DTPW Rewind: Where’s the Real Life in Your Illusion?
(This entry was originally published on Snarky’s Machine)
I first came to Los Angeles many years ago with the hopes of doing a lot of writing, but instead I did a lot of walking. Given the profoundly accustomed car culture of the landscape, I was an anomaly as I walked everywhere and glimpsed at apartments I would never live in, restaurants I wanted to eat at but never got around to, and bars where I wanted to drink at with friends I didn’t have yet. Los Angeles was my compromise, one of many in a lifetime. Los Angeles is the city where people who are too afraid to go to New York end up at, in the same way that Chicago is the city where people who are too afraid to go to Los Angeles end up at.
Having lived, loved and written in Los Angeles – okay, the Valley and occasionally on the Westside – his observations took me on a long, semi-sentimental journey, recalling my own strolls down the side streets parallel to Wilshire (so folks wouldn’t think me a hooker) in order to just walk and think about writing. Living in Los Angeles one finds no shortage of folks talking about writing and possibly even a few even engaged in the act of writing – though I never met them. For the most part I realized the likelihood of getting any degree of writing done in a place with such weather as rather low.
So I moved east.
Not to NYC, but to New England. New York City has never appealed to me even as a vacation destination. Every time I’ve gone there I’ve been glad to get out. I’m sure being a writer who dreams of a nice little loft in some place big-fish-small-pondish like say – Madison, Wisconsin – and an Ann Magnuson level of fame probably makes me a little off, but in my own defense I never implied that I wasn’t.
Moving east to a rural state where things like Contra Dancing and consciousness raising groups inexplicable pass for entertainments means I get so much freaking writing done. I would say I wrote more in the first dismal winter of my residence in Vermont than possibly the entire adult portion of my tenure in Los Angeles.
Those who romanticize writing life in general or in Vermont specifically, let me tell you how completely freaking ridiculous your romantic notions are.
Firstly, I’ve lived here a real long time and while I’d admit to being a bit of a recluse – writing, like many other things, isn’t accomplished by chow chow or committee – and I don’t think I’ve ever come across a group of people who I would consider my “writing peers”. This isn’t to suggest that I’m so freaking fantagical and utterly devoid of peers, but it is to suggest my writing soul mates don’t live in Vermont.
Contrary to what this entry might lead one to believe, I don’t actually like talking about writing. Though oddly enough I do enjoy writing about my disinterest in talking about my “process” or projects or whatever else I don’t find useful to discuss as it relates to writing.
Also, the weather tends to be quite uncooperative here. Granted, having living all over the world and been subjected to the best and worst Mother Nature has to offer – though more often the best – I might just being framing things wrong. That said, I really do not like cold weather. Moreover, I do not like having to leave my house for even the necessities when I can see my breath. This might put quite the crunch on regrowing the economy, I gotta tell you it’s been a real boon for my writing. You’d be amazed how utterly productive you can be when you don’t leave your house except to snag Netflix envelopes and clear out the junk mail in your box.
And in the deepest part of the winter it would not surprise me to pass Scatman Crothers in the hallway on my way to the kitchen for a project completion celebration.
This is taking me to my recent Netflix instant view addiction – Californication, a terribly cheeky take on a writer who seems not unlike Jonathan Ames, except not as interesting or as funny. Still, he’s played by a bloaviated Duchovny and I suppose that’s got to count for something. I don’t know what I find more fascinating, the fact that he’s referenced as a writer at least twenty times per episode despite rarely actually writing or the fact Duchovny thinks he’s fooling anyone by sucking in his gut for all his shirtless scenes.
Forget Whitney Houston and the crew, he’s the real mofo “waiting to exhale”.
I laughed at this passage from The Traw Bros who echoed some of the things I observed from my own viewing of the show:
I’m pretty sure this whole series started as a masturbatory exercise for Kapinos, whose only prior credit is some work on Dawson’s Creek (OK…). The comparison to Bukowski isn’t a minor one; there’s a lot of it in this script. However, it’s a thoroughly 21st century take on that womanizing old curmudgeon. Amplified by the great core of actors next to Duchovny, Californication is an entertaining and effective show. Natascha McElhone (who some of you may know as “the chick from Ronin“) does a spledid job of playing Moody’s ex. Evan Handler is pretty hilarious as Hank’s agent. Plus, they show a lot of boobs and that’s never a bad thing.
It should come as no surprise the show is filmed in Los Angeles – you know, the place where writers never actually write – and of course showcases the best of semi-famous, “writer hot” guy novelist tropes. I’ll watch Duch read the side of a cereal box so that explains my emotional investment, but I’m just not sure if I should support that which clearly casts my kind in such unflattering and boozy way.
That isn’t to say I don’t know male writers like Hank Moody – I do. And certainly poon hound vectored male writers are by no means a novel or unfamiliar concept to me. I actually went to undergrad and graduate school with a few of them and more importantly, I didn’t tend to dislike them. I think it is that aspect keeping me glued to the tube. Those types did always make me chuckle and while I probably wouldn’t model my writer self after them, I definitely found myself impressed by the way they conduct themselves through various fuck ups and scandalous reversals of fortune. Always with such unflappable dignity! And as much as it pains to me admit, they also tended to be writers whose work I actually read – rather than skimmed – when I had to workshop their stuff for class. I realize this casts me in rather unflattering light, but that’s okay, cause my talent and general fabulousness more than compensates for it.
But back to our Mike Le – who is in the words of Vonnegut, “My kind of saint” – his post brought me back to a sweet and more innocent era of my writing life where breathing, experiencing and avoiding anything approximating writing were at times as compelling to me as actually putting fingers to keyboard.
I won’t lie. Sometimes I totally miss those days, particularly now that I’ve survived yet another winter of discontent. Okay, I wasn’t actually unhappy. In fact I was really quite happy this past winter. However, I’ll be really happy when I can break out the cha cha heels and the fresh summer pedicures and leave the winter and all its literary illusions to The Shining behind.