After his revelation about exploding words, Jack went to a cottage. He needed to get out of the urban mess and noise of the city.
I can’t write in the third-person anymore. I spent the last week at a family friend’s cottage. It was quaint, cozy, and quiet. I spent my nights by the campfire sipping beers and getting lost in memories. I spent the days on the deck, over-looking the glistening lake, reading, sipping beers, and getting lost in memories. I wrote a bunch as well and here is what I came up with:
I’m Just A Girl:
“’Cause I’m just a girl I’d rather not be, ‘cause they won’t let me drive late at night,
Oh, I’m just a girl, guess I’m some kind of freak, ‘cause they all sit and stare with their eyes,” – from “Just A Girl” by No Doubt (Stefani, Dumont)
I was barbequing some hot dogs – they are terrible, but so fucking tasty – and had my iPod on shuffle. No Doubt’s “I’m Just a Girl” came on. At first I was drawn back to the moment I purchased the album as an oily, acne faced teenager at Sam The Record Man on Yonge Street in Toronto. While having my mind jump between different scenes from that time in my life, I had a thought about how Marilyn Monroe was just a girl with a dream and a name that wasn’t Marilyn Monroe. She was a girl and is an icon, but an icon of what? Sexiness? Womanhood? Blondes? What was it that Norma really wanted?
I ate my hot dogs and listened to the song probably twenty times. Marilyn could have written this song herself. Did she ever get to just eat some hot dogs, sip some beers, and fuck off for a while?
I only know the tragedy of Norma/Marilyn – the pills, the depression, and the death – so I can’t comment with any authority, but for things to end so tragically – an end that has become somewhat commonplace now – there must have been something more going on behind that smile and those legs than just that smile and those legs.
I love how far equality has come for everyone, but there is still so much farther to go. It pains me to think how many more generations we have to wade through so this trans-bathroom “issue” won’t have people running through Target stores claiming, first, that the devil exists, and second, that this devil person is going to run into the Target bathroom with its dick out and rub it all over your kid. My point here is, the world that Marilyn lived in was as White Male as there ever was and thus, her as female, really had no chance, especially in the exploitive entertainment industry. She used the skills she was told she had – the smile, the legs – to carve out what she could, but how much of Norma’s hopes and dreams were lost because of that?
How many of Norma’s dreams would survive if she were born today? Women’s magazines are still photo-shopping their covergirls, so I would argue not too many.
What can I, Jack Dylan, a writer who doesn’t write, do about it? Write something I guess. Write something about equality and female empowerment so that it creates an impact and leads us to a world where equality rules. More importantly, I need to act and believe equality will eventually be had and such a world will exist, that it can.
At a time in my life where my own beliefs are being questioned, I can’t think of a better future to focus on: a future where some future Marilyn can truly live Norma’s dreams.
“Wake up late, honey, put on your clothes and take your credit card to the liquor store,
Well that’s one for you, and two for me, by tonight,
I’ll be loaded like a freight train, flying like an aeroplane, feeling like a spacebrain one more time tonight,
I’m on the nightrain, bottoms up,” – from “Nightrain” by Guns N’ Roses (Rose, McKagan, Stradlin, Slash)
One thing I love about being far away from the city is the absolute quiet. In any city, even in the dead of night, there is still the urban hum of the people, the occasional car, and the underlying current of energy pulsing through every block. In the country, if you are lucky enough, there are crickets, and at night, the crackling of the campfire.
I loved being away because even though I didn’t have a routine in Toronto, it still felt like a break. This was weird because Toronto was meant to be a break from LA, and now I was taking a break from Toronto. There is more to this that my future therapist can figure out, but being surrounded by nature was the real break I needed.
Besides the quiet, the country allows you to see stars. The light pollution is nil, so it was like venturing into a planetarium, except, (by George!) these were real stars. The zen of it all was brilliant. But what of it? What of the zen if I don’t take a piece of it with me? The moments were great but what have I learned?
More than I think. With the fire far enough behind me so as to not impede my star-gazing, I sat on the dock that jutted out into the still ink of the lake. I thought about my friends back in whatever cities they have chosen to settle in. I thought about the bars and the beers. Under the billion year-old starlight, I thought about how many nights I spent sitting at bar trying to drink away the solitude instead of being at home trying to work at having Erica allow me back into her life. In effect, when she left, I ran to a bar, I ran to Toronto, and then I ran to the dock and to the stars.
Why I didn’t run after her?
I realized as the week away at the cottage went on, that in LA, no matter how successful my television show was, no matter how many words I wrote that I hoped would impact people, as soon as things started up there, I was running away from myself.
“I invented swag,
Poppin’ bottles, putting supermodels in the cab,
Proof, I guess I got my swagger back, truth,
New watch alert, Hublot’s
Or the big face Roley’s, I got two of those,
Arms out eh window through the city I maneuver slow,
Cock back, snap back, see my cut through the holes,” – from “Otis” by Kanye West and Jay-Z (West, Carter, Brown, Campbell, Connelly, Hammond, Roach, Robinson, Woods)
One day while away, after lunch and engrossed in a long overdue read of Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods”, I looked up from my perch on the deck. The view was clear through to the lake, bordered by old growth fir trees, and while different than the view from the peak behind the Hollywood sign, it was just as majestic. It brought me back to a time I had with Omar when we first moved out west.
When Omar, Nikki, Erica, and I got to Los Angeles we took a drive in my freshly purchased black Porsche 991 Carrera. The music was blasted and smiles were innocent and large. The “dream” was finally being lived.
Not long after that drive, after we had settled into our new apartments, Omar and I took a drive ourselves. We talked about the show and how his character was basically him with some slight differences. We talked about the shooting schedule. We talked about the Smith girls and how lucky we were to have them as the most important part of both our lives. Our last topic of the night was life here versus life in Toronto. How it would, and should, be different. How we didn’t want to lose the parts of ourselves that got us to work as hard as we did to get our opportunities there.
We walked out and settled down with a cooling breeze at our backs, the famous sign in front of us, and the lights of the city beyond. Our conversation went something like this:
“We need to make promises to ourselves and each other right now. We won’t make it otherwise,” Omar said.
“What are you so worried about?” I said.
“Falling into the LA abyss.”
“We won’t let you,” I said.
“You guys have nothing to do with it,” he said, letting out the brief huff of a laugh. “You have no idea.”
“Not about the specifics of the drugs, and booze, and the addiction, and the rehab you’ve gone through, but don’t forget who picked you up off the floor and drove you there in the first place.”
“I’m not worried about that shit so much, I just don’t want us to forget this feeling,” he said.
“I never will. I never saw this happening, but I never will. I’m game though, who starts?” I said.
We looked out for a few moments and Omar shifted on his rocky seat a tad.
“I promise to not end up in a California rehab centre,” he said.
“I promise to not help put you there,” I said.
“I promise to not let this show, no matter how successful or horrible it becomes, impact me in a way I forget that it is just another experience on a long road.”
“I promise to do the same,” I said.
“Man, you can’t just copy me,” he said, shifting his eyes towards me for a second before returning them to the lights ahead.
“Alright. I promise to never forget the hope in the moment I went to say goodbye to Erica and saw that she had packed her suitcases and was coming out here.”
“I promise to give my family my best effort.”
“I promise to show my friends, near and far, how much they mean to me, so much so, that it’s not just a nice thing, but something that becomes so commonplace it’s part of the DNA of the friendships.”
“I promise to not let you down with this role.”
“I promise to tell you if you do,” I said.
“I promise to never forget the struggles my parents had to get me to this place,” he said. Omar glanced down at the ground just in front of him in a moment of quiet reflection and then took in the lights once again.
“I promise to sexual christen every room of the new apartment with Erica.”
“That’s some deep shit, right there,” Omar said.
“The deepest,” I said.
We finished that hang with a few minutes of unintended silence. I dropped Omar off and on the ride back to my place, I was beaming with hope at the short list of affirmations we had made. Things really felt new and real.
Our naivety was ripe. We broke ever promise.
Break Your Heart:
“It would break your heart, if you knew me well,
See I have run so far, that I’ve lost myself,
And there are things I have seen, that I never will tell,
That drove me out of my mind, and inside myself,” – from “Break Your Heart” by The Gaslight Anthem (Fallon, Rosamilia, Levine, Horowitz)
How many promises have I broken to myself? It’s too many to count, which means that I should just stop promising. The fault in that logic is immense, but I do feel as though my promises mean nothing to me. I should become a maybe-man.
“Hey Jack! Promise me you’ll do this awesome thing tomorrow,” someone will say.
“I can’t promise anything anymore. I will say maybe and leave it at that,” I will say.
“That sucks. You don’t want to have fun?” they will say.
“I do, I just can’t promise I will,” I will say.
“With this pen I thee wed, from my heart to your distress,” – from “Handwritten” by The Gaslight Anthem (Fallon, Rosamilia, Levine, Horowitz)
While alone with the stars and the quiet, I realized that I have no idea who I am if I am not writing and thus, I am not a writer. I have tied my identity so much to the keyboard, pen, and writing, that if I am not doing it, who am I and what do I do?
I was struggling with this idea even before I realized it was an issue. As the show was ending and with nothing writing-wise on the horizon, I believe I withdrew from everyone in my life so as to not disappoint them with the well of words drying up, and thus, my identity drying up with it.
Why would my friends want me in their lives if I am not who I am meant to be?
Why would Erica love me and want to spend time with me if I am not who I am?
Why should I bother to invest in myself if I don’t know who that self is?
In writing these words, and the ones that I have written before, and the ones I know that are coming after, I feel I am writing away my own distress because I am finally writing for myself. I always wrote for everyone else, and I am finally do this “project” for me. I don’t even care what comes of it or how bad it is, because it is for me. I’ve heard many times that the writing should be for the writer and let the rest of the chips fall where they may, but I never believed it until now. With no one left to hopefully impress, with nothing in my life but the stars and the quiet – though less of both in the city upon my eventual return – the writing has to be for me, as there is no one else for it to be for.
This is most free I have ever felt. Whatever comes next…
The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows:
“We kept it safe and slow, the quiet things that no one ever knows,” – from “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows” by Brand New (Accardi, Lacey)
As I have said, my time up north consisted of reading, and one book I fell in love with was Gregory Hawthorne’s “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows.”
We all know the enigmatic Hawthorne. The best-selling recluse, who lives with us through publishing. I am jealous of this man for not needing adoration from his work. It’s amazing and “the truth” but who is Gregory Hawthorne?
I will save that question for another time, but reading this book, at this time, was kismet if there ever was the perfect definition for it.
TQTTNOEK tells the story of a young drug addict who can only express herself through art, but the art, paintings specifically, are so abstract that even the young artist does not know what it means. Her thoughts and feelings are only soothed in the moment of creation and thus, she must continue to paint to quell the rising demon inside her. She never felt in control of her life, or felt understood until she meets another outsider who feels connected to her through her work and they begin an off-kilter relationship.
What speaks to me about this story is the questions surrounding our connections with people. Do we ever truly “get” each other or are our connections with people, whether shallow or deep, just based on our reflection of ourselves in them?
I pondered this at the cottage, on the deck, on the dock, at the campfire, et cetera, and I still don’t have a definite answer. I thought about my friendships and past relationships, and I realized I don’t know why I am attracted to certain people in friendship or otherwise. Is it them? Is it me?
I think the only thing semblance of an answer comes in Hawthorne’s choice for his book title, which itself is the title of a song by Brand New. Our connections with people are based around our desire to have them understand our quiet things that we think no one will ever know.
Try Whistling This:
“Now my words are ringing in your ear, drawing your attention to all the things that you ignore,
If I can’t be with you I would rather have a different face,
And if I can’t be near you I would rather be adrift in space,
And if the gods desert us I will turn this chapel into flames,
And if someone tries to hurt you I would put myself in your place,” – from “Try Whistling This” by Neil Finn (Finn, Moginie)
Before I left for the impromptu sojourn to solitude, I remember reading a post on Facebook about sanity and love. From my research, it came from this blog: https://thoughtsoflorelei.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/no-one-will-love-you-until-you-love-yourself-an-open-letter/
The jist is that people need to stop telling people that no one will love them until they love themselves. Some people are incapable of seeing themselves as loveable, and the idea there is something wrong with these people is false and that they will never be loved because they are a mutant who is broken.
I connected with this idea because of my recent struggles and how I was trying to feel better. Until now, I had no idea why I was not “feeling better”, but I knew that I just wasn’t. For me it comes back to the brittle nature of sanity and how in one moment we can feel balanced and alright with life, the universe, and everything, and in the next we feel as though our direction is, much like the Toronto Maple Leafs of the last few years, an 18-wheeler running full speed off a cliff.
It reminds me of a time with Erica. We had just finished having a great dinner and were on our way home. As we were walking and we got to a red light, she said, “I feel a depression coming on, and I don’t know why.”
“Did you want to talk about it?” I said.
“No,” she said.
The rest of our walk was silent. I held her hand with my other arm around her. Before bed she apologized, which I told her was entirely unnecessary. We went to sleep and she woke up the next day as if nothing had happened. I was stunned by how quickly things can change in our heads, but at this point, in my life, I get it. Until I started writing this “thing”, whatever it is, my head was like a kid on a trampoline, bouncing up, down, and everywhere else.
Sanity, however it can be defined, is the lovely beast. It changes based on our perception of it. One moment we are in awe of its beauty, and the next, we are wondering how many ways it could kill us.
“Because my love is strong, but my heart is weak, after all.” – from “Bushwick Blues” by Delta Spirit (Vasquez, Winrich, Jameson, Young)
That morning I lay in bed staring at the ceiling wondering how many different ways this situation could go.
The night before was a whirling dervish of what-the-fuck?
It was during the time I chronicled in the first season of the TV show, Astoria. Cynthia’s PR firm was having its annual fundraiser and the theme that year was Motown though I’m not sure anyone really understood what that meant. They played the requisite playlist and beyond that people just wore regular fundraising attire – that being suits, and dresses, and make-up.
The night had its usual drama for our group:
-Cynthia was worried about her job as Ned, her new co-worker, had seemed to make it his mission to get her fired and he was taking every opportunity to ruin the fundraising night she had planned by pointing out all of its flaws to their boss Karen.
-Nikki was worried Omar was going to go on a full-on binge with drinks and the other nefarious activities that followed when he drank too much.
-Chris was in the best position of the group, with him and Holly having reconciled for the night and he was also in the middle of planning an exciting solo tour with just him and a guitar. Everything at that moment was looking up for Chris.
-Erica’s boyfriend had surprised everyone by showing up in Toronto from his sociological research trip in Papua New Guinea. She had bailed on him days earlier after he proposed to her, and she had no idea how to react besides flying home and hoping her best friends could help her make either a head or tail out of the situation.
-I was in a state of flux at Erica being home, as she had left without a goodbye 2 years earlier, and she was now looking for advice from me and the others as stated. I wanted answers from her about everything but her possible engagement, and I was on the verge of putting myself in an alcohol induced coma, however, Cynthia made me promise I would be on my best behavior. A promise I made thinking it would be best for everyone if I did not make a scene.
The dramas played out somewhat well. Omar kept himself somewhat sober, so Nikki’s worries were assuaged. I discretely punched Ned in the face (it’s possible) and knocked him out, so my angst and Cynthia’s problem were temporarily taken care of. I left early so there would be no issues when he woke up. Damo and Erica got into an argument and he left. She left shortly after him after spending a half hour looking for me.
I was on the couch when the knock hit the door. I wasn’t expecting her. I wasn’t expecting when I opened the door, the first thing that would happen would be her rushing in and kissing me with more passion than I have ever put into any project I had ever undertaken to that point. I wasn’t expecting that we would stumble to the couch and then stumble to my bed and then I would be the first of us to wake up with my eyes stumbling to stay open the next morning.
Why did it take another four years for us to get together? Because I wasn’t prepared and she was a hot mess. Because our love was strong, but our hearts were terribly torn. Because neither of us was prepared for anything.
Over the next four years – until the moment I walked in and saw her bags packed and she was ready to leave for LA – I would think back to the moment I opened the door. It was one of the most pivotal in my life. Before then, Erica was my unrequited, and after then, she was my confusion.
The following years until the packed bags, were spent over-preparing. I didn’t want to wake up another day like the one after the fundraiser thinking about the different paths the day, and life, could take. I wanted to know that whatever came up, no matter how crazy, I would be prepared.
This was an insane way to live, because you can’t prepare for everything, because you can’t prepare for people. People are variable. They are exciting and terrifying all at once. People are unprepared. Even the most predictable people can surprise. I wish I had known this the morning after all those years ago. I also wish that I really understood it now.
If Erica and I ever connect again, if she allows me to prove that I am capable of it and if she is as well, then I know to not prepare for anything so our unpredictable hearts might be allowed to collide and explore each other and the world again. I will accept and listen, and hope she tells me what I need to know, and I do the same for her.
I wish it could be tomorrow, but tomorrow is for tomorrow.