Satanic Verses"
I've been sleeping in a fog of melancholy for nearly half a decade.
Anaesthetised by grief and habituated by fear.
Once whole milk, I turned two percent, and almost went sour altogether.
I was like a deer caught in the headlights...
Now, I am the headlights...
No longer satisfied with two percent, I am whole again, and I'm diving into the often icy waters of life, because I am hell bent on becoming a silver pitcher of full fat cream.
Oh, I still get sour, but when I do, I think of my future.
I think of my children.
I think of their mother.
I think of my mother.
I think of me.
And the smelling salts of my unlived potential hit me like a cold shower.
Time to wake up and smell the French Roast.
As I come to, I am realizing in horror that I've been asleep at the wheel of my destiny and am guilty of letting a small boy named Baby drive the car. No wonder I didn't have insurance. He's only five!
But I'm 35.
My shoes are a size 12.
And my capable man hands are on the wheel.
The fully insured, freshly washed, registered wheel, with the Baby safe in the back seat.
My rearview mirror may still be a bit cracked, but I'm looking forward anyway.
I'll always be a bit cracked.
That's how the light gets in.
Not by a longshot.
I've hit the ground running and am watering the flowering garden of my life with daily discipline and knightly courage.
I'm writing every day, dreaming minute to minute, controlling my chaos and most importantly doing with every breath that I breathe.
I'm scared, I have no operators manual, but I'm rolling the dice and playing to win.
The other possibility is too scary.
So I've put on my tux, rolled up my sleeves and I'm laying my cards on the table.
tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most
hopeful aspects of a situation: “There is a touch of optimism in every
worry about one's own moral
cleanliness” (Victoria Ocampo).
The doctrine, asserted by Leibnitz, that this world is the best of all possible worlds.
The belief that the universe is improving and that good will ultimately triumph over evil.
It's been a tough week. But I'm tougher. Like a piece of gristle in a cheap cut of rare roast beef.
I have a little manila envelope that I salvaged from my mothers bedside after she passed.
My father was unraveling like a sweater from the 99 cent store and had started throwing my mothers things into a big black garbage can. I snatched the envelope and hid it under my cape. It contains her ideas, sayings, clippings, letters and other things that I shall carry with me to the grave.
When I'm feeling lost or alone or needing direction like a Baby Boy in the woods, I reach my hand into its coffee stained and cigarette scented goodness and pull out my fortune of the day.
It has never failed me.
Just like her.
You've got to accentuate the positive, Eliminate the negative, Latch on to the affirmative, Don't mess with Mister In-Between,
You've got to spread joy up to the maximum. Bring gloom down to the minimum. Have faith, or pandemonium's Liable to walk upon the scene.
Thanks Mr. Mercer, Thanks Bing, Thanks Mom.
I'm directing my feet to the sunny side of the street...
"I know of no such unquestionable badge and ensign of a sovereign mind as that of tenacity of purpose"
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
I know that those who read this blog are probably bored with my metronome like swings from that of lost and afraid to found and courageous.
That is who I am.
That's who we all are.
One cannot be found if they are not lost, and they cannot be full if they are not empty.
Such is the marrow of life, a bone which I am biting into like a bulldog.
I am a brave chicken shit, a neurotically confident fool, but I know where it is that I am headed.
The seas are often rough, the storms perpetually rock my boat and I often feel that I will capsize. Or barf. For the first time in my life however, my destination is clear and my compass is working like a lucky charm. I have a stellar crew of ever supportive comrades and I am a first rate sailor.
Come what may, I'm gonna get myself to dry land, step from this boat and buy a round of drinks for all that would join me.
My book is at ICM, my reel is in the hands of a mensch of an agent and the Porsche that is my tenacity is stuck in fifth gear.
If I sound full of myself, I am. I make no apologies for it. I'm proud.
And besides, if one is not "full of themselves" then they are full of it.
Or worse, empty.
A recent comment from an unknown reader of this blog said that I was on a "ballistic trajectory over the fine line between healthy creative narcissism and deluded self-parody". Actually he said, "pardy". There's nothing I love more than an anonymous critic who can't spell.
When I first read it, I thought that it was a compliment.
I still do.
There's nothing healthy about narcissism. Narcissism, by its very definition is "A psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in self-esteem."
Lack of empathy?
I've been in the darkest of holes, seen my mother die in suffering pain and lost everything that was dear. My empathy is steadfast and ever present.
Unconscious deficits in self-esteem?
Twelve years of therapy has made me see with windex clarity the mirror that is both my enemy and closest ally. I am fully conscious of my shortcomings, which are enough to fill a whales stomach, but I also know my abilities. My esteem is as solid as a Sherman Tank.
I am my own greatest enemy, but also my greatest champion.
Not a day goes by that I don't fall down, believe me.
I just get up faster now.
The life I want to live requires nothing less than balls the size of watermelons and enough Chutzpah to fill a deli on Yom Kippur.
One day, I was sitting on my mothers bed and my father walked in. He was vying for a big advertising account and his career was in a dark period. My mother said, "Don't worry, you'll win the account". My father said, "I always do".
He walked out like a magician with a mission.
I said to my mother, "God, Dad sure has a big ego."
My mother said, "Look around. Do you really think we'd be sitting in privilege like this if your father didn't have an ego the size of a Pachyderm? This business is brutal. It will destroy you if you don't destroy it first. The only person I know who had more ego than your dad was Frank Sinatra. If your dad had just a little MORE ego, we'd probably be sitting in an even bigger house."
On Thursday, I became so emotional that I left my work without telling anyone where I was going and ran down the street sobbing. Then I threw up into the bushes and almost got hit by a car. I sat down on the sidewalk and sobbed and sobbed and yelled and tore at my hair and hit my fists against my own skull. Then I cried some more. Then I felt angry, so angry that it felt as if I could catch fire and burn a hole through the Dalai Lamas face. Like I could punch out Jesus. Like I could die. Then, slowly, I came around. I started shaking and feeling cold like I was in the snow. It was seventy-five degrees and sunny. Inside, I was a frozen tundra, a penguin standing on the egg of my future, not knowing if my life would come back. Frightened beyond measure and chilled to the bone, I stood in the snow and protected that egg.
I went to sleep that night and soaked the bed with sweat. My pajamas were so filled with anxiety that I literally wrung them out in the sink. My pulse was racing. I hadn't washed my hair in days and days. I felt like hell. Dark night. Light on. I looked in the mirror. I looked like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. A dangerous man. A man on the edge. A man at the bottom of his own sea.
When I looked in that mirror, I no longer saw the face of a baby boy. I saw a madman. A deranged lunatic. A kook. A right brain. A left brain. A brain. A heart. A human.
I saw a future husband. I saw a future father. I saw a survivor.
I saw an actor, a writer, a filmmaker and an artist. I saw a healer. I saw a dreamer.
I saw Donavan.
Here I am world, take me or leave me.
I am a piece of fucking work.
Broken, sad, disheveled, fucked up, lost, scared, scarred, raging, ragged, hurt, guilty, innocent, broken, together, fixed, unshaven, dandy, brazen, raisin, disheartened, silly, sappy, happy, alive, dreamer, doer, seer, fucked up, fucked over, good natured, classy, kind, timeless, wise, stupid, hair brained, hare brained, right brained, shit for brains, genius, vintage, elegant, eloquent, winner, loser, takes nothing, takes all, small, tall, fall, get up, sleepy, awake, dead, alive.
I imagine a room full of artists and painters and poets and musicians and actors and believers and doubters and nuts and heroes and sheroes and lovers and dreamers.
Dylan, Henson, Nicholson, Wolfgang-Amadeus, Dali, Schiele, Kubrick, Hepburn, Burnett, Lennon, Allen, Joplin, you get the picture.
I knock at the door looking, feeling and being like hell and heaven wrapped up in a ball of torture.
"Welcome to the club, kid...welcome to the club"
This artists business is tough.
But I'm a worthy opponent.
I've seen some shit, paid my dues and I'm taking the blows.
And punching back.
I hate Easter.
There, I said it.
Fuck, Fuck, Fuck Easter.
It brings me down every year.
So I’m Jewish today.
Suffering all the way and bringing humor and mensch-hood with me.
I’m pissed and I’m tired and I’m mired and I’m wired and there’s nothing more grotesque to me than forced gaiety. Bah Humbug! Shiny happy people can eat me. Or perhaps I'll eat them. Or perhaps I'll just eat some candy. Lot's of it. Then I shall puke it onto the face of god.
I’m going out to buy some chocolate bunnies.
Then, like a glass under the wedding Chuppah, I’m going to wrap them up in a white handkerchief and smash their little faces in. Bash their brains in. Bash em' right the fuck in. Little furry fucks.
Pissed and angry and alive.
Just like Jack. Just like Janis. Just like Donavan.
CUE MUSIC: RIDE OF THE VALKYRIES
Kill the wabbit...kill the wabbit...kill the wabbit!!!
Don't say that I will depart tomorrow--even today I am still arriving.
Please call me by my true names
Look deeply: every second I am arriving to be a bud on a Spring branch, to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings, learning to sing in my new nest, to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, to fear and to hope. The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that is alive.
I am a mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of
the river. And I am the bird that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.
I am a frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond. And I am the grass-snake that silently feeds itself on the frog.
I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks. And I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.
I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate. And I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.
I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands. And I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to my people dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.
My joy is like Spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth. My pain is like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans.
Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up and the door of my heart could be left open, the door of compassion.
Those are better words to describe it, though I shall not discount interesting.
The only thing that has given me the ability not to run for the hills screaming or pound my head into a lamppost or down a bottle of xanax has been my ability to look at my life through the lens of an artist.
To take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
The movie that is my life.
I'd forgotten that I am the film-maker, not just the film-watcher.
Oh, art, my oldest friend.
My right brain is my savior.
For years, I’ve intellectualized my feelings. I’ve spent hours, months, years in therapy talking. Talking. Talking. Words. Words. Words. Words.
Never actually feeling.
Like a magician who knows all of his own tricks, I am beginning to grow bored with my empty words and the king sized billows of smoke I’ve puffed up around me like looming gray clouds of chicanery are quickly thinning in the fresh air of my awareness.
The pain of changing is cowering in the corner from the looming monster of not changing.
Tears and rage and despair and unfiltered emotion are looming forth like elephants protecting their young.
I am that elephant, and I am protecting my young.
For the first time in my life, I am truly tired of being a child.
I am relishing the feeling of being a response-able adult and my old habits of self-sabotage and rebellion have been dropping like June bugs in a snowstorm. I will always be a rebel, just no longer against myself.
As I come out of my coma, my curiosity and wonder are coming to the tea party bearing the gifts of enchantment and zeal.
I contain multitudes.
You bet your ass I’m angry.
Also ebullient and delighted and engaged and prepared and self-assured and, and, and…
All of me…
Why not take all of me?
Can’t you see I’m no good without you?
I’m singing that song to myself.
I’m no good to anyone, including me, without me.
The un-abridged edition.
The grown-up, the baby boy, the teenage rebel, the cranky old man, the frightened fox, the ferocious grizzly bear, the stately gent and the quickly pitched tent.
The good, the bad and the ugly,
The bold and the beautiful.
Here I am!
It’s an interesting guy that’s emerging from the ashes.
An interesting man, I should say.
Not a dude or a “man” as in, “hey, man, what’s up”, but a seasoned gent that is as gentle as he is gruff, as confident as he is quiet, as able as he is fable.
I purchased a Filofax this weekend in a real stationary store.
It is not a chintzy day-runner made of vinyl obtained on sale at Staples.
Nor is it a nifty electronic piece of plastic planned obsolescence with a travel sized recharging cradle and a USB port.
It is a solid piece of English craftsmanship purchased at full price in a specialty store.
I’ve been eyeing it for a while, trying to decide between it’s full blown one hundred and thirty dollar excellence and it’s younger twenty five dollar sibling made of “pleather”.
That sounds almost as bad as hemp.
I’ve no room for faux.
Give me the real thing.
Give me the cow, the cream and the farm. Make mine a double!
In the Filofax catalog, the twenty-five dollar book is described as follows:
“The Domino has an international appeal…simple and practical with leather-look material…suede like lining with convenient elastic closure…”
The one I chose is described a little differently…
“The Belmont has individual character…traditional stitching…finest English leather…luxury cream organizer stationary…solid and sure gold snap”
I threw my name into the mix.
“The Donavan is convenient and practical with simple leather like looks and elastic”
Doesn’t sound right.
“The Donavan has individual character. Traditional Stitching…Finest English Leather With Luxury Cream…Solid And Sure Gold Snap”.
I want my Filofax to reflect me.
I want my personal effects (or should that be affects?) To feel like I want to feel…like I want others to feel when they come into contact with me. And like the people I want to surround myself with.
Like a cross between a well-worn catchers mitt and the back seat of a Bentley.
I want to be a solid and sure individual with character and class.
International appeal is for people with something to prove.
Practical may be comforting to the people of the world who’ve never pushed an envelope, but it isn’t sexy in my book.
I want more.
I want to be a solid and sure snappy shot of cotton cream with individual character.
I want to be an iconoclast, a boat rocker, a ship’s captain, a golden snap.
I’m really starting to get a handle on this guy.
But I had to blow the lid off first.
Go a little mad.
Madness feels delicious.
I am delicious.
I’m boasting and I make no apologies for it.
I am no stranger to boasting, but for the first time in my life, a buttress of determination backs my boast.
My grandiosity has a foundation of experience, endured hardship and time.
I think that may be the very definition of “character”.
Speaking of individualism and character, there is a very interesting article in this month’s issue of New York Magazine.
As a side effect of coming back into myself, my thirst for intellectual stimulus and current events has returned like an old and valued friend.
The information addict in me is re-awakening.
My nightstand is full up with magazines that range from The New Yorker to Vogue to National Geographic to Newsweek. American Photo to Rolling Stone. Harpers to Colors. The Atlantic Monthly to Wired. And I’ve taken to reading the newspaper with my morning double shot of Italian espresso with half & half. Just like old times. The only difference between now and then is that my magazines are in a neat and tidy little pile.
There is another difference, and that is that I see the magazines and newspapers and cold data as yet another source of distraction. They are a wonderful way to keep my left brain so occupied with factoids that my right brain becomes anesthetized to feeling too much. The secret is to fill my left brain and then let my right brain run freely barefoot in the grass and spill like milk tipped over onto the rug. Otherwise, it is just more boxes and lines and imprisonment of my energy. As much as I am a lover of neat facts, I am also a sensualist. I love the way that life feels and smells and looks. As an artist and actor and writer, I must marry the information within my left brain with the kinesthetic kaleidoscope of joys to be found within the endless pallette of pleasures that life has to offer. Feeding the left without the right makes one feel like their head is going to explode and their chest is going to cave in. It creates a sense of filled emptiness and a longing for home. It splits and confuses. One must have a yang to ones yin. An orange to ones blue.
I am a thinker, but more than that, I am a lover. And information without feelings is a cold fish indeed. That's why fish is brain food. Nothing wrong with that, but a person needs heart food just as much.
Maybe more so.
But again, I digress.
Back to the left hemisphere now...
The New York magazine article is about the current trend of people afraid to grow up. Over the last few years, this rising phenomena of overgrown children has been dubbed as the “tweeners” and “rejuveniles”. The latest label of this decidedly un-labile group of goofballs is called “The Gupps”.
Sounds like a bad garage band.
It kinda is.
“Gupp” comes from an old Star Trek episode, the one where Kirk and his crew land on a planet run only by children. No adults in sight. A society of siblings.
Kinda like America.
Most certainly like Los Angeles.
God, sometimes I really hate this fucking town.
But I digress.
The Gupps article is as fascinating as it is depressing.
The jist of it is that “grown-ups” are becoming as scarce as manual typewriters.
Most of the people I’ve encountered in work situations fit the Gupps bill perfectly.
Sneakers, messenger bags (or worse, backpacks), cool t-shirt, iPod, baseball cap, gadgets galore, clubbing, cliques, My Space, XBOX, wait a second, you’re twenty-eight years old!
Only we’re talking about boys and girls in there thirties, forties and fifties.
Junior High twenty something’s.
I’ve already been to junior high.
I hated it.
I should talk; I mean I’ve looked the part for a long time. I have the iPod, the hipster sneakers, the messenger bag, the gadgets, the PlayStation portable, the cool t-shirts…Christ, I even have the MySpace profile…and that’s OK.
Or maybe a Basset Hound. Floppy ears are a good thing.
Keep your Inifiniti, I want the Mercedes.
Not bad, but I’ll take Brooks Brothers.
“Not bad” is no way to live.
Dull is dire.
I'm a dandy, not a dude.
You can have your four-season tent from REI; I’ll take The Four Seasons Park Avenue.
I want a beautiful kitchen, with a counter where my wife can sit and read to me out of the New York Times while I cook her free range eggs and bacon. Pork Bacon, none of that turkey shit. Nitrate free though, wouldn't want my beloved to get a migraine. While I'm at it, maybe I'll be squeezing some fresh orange juice and putting it into some special little juice cups. Just for juice.
And no crappy Revere Ware either, give me Le Creuset or give me death.
I will have a bedroom that would give the Beverly Hills Hotel a run for its money, where I can sleep and dream and make love all night long to said wife.
I know that money is just money, but I aspire to have luxury and dress like a dandy.
The package should reflect the contents.
I’m setting my goals; setting sail and putting one size twelve foot in front of the other.
I want to help people feel less alone through art.
Write, act, make stuff up and be real.
Make oodles of money with my noodle.
And work my ass off.
Not job my ass off, WORK my ass off, doing something that uses my talents and taps my deepest potential like a sharp needle to an effulgent vein.
I’m going to climb the ladder step by step and look back only to see if anyone I adore needs any help coming with me.
Cause I’m bringing all the things and people that love.
All that I can fit in my luggage.
Louis Vuitton Steamer Trunks.
For much of my adult life, I’ve let a broken and lost little Baby Boy stand in my way.
He wasn’t standing in my way.
He was crying for me to pick him up.
So I have.
And here I am, man.
Here I am.
Today, I write this from a place, a job, a life that doesn’t fit in with what I want.
But I know who I am and I know where I’m going, and that is the compass to my golden mean.
Now I gotta sail myself there.
The seas may be stormy and the nights may seem dark, but the shore of success is on the horizon and I’ve set the throttle at FULL SPEED.
If you’re going through hell, don’t stop.
As of two days ago, I'm half-way to 70.
The one luxury this birthday boy won't allow himself is wasted time.
Your captain has spoken.
I’m going back to writing my book proposal and practicing my voices.