Tag Archives: Los Angeles

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 

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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

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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.

Stealing Minutes

burglarSometimes I have to remind myself to live in the moment. Because my chosen lifestyle and profession make me think I’m stuck on a treadmill without any definable destination, there’s an inclination to believe that life will always be full of possibilities. The road will always be open and the friendships and established relationships will always exist in the same form and manner to which I’m accustomed.

This notion is utterly false.

Although I have been lucky enough to physically feel the same for the last 10 years, the clock has not remained static. The people in my life have floated in and out, teaching me lessons or satisfying some temporary void. The few, concrete alliances have grown at much the same rate and in similar fashions, further blurring the hands of time. So, a general sense of limitless deadlines has remained intact.

I’m reminded of the Billy Joel lyrics, “This is the time to remember, cause it will not last forever. These are the days to hold on to, ‘cause we won’t, although we’ll want to. This is the time. But, time is gonna change. I know we’ve got to move somehow. But I don’t want to lose you now.”

Taking a second to fully embrace the events around me—knowing that everything can change in an instant—is going to be my mission. I see most of my memories with crimson-colored spectacles, but I have the bad habit of observing the present, as opposed to living in it.

Although I’d like to think of life as a boundless stretch of open road, the reality is that the opportunities to accomplish my dreams or savor shared experiences do not live in a vacuum. People will ultimately settle into whatever existence they’ve created for themselves, and that plan may or may not include me.

Everything happens for a reason…whether to teach us lessons or push us into particular directions. I don’t worry about a dismal future, but I know that an uncharted tomorrow will take a very different shape than the familiarity of today. That’s all part of the puzzle. The challenge is finding a better way to solve it.

Emerson Was Wise

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“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

A life in limbo isn’t a productivity death sentence…as long as that limbo stick keeps moving.

Having multiple irons in the fire is a good way to generate heat. But, when momentum is only the promise of future rewards, the waiting game can become water torture.

Lately, I’ve been in the odd position where a number of factors and individuals have universally conspired to make me wait. I suppose it’s a good test of my patience but, because I love to routinely take inventory of my neatly arranged ducks, allowing the ball to rest in any court other than my own is an experiment I have been less than thrilled to undergo.

Writing prospects, job opportunities, investments, publishing possibilities, acting upswings, and the self-starting loop of my freelance existence have made living in Skytown an interesting—and often frustrating—experience. To know there is gold at the end of the rainbow, without the ability to personally capture the coins, has painted my landscape a color I’ve rarely had the opportunity to see.

I’ve spent a lifetime focused on finish lines, so stopping to smell the roses has never factored into my schedule. However, it has taken this metaphorical traffic jam to shift my attention away from the results and back to the process.

We have so little control over the future, and this includes the various pitfalls that may or may not sneak beneath our feet. The best we can do is stay centered in the present moment and allow the plan to organically take shape. As long as we direct our efforts toward a general goal or intention, the stubborn details have a way of falling in line.

Regardless of my typical grind against the grain, I’m grateful for the opportunity to take stock of my environment. I have had patience forced upon me but, if those efforts result in a more lucid outlook, then this temporary interlude will have been more than justified.

Until then, it’s back to watching sunsets and waiting for checkered flags.