Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Who Needs Enemas?

Everyone's heard outrageous tales of people paying their dues while trying to make their way in the world. Out here in L.A. there's no shortage of survival anecdotes because everyone's on the make in this town -- at any given moment you're bound to run into somebody who'll do whatever it takes to get them one step closer to their desired goal, whatever the cost. Let's face it, we've all got our crosses to bear but that doesn't mean that we should silently take it in the pants, cross our fingers and hope for the best. I've long embraced the fact that the only consistency in life is the inconsistency therein: Danger Will Robinson, Arseholes ahead!... Indeed, at points one has to get stroppy and fight to hold on to a modicum of self respect by kicking life/ duplicitous transgressors in the nuts...or risk getting cornholed without vaseline...YOWCH!...Still, you gotta take some chances too, yo...


"If you don't have anything to write about, try hanging yourself. If you succeed, then your worries are over. If you fail, then you have something to write about," Ernest Hemingway once said when asked if he had any advice for aspiring writers mired in the mental cul de sac called writer's block. I'm more than sure that Martha Gellhorn's bones are break-dancin' whenever someone utters that last one, considering the creative hell she went through after marrying the old man and the sea; the creative pains that she had to endure as a writer married to him must've been soul-deadening but you need more than a silver bullet to kill a strong spirit...


In her day, Martha was a courageous woman of letters (click header for pics, books, linkage, etc). Girlfriend traveled all over the world to cover wars, people and current events in a time when sisters (of any color) weren't allowed to do things for themselves...she had chutzpah, moxie and game which enabled her to cover the Depression and file reportage from the frontlines of the Spanish Civil War (where she met Ernie H.) and much more. The articles she penned and the assignments she took made her quite the trailblazer to be certain (her short stories and essays were hella tight too, yo) but I do recall reading a Gellhorn piece she wrote about always living in the shadow of her ex; always feeling like she had to prove herself over and over...despite the tone of that one piece, Gellhorn kept on writing, even when the chips were down. You can't get very far in this world sans a thick hide, I've learned but sometimes I have to remind myself by reading the shite others have scribed to push on, Martha for example...she was one tough biotch...


Once I had to contact a publicist, to inform her that a piece I'd written about the cast of a production she was working on had been printed and was on the wire. She'd given me her card during the press day and told me to call her so I zapped her on the blower. I couldn't reach her on her mobile so I called her at home -- sometimes she worked out of her office there -- her husband answered the phone. This was 11 in the morning, mind you, but he spoke in a very cloak-and-dagger tone from the start; "who is this? how did you get this number -- try her work phone;" click, dial-tone. People like that really put the "ho" in asshole and LA is filled to overflowing with these types who think everybody's on the make or trying to get a boot in the door -- which I was and am, admittedly but not in that particular instance. I was honestly doing the follow-up I'd committed myself to back at the junket -- I can be called many things but a liar is not one of them. To be sure, I'm not one of those pillow-biters who cold calls people to shop my wares once I get connected to them, that could be professional suicide 'round here -- it's also why scaling the vaunted walls of the ivory towers is so competitive. I think it's nature's way of weeding out all of the hacks without the minerals/ talent to persevere and Martha's not the only example I look to for solace...


Ornette Coleman, the avant garde jazz sax-man/ guru, came out here with an act from Texas who summarily kicked him out of the group once they heard him "get loose" during their first live performances as an outfit on stage -- they'd hired him without auditioning him. Stuck in a town where he knew nobody, dude was forced to take odd jobs (no one would hire him as a musician) and eventually he was a lift operator in a department store -- a job he held for years. If put in the same position, many would've thrown in the towel, tucked tail and scampered back to Texas but not Coleman. Homebiscuit held on to his job working the elevator and practiced on his axe in his car during breaks -- that's dedication, son...I strive to have those kind of grapes... Eventually "the O-ster" made the jazz cognescenti sit up and take notice because although his shite was waaay out, there was a method to his madness. There was structure...his approach could be learned by others...Coleman just played in 3-D which ultimately expanded the genre's landscape and helped establish what would be called "Avante Garde." Charles Mingus and Coltrane were 'bout it-bout it when it came to the new style, hell, Coleman's groundbreaking Free Jazz LP featured a painting by Jackson Pollack -- the painter who worked the Avant Garde angle with acrylics and canvas. You'll never catch posers like Kenny G attempting to play this shizzle...at least not in a crowded room....


I've never suffered fools well and somehow it began to feel like that was all I was doing. I found myself struggling to recall why I started to pursue writing in the first place. It wasn't for glory. It wasn't to chronicle the minutia of the every day lives of the modern action hero or take minutes on the vacuous prattle of that week's hot new starlet/ ingenue/ tomorrow's has-been and it certainly wasn't for the money... I was listening to "The Monk & the Nun," a tune cut by Coleman, Don Cherry (Neneh and Eagle Eye's daddy) and Charlie Haden when the bricks fell on me. I was reminded of why I liked writing in the first place, the discoveries; those moments of crystal-clarity when the synapses and the pinions of the working mind, lock onto a concept that had been foreign just a short while ago; the tapping of the inner self endemic to the process of constructing a piece that would say precisely what you were thinking to the world -- the sharing of ideas...


Working on the entertainment beat, I inevitably cross paths with scribes who have forgotten these things. They've become jaded; the spirit of the enterprise has been smothered in them and it can wilt the creative elan in the best of us. If you combine these types with "the dots" (what I call people who who are connected and try to use that to finagle freelancers out of dough by stringing them along), you can find yourself locked into a snit of Torquemadian proportions to say the least. While its still fun to break through that fourth wall and meet interesting people in the show biz world, I've still had to manuever through lots of disappointments and cock-ups while paying my dues with an endless cast of unsavory types who appeared to be living breathing Hollywood cliches. I've also had my share of "casting couch moments" but I haven't caved yet -- yeah, men go through that shite out here too, yo. All puns aside, I'll bend before I break. In for a penny, in for a pound and over the years I've learned that retaining your self respect is a highly under-valued commodity...If you're unable to live with yourself because of the things you've done while on the quest for a fulfilling existence, then you've missed the boat. That exercise has been rendered moot...


After taking a closer look, I realized that I have nothing but thanks for my encounters with the pschologically stunted lot of "insiders" who try to throw salt in my game because, sure as you're born (as James Brown would say), I'm sure that my time will come. That's not to say there won't be any struggles 'n scrapes -- there's always going to be those -- and sometimes one finds that an inordinate proportion of hurt will come from those he/she trusts. "With friends like these, who needs enemas," some might say but wouldn't life be dull if everyday was a cakewalk? Constructs like love, hate, fidelity and betrayal keeps things interesting. You gotta embrace the yin as well as that yang, kid. Personally, whenever I'm caught in a scrape while trying to carve a pathway through the underbrush in the jungle of life, I get with a little "Ornette ontology" or I do a "hail Martha" and pray for my tenacity to remain uncracked, to make sure my walk corresponds with my talk -- in order to break on through to the other side of those doors of perception when all I want to do is try and run, try to hide...all of that said, everyone loves a winner but without risk, there's no reward...Laters...

1 Comments:

Blogger mj said...

bravo, young meing!
as par usual, that's good shite, man. and the volume of writing evident by what you put here, knowing you likely write thrice as much that goes elsewhere, is phenomenal. if you do ever end up using this blog as a reference, the person viewing this should sense your utter dedication to the craft, (and i don't mean teenage withcery.)
sometimes when i read your stuff i feel like i'm getting a lecture, (or at least a pep talk.) (a writer does need to persevere, so why haven't i?) other times, it's more like a columnist i enjoy. i check in, see what you've been writing and thinking about of late, it sparks thoughts and conclusions in my own gray matter, and i move on to return another day. good stuff, indeed.
if you are not where you want to be as a writer today, (this may be to say, if you are not gainfully employed as a writer,) i am quite certain you will tear down the walls that hold you inside.

12:44 PM, June 15, 2005  

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