the specific weight of passion

The first professional dream I chased didn’t work out so well. It was the Hollywood dream, the writer and director version. People liked my writing, but never enough to commit any time or money to it. I had a series of near misses, almosts. My life in Los Angeles fell apart, and I left, driving out of town eight years to the day, on the same road I drove in on. I told myself: I can still do this, I can still write, but write somewhere real, write outside the fishbowl. You can’t go into a 7-11 in LA without seeing the trades. Everyone either acts or writes, at least in the circles I knew. Enough. Go have a life, one worth sharing, and then you can come back.

I lied to myself; I know I won’t go back. Tonight L. and I were watching the extras on “Garden State” and there is an extended making-of documentary. After yet another problem during production she said, “I would never have the patience for this.”

I thought about the work she does, thinking it required even more patience, and replied, “I bet you would have it if this was something you wanted to do.”

“No,” was the instant reply, “you know how I hate setbacks, and they have tons of them. And it’s not something I’d want to do.” I realized that even though we were both facing the television we were talking and thinking in different directions, and I let it go. I still love movies, and I still dream, now and then, of making them. I have the patience for the process. But a few days ago someone wanted to read one of my screenplays, and it was a completely alien process getting it to them. I had to do a search to find the files; I generated nearly 5 GB of photographs today, and a little 250k file I wrote five years ago easily gets lost in the chaos. The form seemed unfamiliar, and the characters weren’t people I remembered, even the one that was supposed to be me. I skimmed a few pages but got too uncomfortable to continue. I skipped to the end to make sure the formatting seemed to make it to the PDF, then sent it on its way.

Three paragraphs ago I first typed “I know I won’t be back”, as though I’m still there, watching myself about to leave. But I am years gone. Some of my friends are having some success there right now – some modest, some huge – and I had a moment of hope, of hey, I’m smart too, maybe I can do this. But they get the work done, and I don’t, and some part of me must believe I don’t want to do it, or else… why don’t I?

So there went dream one.

Dream two has had a recent crash and burn, and the freshness of the wounds is part of why I’ve been a bit publicly scarce recently. The was some ugly events, and depression hit me harder than that car that shattered my leg some years back. (That sounds trite, but, well… the leg in seventeen pieces, bone poking out of my skin, didn’t hurt nearly as much as this.) I know I’ve been very quiet about the specifics of it, but I’m afraid it still needs to be that way; it’s possible part of the crash was related to me not keeping my mouth shut about something, although it’s only in my blackest moods do I think it was my fault. On the good days, I realize the goal in the dream quite simply wasn’t there. I did good work, got it in front of the right people, but it cannot be my fault I didn’t get to somewhere that doesn’t exist.

Not quite all is lost; I did even better work after the evaluation, and soon, perhaps even tomorrow, I’ll send that along. It’s always possible that my only problem here is timing, and the moment I seek will come along. But increasingly I realize that even if it does, it won’t be quite what I expected, quite what I hoped, quite what I thought I needed. Even the best possible outcome of the reality of this situation is not likely to reach even the lowest hopes of my dreams.

I got weirdly, oddly, emergency-roomly sick last week; the specific are for another day, but I think somehow some of it was a reaction to the stresses I was placing on myself, and somehow realizing a dream was essentially over days before that fact reached my conscious brain. I’ve been trying to pick up the pieces, aim at modest goals. The dandelion thing, a plan to smooth the ruts on the west side of my yard, ways to finance a better fence. (I’d put ‘clean out my garage’ on the list but it is so NOT a modest goal; I opened the front of it today and a tower of boxes fell out, attacking my car. I used to care about all the shit in there, but now I just want to find someone to rent me a damn dumpster.)

Maybe it’s all okay. Maybe the first dream was just too broad, and the best plan is not to hope for your name in lights, but satisfaction with a story well told, a story you felt compelled to tell no matter what the outcome. Maybe the second dream was just too specific, and the right hope is to be pleased with the work produced, and not with what one or four or five specific people think of it, even if they’re the ones with the checkbooks.

All I can do for now, I guess, is keep writing. Here, for now, and longer pieces, maybe. Tell a story I want to tell, and be happy telling it. Or if I can’t be happy – and really, I sort of doubt I can – at least feel, when I’m done, I’ve told it correctly.

All I can do for now, I guess, is keep taking photographs. I have a backlog of “arty” crap to sort through, maybe eight thousand frames, and today went and took about five hundred more. It’s parade season here in southwest Idaho. I haven’t even peeked at my photos from Star Mule Days last week, although I expect at most one keeper. Today was Eagle Fun Days, and the second half of the parade is really an excuse for a community water fight; I got bold and decided I was not likely to be directly targeted if I was with a camera and not a water cannon and collateral damage would be okay, so I marched out in the street to get some shots of the biggest fights. In particular, a firefighter on top of a BLM fire truck vs. a city firefighter with a firehose on the street; it was a spectacular amount of water and should make for some fun photos, although probably not anything anyone would want to hang on their wall. But that’s okay; I’ve got those eight thousand other frames to consider. And if none of them do the job, I’ll take eight thousand more. Next weekend are more parades.

This evening a storm moved through right at sunset. The sun got underneath the clouds, making the clouds glow pink and the rain shine like falling gold. Neither of us was in a mood to cook so after the baby was in bed L. ran to get us a five dollar pizza. She said on the way back she saw a rainbow, and then lightning behind it.

“Was it a bolt of lighting or was it sheet lightning?”

“It was like a flash. Is that what it’s called?”

“Yeah.” I couldn’t remember if I learned that fact from the Weather Channel, making it true, or from my father, making it an unknown, but decided that was good enough. I hope when my kid gets older she verifies everything I say with some actual authoritative source.

“A bolt would have cool, though.”


It’s late and I should sleep, and I know I’ll picture a rainbow I didn’t see and a bolt of lightning that didn’t happen. Not just tonight, but for a while. A specific dream, yes, but one that can stay a dream, be some sort of symbol in my head. Tonight, that is enough.


This was published on 12 Jun 2005.
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