Showing posts from January, 2018

Confidence in the resolve

A friend warned that jumping to Los Angeles again without a plan is probably not the best plan. He's always been reasonable and clever. It's because of his advice and direct help that I've gotten jobs on the East Coast. So I listen. The challenge now however is that reason isn't being followed.

What's being done is completely unreasonable. This is the third time I've jumped to Los Angles, in a configuration not too different from the others. The first time, I had very little savings, very little focus and a very limited amount of time to get it all together. It was a failure. The second time was absolute luck. I had grown desperately angry about being on the East Coast. That fueled a series of events that allowed me to land a job before leaving to LA and a place to stay just days before touchdown. Each time resulted in homelessness.

It's reasonable to say there should be some measure of planning to accommodate a soft landing. It's reasonable to suggest that having a job before leaving is the best way to go. That makes logical sense. However what's being followed is a commitment to being intimate with the moment.

There's a certain confidence in the resolve that creates a comfort and sense of stability with whatever arises in the moment. Whatever happens, I'm still here. Another friend says it quite eloquently, "I'm not dead yet."

I can't convince anyone, not even myself, of what that experience is like. I feel grounded, and there isn't a reasonable explanation as to why. What's apparent is that decision-making comes spontaneously and there is a drive toward following through with whatever the decision is.

Los Angeles has been a goal since returning to the East Coast. There wasn't a rush, it was simply an expectation lingering in the background. Then one day most recently, while casually thinking about LA, a voice pierced through sharply, "I'm ready to be back in Los Angeles." That's all it took. It's like something clicked and the entire process oriented itself toward another jump.

There was a poem that came up some years ago after my first time to LA:

And here I stand
In full command of my fear
Thinking, wishing, dreaming
That I can be that thing I see
Standing far before me
With air that breathes my lungs
Words that touch the tip of my tongue
And arms that reach out for mine.
This is the moment I rise!
And yet, there's a pause.
For what cause? I don't know.
But it goes to show that even in the moment of inspiration
There's a stagnation to our ability
We're only human, you and I
Why reach for the stars when we'll just
And die?
Why push past every obstacle that's in our way?
Freedom doesn't lie there.
It tells the truth.
And that's what I need:
The honesty to believe in something
Ridiculously impossible that it takes
All of me to be.
Baby, I'm on track!
To where? Who cares.
I wouldn't dare stand in the face of fear
Without the confidence to make it shed a tear.
No, this fear belongs to me
And here I stand, in full command.

This is my manifesto.
Whatever fear there was has burned away, singed by the friction of another launch. It's all completely unreasonable, but whatever space is left by the absence of logic is filled with total joy. There is peace and confidence in the undercurrent of the moment. I'm going with the flow.

Hope and Hunger

There were two distinct moments after the first major leap where I lost hope. Once was sitting on the curb near a co-op, organic grocery store in Los Angeles. There were some folks earlier that day who told me to check the dumpster out because they always throw out perfectly edible food, like fruit, with minor blemishes. Hunger sent me over there.

Hunger is an interesting feeling because it pushes the body into survival mode. This isn't the kind of hunger where you're between meetings and don't have enough time to stop and grab something to eat. This isn't the kind of hunger where you wake up in the morning and feel like you could swallow a whole farm for breakfast. This is the kind of hunger where you haven't eaten for days and your whole body is oriented toward finding something, anything, to satisfy an avoidance of certain death. It feels like that.

So I'm sitting on the curb, debating whether to run up to the dumpster. There's a security camera watching over it and a parking lot full of witnesses. Somehow I had to dash over there, dig through it, retrieve a few pieces of treasure and retreat. The other debate was personal. "I'm awakened," the thought went. "Isn't there supposed to be some kind of grace or something to take care of this?"

As I'm sitting there, stalling between deciding when to run and crushing under the reality that Grace doesn't mean entitlement, a familiar face rides up on a bike. It was one of the people who told me to go dumpster diving. He looked down, smiled at me knowingly, reached into his bag and gave me the largest apple I'd ever seen. No words. All action. Then he rode away.

Another time hope was lost was a hungry night in San Francisco. I'd spent the day wandering around, essentially lost because it wasn't clear that San Francisco is an island, and that once you're there, you're stuck. With no money, I didn't have any means of leaving. The whole day was spent walking around trying to find a safe place to sleep later that evening. Nightfall had come, and with it, the cry for food.

A small bakery was closed but had the door cracked open. There were people in the back in what I assumed was something like a kitchen. I peaked my head through the doorway and politely shouted, "Excuse me! Excuse me! Do you have anything I could eat? Maybe something you were throwing away?" A man turned to look at me, shook his head, and turned away. "Do you know where I could find something?" He ignored me. "Sir?" He continued to ignore me. "How could he do that," I thought. "I'm a human being. Where's the love?"

Later that night I made a cardboard sign. I had grown fed up with being in San Francisco and was angry that this awakening thing wasn't working like it was supposed to. The sign read, "Vallejo." The thought was that I could stand by the on ramp to the bridge, hold up the sign, and by magic, someone would stop and taking me off the island. Every driver ignored me.

Hunger started to press again. After a number of hours, I turned the sign over and wrote, "HUNGRY." Drivers started to pay attention. Something said to start smiling, and so I did. People began rolling their windows down and offering loose change and dollar bills. "Holy shit," I thought. "It's working." Some other momentum picked up and the hunger subsided as well as the cold. Focus shifted to earning enough money to catch the Ferry the next day away from the island.

The next morning I stood out there again to earn a few more dollars, and in addition to ten dollars, someone gave me a freshly opened breakfast from Starbucks.

It's interesting meeting those experiences again through these words. Each time, hope was lost. Really, an expectation was challenged and I was made a fool of.

Grace doesn't always work the way I think it should work. It never works that way actually. And—Christ—what's humbling is that even though I'm a brat or grow angry or impatient or whatever the case may be, it always works out. Always. There's something behind the drama that knows.

Things tend to work out for people who have balls

That was the first thing someone said to me when I moved to LA.

I moved to Los Angeles to become an actor. I had no idea what I was doing though, but thankfully my cousin offered a place to stay until things clicked. They never really did and so I was invited to find some place else to wait to for things to come together. I had worked at Universal Studios Hollwood twice as a performer, but it wasn't enough to cover rent, so I was asked again to leave and wandered the streets for a couple days until a friend offered his spare room. The only stipulation was that I'd actively look for a job. It wasn't until the last minute that I found a job as a ride operator with Universal again. By that point I had destroyed our friendship though. I was used to being spoiled and took it for granted that someone offered a place to stay.

Days were spent smiling at guests and evenings looking at the stars as I slept on the street. It was cold, but bearable. A storage unit held whatever belongings couldn't be carried and I'd bike there every morning, change, wash up, then head to the theme park for my shift. It dawned on me that this was an actual lifestyle when I noticed a janitor in the park one day. I saw the same man sleeping on the street not more than a half mile from where I slept. The thought of being stuck homeless scared me, so I called my Stepmother, knowing my Father would rescue me. I gave the bike to the janitor, stayed a night at a friend's house and flew back to Philadelphia the next day.

Returning home was difficult because I had failed. I was angry with myself for not only failing, but also being entitled. I was angry at my Father for being right as well, because he had warned me against following my heart. Reluctantly I agreed to his plan of going back to school and eventually working for the NSA. Working in government didn't feel right though. I tried to bargain with him, but his last text read, "You're a grown man. Do what you want." He died that summer.

I didn't want anything to do with the east coast after that. It was a backdrop for pain, suffering, disappointment, loss and anger. It was also a reminder of the sense of entitlement that, in my eyes, was the reason for the failure. I loved my mother, but couldn't tolerate another moment being near Philadelphia. So it became a point to work my ass off and get back to Los Angeles.

Paul Giamatti plays a wrestling coach in the movie Win Win. There's a kid who has a lot of talent and the coach asks him one day what drives his performance. The wrestler responds with something like, "I imagine my opponent is trying to drown me, and I do whatever the fuck it takes to get out." That became the mantra: do whatever the fuck it takes to LA.

Seven months later I was back in Los Angeles for round two.

This time there was more focus on being established in LA while pursuing a dream of being an actor. I didn't want to feel entitled, but wanted to earn the possibility. A job was secured before moving out and things worked out where a studio apartment became available. I spent two and a half years working at Myspace while studying at Groundlings.

The job came to an expected end which coincided with a commercial talent agency signing me a few weeks later. "Here we go," I thought. "Things are starting to line up." However, there was still a nagging insecurity in the back. There was doubt as to whether or not acting was the right thing to do despite all signs pointing toward it. I was afraid to live my dream. My focus went from wanting to act to figuring out how to stay in Los Angeles without acting. At the same time I started pouring money into a career, getting professional headshots, signing up for services and taking more classes. My heart went one way and the mind the other. That lead to a true leap of faith which revealed a peculiar kind of trust.

It's been about two years now and I'm back on the east coast, gearing up for round three. I've seen how stuff works when you have a certain disregard for fear. It's not something I have a handle on, so it can't be said that I have balls. I don't. Instead, what's available is a constant opportunity to simply be and trust that things will work out.


We met at the Starbucks on the corner of Hollywood & Vine. His hair was long and loosely locked, draping over a scarred leather jacket. Twinkling eyes smiled up to greet me as I took the only seat available near the window. I'd come here often to be entranced by the cinema of people walking by, an occasional celebrity sighting or the Tetris of cars as they jockeyed through a busy intersection. Sometimes I'd listen to music, lectures or read a book. Sometimes I'd watch quietly, letting the scene erupt in silence

Christopher's eyes fell back down to a guitar that had been cradled in his lap. Chatter and espresso making swelled as I nibbled banana nut bread and kissed hot chocolate. People outside poked their phones while walking by or stared ahead purposefully. Waves of commuters would rush by from a nearby train station or sometimes a bubble of tourists would float through, but overall it was calm. This was a day to watch quietly.

"I don't really know much yet," Christopher's voice cut in. I glanced over to find him caressing strings and tickling chrome pegs. He looked up again and smiled, "It still needs tuning." The guitar found its way to him while traveling. For the past year he'd been backpacking down the coast from Seattle, hitching rides along the way and making new friends. His story spilled out and the more he spoke, the more open I felt. His guitar rested by his side and my hot chocolate grew cold as words danced between us. Time bled.

Staff had grown impatient with a homeless man who seemed disoriented. Christopher's attention shifted. He gazed as the man struggled to speak while being pressured outdoors. Suddenly Christopher was out there pleading with him, "What do you need?" No response. He continued, "Are you hungry?" Christopher came back, grabbed something from the display and went outside to present it to the man. Their eyes met. The man took the gift and shuffled away. Christopher watched like a shepherd.

His eyes were sad when he came back. It didn't feel right to ask what happened. "We always forget," he murmured as he studied the scene in front of us. The air clogged before he melted again with a smile, "but we remember." His eyes snapped to me with fierce clarity, "We forget so we can remember."

Going with the flow, or being lazy?

The first leap into the unknown was quitting a job after day one. The job itself would have served to build the narrative of working toward keeping myself in Los Angeles. The pay was lower than the job before and the amount of work was several times more. The hustle would've been real. I went home the first day and really considered the value of staying.

There had been a plan to move up the street to a one bedroom apartment in the heart of Hollywood. Moving would've represented a step forward since it had been a little over two years living in a studio apartment. There was a reasonable desire to move into the next logical step. Part of that desire was getting involved with work that challenged my work ethic; and created the image of coming home to something that had been hard-earned. The job didn't feel right though. So I quit.

The banner which paraded every decision after that was, "Whatever the next step is will either come to me or out of me." That began the habit of paying attention to intuition. For a couple months attention turned inward. There was a lot of contemplation on Eastern concepts as offered by people like Alan Watts and Eckhart Tolle. Long story short, I ended up staying with friends and family, sleeping on the street and floating through the most magical time of my life so far.

The peak experience resulted from a leap of faith. Someone once said, "Sometimes you need to take a leap of faith first. The trust part comes later." That's the difference between going with the flow and being lazy.

In laziness you're avoiding the task at hand. Attention gets involved with anything other than the moment. In going with the flow you're jumping headfirst into the wave of the moment without a plan. Trust fall.

Intuition becomes critical in this kind of narrative because it's the foundation of every decision. There is an availability to trust more deeply in what's happening and so every decision becomes an opportunity to trust.

There are a variety of ways to inspire a sense of trust, but what I like most is that we're on a planet. The planet is so named because we named it, which means, we're only on a planet because we say we are. It could be anything. We could be anything! The possibility of experience extending beyond concepts is what gives me trust.

Another fun perspective to play with is that this is all a movie and I'm simply a character waiting for my next line or action. That's a version of going with the flow.

It feels right to simply wait without expectation. Attention immediately goes into the present moment because that's where I'm at. Instead of trying to write a story about what's happening, there's simply an acceptance of what is. That's not to say there aren't desires to move in a certain direction. My persistent desire to be in Los Angeles for example, but that's also part of the flow.

Flow doesn't need to be logical. It doesn't need to be anything actually. Going with the flow is simply going with what there is and embracing it as all there is, including laziness. Each step is directed by intuitive guidance which doesn't seem to fall out of harmony with everything else and it's pure magic.

The story of Me

The story of Me is something generated by the mind in cooperation with the body. When I think of myself as Me, the physical response of the body is to create tension. It's possible that what feels like Me isn't anything at all but a reaction to the environment which includes thoughts.

Suffering is when those thoughts become a burden. Regret, self-criticism and anger are all collected into a narrative to create bondage. What Me wants is to be free from the bondage and it creates a struggle against life to make it happen. That's the story.

When the story is challenged in some way it becomes obvious that Me is unreal. Challenging the story can come from facing fears, questioning beliefs or literally throwing everything away to see what happens. Nothing can convince Me that it doesn't exist though. Life needs to be encountered in a way that Me is exposed.

What exposes Me is context. The larger the context the greater opportunity there is for a story to lose weight. Plot points fall apart, characters lose importance. The entire arc has to shift to accommodate whatever the context is.

This is the context for Me.

The act of reading these words, along with every other experience, feeling or thought can be used as part of a narrative. When attention shifts from the narrative to the context of experience the story becomes irrelevant. That's because the story of Me can only go so far. It's limited to the play of body and mind.

What's beyond body and mind is the context for experience. This is also the background for every experience. Taking myself serious is putting focus on the story instead of the context. That's what creates all of the suffering.

When the story of Me isn't so important and there's more attention on the context of experience, flow is revealed. Flow is that intuitive guidance which works everything out. This is what it means to trust yourself. Attention shifts from the personal story to a deeper, more connected sense of how to be.