the pacific coast highway not taken
When I was 25ish, and all pepper, no salt, I was writing screenplays constantly. Every waking hour basically. And when I wasn’t sitting at my computer, fingers dancing excitedly, I was jotting notes on every surface that ink would stick to.
I became friends with a writer in LA. He was a fan of my writing and was giving me advice on how to get my stuff in the right self-interested hands. He was very helpful. A legit “solid dude” in world where they are unnecessarily rare. And just having that contact with someone out there, living what I thought was my dream, inspired me.
So I kept writing and writing.
One day he told me, “Man, you should be out here.”
I mean, I knew it already.
We chatted about the networking and various opportunities. And we may have discussed girls in short skirts year round.
He said he could get me a day job as a reader at one of the studios or production companies. He’d let me crash on his couch until I got set up.
I thought about it a lot, but the universe wasn’t so much down with the idea. Also I was becoming disillusioned with the querying and submitting process.
I had (have?) a naive idea that writing should be a meritocracy. If my writing was good enough, someone would find it, pay me lots of cash, and I would buy a big house and date an actress just before she becomes hugely famous.
Solid plan, right?
For a while I thought it was going to work out. I had a screenplay optioned and half the financing was in place (before it crapped out.) I had a lovely chat on the phone one afternoon with Lauren Graham’s agent. I was getting awesome feedback.
It was just a matter of time.
Until it wasn’t.
I stopped writing screenplays.
But I decided that I would still practice writing. Everything. Every format and genre imaginable.
And I have.
I was reminded of all this earlier today when I was reading Kate’s blog and found that she used a lyric from Counting Crows’ “Long December” as one of her post titles.
That song was on one of my writing playlists on itunes back in the day.
There are obvious “come to California” lyrics in it, but also it struck me as being both full of longing and possibilities.
I dig that.
I’d listen to the song as I searched apartment listings in L.A.
I’d listen to the song as I read his emails about the parties he went to and people he met.
I’d listen to the song as I imagined writing poolside in the never-ending sunshine.
On days like today, when I play the song, I still stumble into the “what if” rabbit hole.
If I had moved, would I have dated who I dated? Would I be the me I am now?
I’m batting .500 on the exes since then that I would trade in for that possibility. But the good .500, I would never change.
And I’ve been able to be there for my family in good times and really, soul-crushingly bad. I would never, ever trade that in.
But then the romantic in me clears his throat.
He steps forward.
He gives me that look.
And my mind wanders to who I didn’t meet.
That is really what the song is about for me.
A lot of songs remind me of different women I dated or wanted to date or made out with in the rain.
That song reminds me of a woman I didn’t meet.
Of her messy ponytail, tall leather boots and jeans Saturdays I didn’t get to spend.
Of the peculiar thing she did where she sniffed every meal before she’d eat it. Even if she cooked it.
Of how she had different voices for different times of the day.
Of how she had a smile just for me. Only ever me.
Of how she kicked me in the ass while having my back.
Of the way she wore dresses. Like they were the official uniform of perfection.
Of the way she danced like everyone was watching and she just didn’t give a fuck.
I sometimes wonder if she’s driving around L.A. right now, listening to a song that makes her long for a guy that appreciates all of those things about her, and points out even more.
So I’m going to keep writing.
And I’m going to keep my eye out for her. I really want to see that dance.
Maybe it’s still just a matter of time.
Yeah. I think so.