Friday, February 27, 2009

I realized today why I am a true Los Angeleno now.

I exist at the moment, in the greatest depression since my father died 30 years ago (certainly thus far the worst year of my life). Heck, so far all that's happened this year was a job loss, an industry that I worked for disintegrating, a radio station that I adored going online only, the bottom dropping out of the financial markets, and the man I love choosing someone else. It can only go up from here!

But that last statement is what made me really realize that I truly belong here, here in Los Angeles.

This is a strange city. One that, blissfully, the rest of the country doesn't really seem to understand, and probably wishes would just drop off into the ocean already. So let me explain.

People come here, with their dreams bundled on their sleeves, believing in their deepest hearts that they write better screenplays, or are better actors, or know the movie business better than anyone else. They probably come here, with stars in their eyes, or at least (as I did) with big dollar signs in them. Foolishly believing that this city was gonna be the path to riches. In reality, I have been broker here than I ever have been in my life.

Here's what I have found in story after countless story of this brutal town. You get two years. You come here, naive and full of hope and optimism. The city quickly shows you that things aren't going to be handed to you on a silver platter. EVEN IF you are the best actor, writer, dancer, musician or cinematographer this town has ever seen.

You get two years to tough it out. Many leave in the first six months, slinking back home with their tail between their legs. Many more struggle with not enough to eat, chasing that dream that brought them here. And if you can tough it out for two years, I think you'll probably be here to stay.

The magical formula to succeed in this town is one that rears its head whenever times are toughest, like now. You have to BELIEVE at your deepest core, that whatever things look like now, it's gonna turn around for you. Something's gonna happen. Some combination of circumstances, some chance meeting, some accident of preparedness meets luck is going to fall into your lap and voila, you are back on top. That is, after all, how this town really works.

You have to believe in yourself with a fierceness that would make others quake. You have to keep plugging away when, in any other city, it would seem like every single door is closed to you. When you have absolutely no reasonable hope left, you have to pull more hope from your inner reserves.

Although the flip side of this is that the town is then also filled with people who are never going to succeed at screenwriting or acting or directing like they think they are, but they plug away anyway.

What one discovers as one walks this perilous path is that if you truly love something, it's something you HAVE to do, no matter the odds, no matter what anyone else tells you, no matter how people like you (as old as you, as heavy as you, as weird as you, as whatever as you) never can succeed at this. Case in point: who would've thought a few years ago that Mickey Rourke would be an Oscar-nominee?

And that is it. That is what drives me. This almost pathological impulse to continue when everything in the world tells me not to. To believe deeply that things will turn around. That those closed doors will open up, that that guy's heart may turn around one day, and even if I try and try and try and nothing happens, it's all about the journey, anyway, right?

That, my friends, is the essence of succeeding in Los Angeles. I am truly home.

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