Not too long ago I was a production assistant for a video shoot that took place in a house. It was less of a house and more of a mansion if a mansion were trying to be a woodsy, zen-like cabin. There was a large stone statue of Buddha and citrus trees and white gravel that made you think of white sand in Zen gardens. I haven’t yet seen the video from that shoot but recently watched this beautiful video.
The house was located off Mulholland Drive, on a private road. David Lynch is right about Mulholland Drive. I mean, he captures the feeling of the road. If you’ve ever driven that road late at night, you know what I am talking about. It feels magical and dark, like the woods in a fairy tale. Recently I listened to Llorando repeatedly. I also watched the movie for the third time. I wasn’t watching it, I was studying it. Also, it’s weird that I want to be friends with the cowboy, right?
Sometimes I feel anxious when I’m in nice neighborhoods. Nice being an understatement. Filthy dirty rich neighborhoods. On my way to the house, I drove higher and higher up the hill, passing mansion after mansion and thought of Dear Sugar’s column Tiny Beautiful Things. She writes, “Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering.” I did my best not to make assumptions.
Sometimes people make assumptions, other times people feel envious. Envy looks like this and envy gives way to bitterness. In Hit the Ground Running, Bill Callahan sings, “The bitterness is a lowest sin. A bitter man rots from within. I’ve seen his smile, yellow and brown.”
Can you be envious of a person if you have empathy for that person? Probably not. Roxane Gay writes about empathy. You can see that she’s trying to figure out what empathy is and how it applies to complex situations. I believe empathy takes practice and can be taught.
The man who owned the mansion was a writer. He was a funny guy in that he beamed with joy and engaged all crew members in philosophical discussions. I asked what he wrote and he said he never sticks to one genre. I looked him up online. He writes screenplays.
That evening, Davy Rothbart called me about an assignment related to his documentary Medora, which premiered at SXSW. I told him about the writer and his house and Davy said, Sometimes we think you have to be an A-list celebrity to make it big, but you can just be a nice writerly guy who gets lucky.
Did you read Davy’s latest book My Heart is An Idiot. One of my favorite scenes is when he is in the back of a van, listening to Mellencamp and thinking about America.
Did you read The Rumpus Interview with Davy Rothbart? In the interview he says, “One of the best things about traveling and doing tours isn’t just falling in love, but meeting awesome people. A lot of my best friends in the world are people I met pretty randomly. At a bar, at a theatre where we went to do our show.” I don’t travel very much, but I think the best part of life is meeting awesome people. I met Davy Rothbart pretty randomly at a bar on Valencia Street. We both happened to be visiting San Francisco from Los Angeles. Actually, I met Kyle Kinane that night, too. We all just happened to be in San Francisco. I actually roped Kyle into giving me a ride back to L.A. and gave him my copy of “In Our Time” as a thank you.
One of my favorite passages of all times is in that book.
While the bombardment was knocking the trench to pieces at Fossalta, he lay very flat and sweated and prayed, “Oh Jesus Christ get me out of here. Dear Jesus, please get me out. Christ, please, please, please, Christ. If you’ll only keep me from getting killed I’ll do anything you say. I believe in you and I’ll tell everybody in the world that you are the only thing that matters. Please, please, dear Jesus.” The shelling moved further up the line. We went to work on the trench and in the morning the sun came up and the day was hot and muggy and cheerful and quiet. The next night back at Mestre he did not tell the girl he went upstairs with at the Villa Rossa about Jesus. And he never told anybody.
Your must read for Saturday is Jory John’s Rumpus Interview with Dan Kennedy. It’s a long one but, like all of Jory’s interviews, great and worth your time and attention.
Here’s an excerpt:
“There’s a huge thing in America where, basically, your forties start at twenty-five. And people want to be famous by the time they’re thirty, and accomplished by the time they’re thirty-one. We all have these weird timelines, or drives, or whatever. If you really break down an average life, the first eighteen years are almost a write-off in terms of getting anything done, because you’re learning everything from how to walk, to what word to say for something to eat. You know?”
Yes, Dan Kennedy, I do know.