I had dinner the other night with my friend Robert whom I met in fourth grade. We were very best friends for two years until we left for different schools and then it was only sporadic visits, really, just a few times through high school and then a twenty year gap and then one afternoon in Los Angeles for about an hour and then another fifteen year gap and finally dinner last week in Hollywood.
Robert lives in New York now and he’s in town to produce and edit a documentary for the Discovery Channel.
We sat down at my favorite Thai restaurant and were instantly transported back to elementary school. The best of friends, remember. We were making films again in our heads with his regular 8, spring-wound motion picture camera. Thirty-eight years had not passed. It was very Einsteinian – we folded time to reconnect our lives.
This is not a unique occurrence. I remember attending a wedding, sitting down with a friend from high school to talk for a short time. Later, his wife asked him how it was seeing me again and he replied, “It’s like the conversation never stopped.” He meant the “conversation” that was our friendship, which had been set aside for twenty years.
It works conversely, too. Sometimes you meet someone for the first time and the conversation is so open and honest that you know you’ve made a friend for life. Or, perhaps you’ve known this person through eons of previous lives and the opportunity to meet again has just occurred.
I can’t help but feel that I’ve known most everyone I haven’t met and then I meet them again. It’s comforting. Here we are again, rolling through the stages of human existence, seeing the world anew with all the fears of children entering the forest. Here we are again, hello, do you need a hug, can I hold your hand through this next step, will you hold mine? Don’t worry, we’re going to make it. And then we’ll forget everything all over again. It’s heartbreaking to lose a friend but there’s the chance that we never really die we just start fresh for another go-around. But the memories, it’s a shame to lose the memories.
I see people and I know they’re on a journey and everyone must face it alone even with friends and family at their side. And we’re all so brave until we crack and then sometimes we’re braver.
It can be really terrifying and maddening and unfair, sometimes cruelly unfair, the things we are made to endure through the adventures of our lives. It can also be terrifically unique and joyful, too, seeing the world through our own set of eyes.
I have a special walk I take to the cafe where I write most days. It gives me the chance to see the world through my joyful eyes. It’s a tree-lined slice of woods near the beach and I watch butterflies and hummingbirds and crows and sometimes wild parrots flit about. And the Jacaranda trees shed their lavender flowers. And I smell the Jasmine and Society Garlic and there’s even a touch of Rosemary which I touch and bring to my nose. There’s always the sound of kids at play and dogs barking. I pet every dog I can except the short-haired ones which my wife is allergic to and sometimes I even pet the short-haired ones, too. As I descend the hill to my cafe I see the ocean spread before me.
The walk grounds me.
I guess what I’m getting at is that I find it necessary to stop, open my eyes, and listen. The world has plenty to say. And every single person I know or have just met after having met before has a story to tell.
Writing has been wonderful in that it gives me an excuse to slip between the cracks of people’s lives. To ask the really pertinent questions. Why did you go into this line of work? What makes it special? How does it make you feel? Was it the right choice? What do you really want to do? Are you happy?
Not exactly the kinds of research questions one expects to hear from an author. There’s an art to it; you work your way up to the tough ones. You start with things like, “How many quarts of blood typically drain from a human body?”
That’s a detail question. Anyone can pull the answer from a quick Google search. “Are you happy with the decisions you made in life?” Try Googling that one.
I’m really struggling with my current work-in-progress right now and I’ve determined the reason I’m flailing is I’m trying to tell an entertaining story and not a story about LIFE.
I don’t want to be remembered as a plot-meister. Plot is important and I’m a devout plotaholic. But plot without purpose is pointless. And, while a character’s purpose is not always known, his search for purpose is everything. The most interesting stories I’ve read involve the hero’s search for purpose while he’s busy chasing the murdering sons-of-bitches who did him wrong. I’m not interested in the chase unless I’m interested in the character.
Oh, I have babbled on today. I’ve decided that my blogs will take me where they must. Their primary purpose is to keep me engaged because if I’m engaged then maybe you’ll be engaged, too.
So, here’s a few good questions to throw off your day. For those of you who chose a career separate from writing, why did you go into this line of work? What makes it special? How does it make you feel? Was it the right choice? What do you really want to do? Are you happy? And, if any of this makes you feel uncomfortable, how many quarts of blood typically drain from a human body?