Tag Archives: Los Angeles

The Feeling of Familiar

Walking around the world as creatures of contentment and relishers of routine, it’s easy to assume that breaking a pattern to add some spice to the monotonous mix means upsetting the setup by tossing a pot of pasta against the wall to see what sticks and what falls.

However, having recently upended my entire life to return to the place where the building blocks of those comfort zones were first stacked, I’m learning that revisiting the starting line can serve as a thoroughly unexpected chance to refresh and reload. There is a certain novelty to presumption, and jack has been waiting to pounce from his hiding place boxes at even the slightest turn of his crank.

Time is impatient. While I was off chasing adventures, the town that imprinted itself onto my core code grew its own legs and learned to run…and with a heavy hunk of my heart still stuck in another city, it’s been taxing trying to keep pace.

But the breeze that blew me back to basics and the rationale to bunt and steal home remain front and center. I’m constantly reminded of the clock and its speedy sand.

Without the arms to control anything outside my direct reach, I’ll focus on what matters most, strap on those running shoes, and continue to track that elusive feeling of familiar.

Adolescence Interrupted

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Goodnight, L.A.

“‘Cause I could break like a bird.
Or I could swallow the sea.
It seems like the daylight is coming,
and no one is watching but me.”    —Counting Crows

With a weighty heart, I’m walking away from the city I’ve called home for the last 15 years. The only other time I was ushered toward the exit was at the completion of my college internship with the Beastie Boys in ‘99. I knew I still had so much left to accomplish, so much to explore. But I was dragged back east by the cuffs of my jeans, fingernails scraping the sidewalk. The most electrifying and enlightening period of growth I’d had in my young life was stamped with a finite expiration, and it was time to turn in the keys and retreat to the familiar. But I vowed I’d return to plant my flag.

I fell in love with this town from the minute my toes touched the smog-laden sidewalks. The energy. The hope. The constant buzz of brains consumed by a solitary pursuit. The land of dreams and dreamers, populated by an army of idealists and artists, is precisely where I found the welcoming, open arms I’d been waiting to fall into. It’s been almost 20 years since I was first smitten with a seductress disguised as Southern California, and it all zipped by in a hazy blink.

People talk about the nice weather and the constant traffic, but it’s so much more than that. The pound of the pavement and the cycles of the Pacific are inspiring, fueling, energizing, and driving us to be more fully engaged versions of ourselves. It’s less about the artificial sheen of glitz and glamour and more about the grounded grind. “Making it” doesn’t make us better, and most of the memories we’ll carry are collected during the pursuit.

This time, I’m leaving with a lot more knowledge about how the pistons move inside the grand Hollywood machine, but I remain just as enamored with the progressive perspective and overwhelming sense of hope that lives in this coastal town. I’ve seen the man behind the curtain, and I still believe he’s a wizard.

Over the last 14 months, I took a deep dive into this battered psyche on an exploration to find a meaningful justification and a greater sense of purpose for the next chapter. I slid a series of scenarios in and out of vacant brain spaces like a manic game of Tetris, and the only feasible fix for the constant trepidation about the impending tidal wave cresting above my head was a severe shift in my course trajectory.

Taking time to take stock of the reality that dwindling days disappear at a greater rate with every passing year is an important practice. Routines and rituals serve to speed our clocks, and if we don’t come up for air to check in with ourselves, we’ll drown in the monotony.

So, I watched another year slide off the calendar, spent some minutes trying to remember more than five truly significant moments from the last decade, and then made the decision to not allow ten more rotations around the sun to vanish by simply ignoring their pace.

We have very limited screen time on this show. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to see how the shoes fit when we’re 80 or 90. Only a select few will push much beyond that.  Some of us get half as many chances to wipe the slate clean and start again.

Splitting the people I care about most into two groups on opposite sides of the country has never been a comfortable arrangement to accept. But I refuse to live with the regret of inaction. If I don’t spin the wheel to move the rudder, the scenery never changes. I’ll wake up an old man, wishing I’d better preserved the bonds that built me, and I’ll think of all the sunsets I took for granted, arrogantly expecting the following day to dawn.

I’m so grateful to have spent the majority of my prime years in this uniquely special city. To have been surrounded by an ironclad support circle as I navigated the wildly unpredictable waves that routinely accompany a creative life was the sole reason I was able to swim for so long.

But it’s time to switch tracks and replace stations. Let’s see where some of the other trains travel.

Adolescence Interrupted

Listening for the Unreturned Echo


“Sometimes the world seems like a big hole. You spend all your life shouting down it and all you hear are echoes of some idiot yelling nonsense down a hole.”      -Adam Duritz

I double-checked the address. The flap was sealed without a crease. A Forever stamp was cleanly tucked into the corner.  I watched the mail carrier slide it into his satchel. An irrefutable delivery confirmation teased the idea of progress. So why am I left staring at empty inboxes? How can every call made to the universe go unanswered? Why should a desire to bring positive change be met with such opposition?

Recently, I was discussing the sensation of life in LA with some friends. I used the metaphor of a series of tall concrete walls. Placed strategically in a circle with just enough space between them to present the false illusion of freedom, the only way to escape the enclosure is to sprint, at full velocity, directly into the unbending slab. You crash, stand up, shake the dust from your shirt, and then speed head first into the next one. Being an isolated idea maker isn’t a job for the faint-hearted.

In your mind, you believe it’s tenacity and the will to succeed. You subscribe to all the theories that recommend attacking a problem from a unique angle, never doing things the same way and expecting a different result, keeping your nose to the grindstone, etc. There is an addictive false sense of forward momentum, simply because one foot is traveling in front of the other. But racing on the surface of quicksand will only bring you so far. Like dancing in the open jaw of an alligator, execution ultimately falls short of strategy.

So, is the answer to stop trying? Should you simply refuse to acknowledge the impetus to help others through your work? Do you chalk up years of tireless toil to one giant strikeout? After innumerable swings and countless misses, do you throw the bat to the ground, shake your head, and wave that white flag?

No. Not now. Not ever.

Adolescence Interrupted 

The Fixer

I spend the majority of my time tucked behind computer screens, scrutinizing every comma, semicolon, and em dash, in an endless effort to peel back the layers of literary smokescreens in hopes of revealing an author’s genuine intent. After years of tapping squarely-lettered keys, I can resolutely stand behind one indisputable discovery. There is almost always more meaning in the mistakes.

It is my job to bend language by squeegeeing sentences to wipe away the dirty ambiguity born from a writer’s internal monologue. We are all guilty of celebrating the dizziness achieved from riding the carousel of private broken records. It’s not our fault. Revelations routinely sound sweeter when they’re produced between our own ears.

But consistently revising these misappropriated intentions makes me wonder how much real-world editing we do on a daily basis. How many conversations are buffered to limit impact? How often do we feign interest in the details of other people’s lives to pretend we still share a connection? What does truth look like…unabridged?

I am beyond lucky to live in this pretty plastic city, surrounded by a core group of friends who shun pretense and smoke-blowing so adamantly, we barely even notice the permeating artificiality waiting with disinterested fangs at every corner. We’ve miraculously been able to avoid the bite by floating above the nonsense and holding firmly to our East Coast roots while baking our skin in the California sun.

But on a macrocosmic level, the question remains. Are we editing ourselves so severely that even the notion of veracity will someday sit beside 1950s table manners in a dusty museum of relics?

Truth isn’t necessarily the most popular concept to hang a hat on these days, but its extinction will undoubtedly leave some craters no clever repartee can fill. We might be wise to lay the eraser down for a little while and speak from the heart. What’s the worst that could happen? Honesty?

Adolescence Interrupted

New Puzzle, New Pieces

puzzle1

Duck and jab. Bob and weave. I thought I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a life of creative exploration. Little did I know, I was simply training to be a prizefighter. This journey has been less about producing art and more about the ability to take a punch and remain standing.

So I refuse to fall. If every path were a straight line, there would be no satisfaction at the finish. If the attainment of goals was as simplistic as checking off boxes on a list, we’d all feel grossly overcompensated for the paltry energy output and stolen shortcuts. There is a sense of earned accomplishment when the road to success is littered with landmines. Unfortunately, those bombs have a sneaky knack for detonation.

Still, this recent realignment has painted my canvas with a fresh coat of hope. I have to remember that each time barriers were built to slow my progress, I looked back fondly on those obstacles as reminders that I veered off course. Thankfully, many of those failed intentions would have been disastrous, and the universe made sure I was forced to see outside the tunnel. It’s not our job to question why one door closes, but to look carefully for the next handle to turn.

This year will be loaded with constant steps toward the light of possibility. Lessons never cease to be learned, and those scrapes and bruises give us the time and space necessary to heal and plan.

Adolescence Interrupted

Gobbling Gratitude

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the eve of another Thanksgiving that will be spent volunteering with an incredible organization in Los Angeles called Gobble Gobble Give, I can’t help but reflect on what can only be described as a momentous universal shift in luck, opportunity, and resources.

As history has proven during my last decade on the left coast, life is generally a series of lofty surprises and roller coaster dips and dives. The unpredictability is enough to summon madness, while the discovery of hidden coins in the corners of the carpet never ceases to inject carefully-calculated doses of hope and possibility into creatively-dehydrated veins.

The last couple of months have been so cosmically summoned, it would be impossible to believe some unbridled forces of focus and intention weren’t at play. The juxtaposition between gasping for air and getting strapped with an oxygen mask in a matter of weeks not only made me contemplate the untapped potential of my influential energy, but shone a spotlight on the frivolity of spending any time or effort fixating on flaws.

This is not to say I’ve slowed my growing obsession with economic and cultural inequality, or that I’ve abandoned the various doomsday scenarios that cycle through my mind like a broken horror film reel on an unattended projector. I’m simply recognizing the gifts being delivered, disguised as happenstance, and I’m accepting them with a smile.

I am healthy and fortunate and loved. There is no greater reward than that of authentic, reciprocated care and respect, and I count myself legitimately lucky for the small corner I’ve carved.

But, I almost cried building my donation care packages for tomorrow—realizing the scope of suffering that exists for so many— and the light that glows inside eyes that have no reason to shine will forever be a reminder of the relative nature of this journey. Those who have so little, saddled with an almost impossible climb out of despair, can still find faith to walk into the unknown, without hesitation.

We may be a broken society with warped priorities and blind, detrimental ambition. But, some of us are still holding tightly to tubes of glue, waiting for a chance to mend the fractured pieces.

New York State of Mind

photoI guess I’ve never thought of myself as a real New Yorker. I was raised an hour north of Manhattan, and I had ample opportunities to visit the city for a variety of reasons. But, other than watching those twins crumble with the rest of my Midtown co-workers and finding unity inside the chaos, I never identified with the New York mentality, attitude, or aesthetic.

Los Angeles felt like home the moment I stepped foot on the Left Coast. I bathed in the energy and the crunchy, earthy attitude, and wrapped myself in the beachy progressiveness that permeates SoCal living. But, I never realized how important a role my Northeast concrete played in that foundation.

See, whether I knew it or not, New York pumped a lot of grit and grind into this blood and inside these bones. It made me street smart, tough, and able to see directly through the smog-sized fog of bullshit that hangs over this city like a storm cloud. I knew when people were lying to steal more fuel for their personal rockets, and I learned to never give the benefit of the doubt before it was earned. I gravitated toward a predominantly East Coast-rooted group of friends, and I’d bet that wasn’t due to freak coincidence.

But, having recently returned from my annual US Open pilgrimage, where I was able to take in the joys of family, unimpeded roads, and…rain, I have felt so far from that giant security blanket near the Hudson. Plane rides provide the illusion that we’re not on opposite sides of the country, but the brevity of travel can’t make up for the reality of miles.

I will adjust, as my history has shown. I will embrace all the benefits of evading fall and winter weather like a clever cat burglar sitting in the sun with his spoils. But, this renewed appreciation for my provenance will remain.

Thank you, New York, for mapping my route and filling my tires. Your infused weight has grounded me beneath this persistent charade.

There Are Voices In My Apartment

dj2Having been raised by a single mother, with no siblings wrestling for attention or screaming to be noticed, I became quite accustomed to the sanctity of silence. I could sit on the floor, lost in isolated make believe, organizing my action figures and creating layered scenarios for their roles in my narrative. There was very little interruption, and as a result, I became fairly comfortable wearing my own skin.

These patterns continued for most of my life. I slid into the safety of a quiet, dark room, and I found I was most productive and clear when the rest of the world disappeared into sleep. All the static of the day seemed to melt beneath the sound of a steady hum. I found keyboards and computer screens, books and balance.

But, for the last decade, a new variety of brain food has worked its way onto my plate. I fear I have become addicted to podcasts.

Now, I’m not actively seeking an intervention. I don’t think it’s quite at that point. But the sounds of endless interviews, medical information, human interest stories, comedic discourse, public radio pieces, fitness advice, and pop culture references have permeated my living space to the point of lunacy.

This isn’t entirely harmful. I’ve got a hungry head, and it needs its snacks. But, floating on a comfort cloud of strangers’ voices can do a pretty great job of bamboozling you into thinking there’s more than one cook in the kitchen. It’s like a big, fat audio comfort blanket, and I’m swaddled like a preemie on the prairie.

So, I will continue to walk into that dark unknown, ears open and mind alert. But, be prepared for some lengthy conversations when our paths finally cross. I’ve logged a lot of listening hours, and I’ve got some things to share.

Saying Goodbye

balloon1At this point, it’s probably pretty obvious that I’m not a big fan of saying goodbye to the constants in my world. Chasing an elusive dream of stasis has proved disappointing and disheartening, and this latest realization has added another slap to an already-bruised face.

I have built a core group of friends that I can say without hesitation is the most supportive, open, caring, and genuine collection of males you will ever find in our modern, self-obsessed, and apathetic society. These men have been in my life for the last 12-17 years, and we are a circle that has defied all male stereotypes, rejecting the notion of “bros,” eschewing emotional safeguarding, and almost always choosing hugs over handshakes.

We have been an intricate and intimate puzzle with interchangeable pieces, falling in and out of the picture when love, work, and commitments dictated our level of contact. We welcomed new members and did our best to embrace rookies into the fold. But, the foundation was constructed from memories and moments, and regardless of connections made later in life, there is a finite number of people who have genuine shared history.

I have been guilty of taking these relationships for granted, assuming they would always be waiting for me when needed. I wanted to believe the band would look and sound the same, regardless of time. The comfort of knowing my most valued friendships all resided in the same city was like a giant security blanket. Even when I wasn’t around it, I was still protected from the cold.

Now, a vital member of the collective is leaving. The news was a mild surprise, having known the prospect was on the table. But, the sadness and nostalgia accompanying the announcement are more than I expected. Some of my earliest and most cherished LA memories and experiences are directly credited to the bond we built and the easy alliance born from the most unexpected common ground.

Those tennis days and music nights were some of my happiest. Even when I was barely working, struggling to navigate the financial hills and (mostly) valleys of this city, he was the one person who visited me each weekend. Breaking the loneliness and monotony of those stress-heavy weeks by hitting some forehands and sharing a quick lunch meant the world to me. I don’t know if he ever knew that. I hope he does now.

People grow and change and move. Life is lived out of a box, and there are adventures waiting for this wide-eyed explorer. But, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to honor the transparency of this blog and admit that dry eyes have not accompanied this post.

Losing some comfortable life consistency is nothing compared to losing a friend.

Puppet Shows for All the People

photo (2)Is life an illusion?

Now, I’m not asking this in a Matrix-y, alien-controlled consciousness kind of way. But, the more I step back to observe modern society and the dance we all do for each other, the more I see the green screen.

There’s an inherent irony in the fact that we crave reality and authenticity, but seem to do everything in our power to present ourselves in a wholly contrived and artificial light. This goes beyond stiffly posed selfies and the artifice of our various social networks. There are examples everywhere.

I spend a lot of time on sets, so I get to see the wizard behind the curtain on a regular basis. Still, each time I watch an actor or product in extreme closeup, only to see an army of disinterested crew members sleepily checking their phones or watching the clock, it’s hard to invest in the emotional stock of an actress with tears streaming down her face.

It’s all about framing, but I suppose we crave this type of art forgery because we keep buying. Audiences at live tapings coaxed to holler and scream at the most mundane jokes, the epilepsy-inducing graphics at sporting events, or “reality” shows cut and edited to the point of absurdity have all become so commonplace that any version of something substantial is merely a filtered illusion.

We are hyper engaged and video crazed, and real life moves way too slowly. Instant gratification at breakneck broadband speeds and temporary comprehension are the trends of the day.

Now, I admit I’m the first to jump on a technological bandwagon, but this is only the roller coaster climb. We’re not slowing down and we’re not asking for a return to accuracy or purity. We hunger for the fireworks and we like to believe people can be superheroes. But if the gimmicks get us through the day, who am I to argue? Life is tough enough.

I guess it’s time to go live vicariously through more of the French Open.