“I’m taking a ride down to your place, I’ll be dropping by tonight, You’ll hear me coming from miles away, Screaming banshees haunting my motorbike,
Taking a ride down to your place, Droppin’ by in just a little while, And I don’t care if we fuck or we talk or we cry, I just miss you, I wanna to kiss you to death tonight,” – from “Kiss You to Death” by Alkaline Trio (Skiba, Andriano, Grant)
I moved to Los Angeles.
When I researched how to write a good short story, Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 rules popped up and he said to start as near to the end as possible, so I started at the end.
I moved to Los Angeles with our story optioned and a twelve episode first season ordered from HBO.
I’m back in Toronto now because that first season was renewed for four more, and after five years, HBO and I decided to call it quits on Astoria and move on.
I’m back in Toronto because I have no fucking clue what to write next. The thought of sitting down at a computer and trying to be creative gives me skin-crawling and chest pounding panic attacks with the constant thought of, who fucking cares, pounding through my skull. I had been drinking too much, smoking too much, trying to fuck too much, and I hated waking up. The only reason I did get up is because if I didn’t, I would feel like I had wasted the day. But I ended up wasting the day anyway watching some inane bullshit on Netflix, jerking off way too much, and then, when the sun went down, I would tread to the local bar to be around other human beings. The stupid thing was that I didn’t even really want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to be around people. It made me feel like my life had significance. The show was successful enough, which means that my writing impacted people in enough ways, which should feel fulfilling, but in our online world of swiping left and right, not only on people and love but also the next bullshit thing, I can’t help but feel Astoria is already that next bullshit thing people will sloth through hungover eyes, or have on during their foreplay to a Netflix and chill fuckfest.
Though Erica left before the worst of everything, it’s no wonder she has had enough of me.
When I stayed up drinking until far too early in the morning after Erica left, I decided, with the coaxing of some long lost friends, that it was time to come home and find what made me want to do this whole creative thing in the first place. So far, nothing. I do have a mild inkling of hope in the form of this song by Alkaline Trio. All of my ideas, more or less, come from music, so it’s a positive that there is a song I’ve listened to many times that is giving me some form of spark. It’s the reason I found myself touring the Toronto neighbourhood where I grew up, most likely giving people fits with the revving of my bike’s engine.
My first stop was Chris Hanson’s apartment building. Chris and I grew up together from kindergarten. I remember the first time we played guitar in my parent’s garage. We were 13 and it was just covers and dumb shit, but I’d like to think it is still these times he thinks about when he’s out on tour. I remember when he wrote the first version of “Life”. It’s made him millions, but that first version was terrible. I remembered coming here when his mother died and the times Holly broke up with him. If it wasn’t for Chris, I wouldn’t have kept writing nor would I have moved to LA. If he still lived in that apartment I would run up the steps and give him a hug and tell him that he saved my life. I miss him.
Next was Cynthia’s house. Cynthia Kim was Chris’ best friend and she was the first actual lesbian I ever knew. Cyn and I could, literally, say anything to each other. One of my favourite memories of this was before Omar’s father’s funeral when we were waiting at my apartment for everyone to get ready. We covered race, sex, orientations, and at one point she threatened to rape me with my own dick on the altar during the mass if I sat any closer to her on the couch. I miss her.
Cyn’s parents still live in the house but I didn’t see any hint of them. It was Cynthia who told me to “stop being a dumb fuck and live my life in such a way that I push myself to the extreme edges of it.” It was poignant at the time. Now it’s just funny, as her and Janelle live in The Beaches (or The Beach if you prefer) with their girls Jansen and Cassidy. Of all of us, I never thought Cynthia and her wild ways would ever end up married with children. Though I also never thought I would be riding around on a motorcycle trying to find inspiration by visiting the childhood homes of my long lost best friends. Touché Cyn.
Omar Thompson didn’t grow up in Toronto. We met him after we all finished at UofT and had moved downtown. He was my first “real person” roommate. As I stood on the north side of Queen at Vanauley and looked up at the windows that were ours, I thought about how he lived a life of ups and downs. He would book a big role and then blow his money on blow. The day he quit drugs altogether, his father suddenly died sending him on his biggest bender to date. That was a fucking terrible night. It was also the night when our story – the one I used for the TV pilot for the show – started.
Erica had just come back from Papua New Guinea that day, and Omar and Nikki – Erica’s younger sister – were hooking up at Nikki’s apartment. Omar’s sister showed up out of nowhere looking for him. Anyway, the show details it pretty well.
Omar and Nikki are happy and loving LA. They saw me off when I left to come back here. They are an odd pair, the actor and the nurse, but they work because they are more than the sum of their parts. I miss them.
Erica and Nikki Smith grew up not far from my childhood home and looking up at their place was like standing outside my own house. Nikki was the little sister I never had. Erica was the first love I never gave up on. She was it from first grade all the way through until I left LA a few days ago. When Erica came with me, I was as shocked as Omar and Nikki, but she said Cynthia made everything clear and that it was the right thing for her, and the right thing for us, to give us “our chance.” A new relationship, in a new city, at the cusp of a new and major change.
I think we gave it our best shot, both as individuals and as a team. I want to say I know that we did, but because she’s back there and I’m here and she said she needed some time, I’m not sure about anything anymore. Besides not writing and everything that has come since – which has been terrifying – the thought of not being able to text Erica and tell her even one of the million things I used to, is horror incarnate. It feels like I’ve lost a vital organ, a strand of my DNA. There was no flourish when she said it either. I came home after the cancellation meeting with the HBO people and she was in the kitchen with a coffee. Things hadn’t been ideal that last little while as I knew the show was ending, the well of creativity was drying up, and my breakdown was in its prologue, but every couple goes through their rough patches. She said her piece and moved in with Omar and Nikki. I started Chapter One of my spiral and then came back home.
My ride through town had an impact in addition to me getting to spend time with the ghosts of my best friends. No one is where I, or we, left them, but all of those places, no matter who lives there now, still feel like home in a weird way. No matter how good or bad the past was, a nostalgia exists for the pasts we could have had and the futures that might have come with them. I guess that’s the revelation.
My name is Jack Dylan and my future is mine to write. If I can get over my-idiot-asshole-self – AKA stop being a dumb fuck – maybe I can actually find some time to scribble something down and live to the extreme edges of the page with the best people, and somehow get back to the greatest love I have ever known.