26 June 2009

The Long June

You know it's time for a post when you unthinkingly check your own blog to see if you've said anything recently.

13 June 2009


Last Friday I had lunch with a very special friend. An octagenarian, he is famous all over the world and has written songs that you've sung many times. When I met him and his lovely wife a decade ago, I was a green shoot in the money management world, with an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and the confidence that I was equal to anyone. When I first went to his home, it was to help him on his computer. Next to it sat a Grammy; I had never seen one in person before. It startled me, and was like seeing a unicorn in that it was the tangible presence of something that had, until then, been mere legend.

That feeling was a prelude of the years ahead, when legends would begin to walk through my life, or stay, and turn to me for advice on what to do with the fruits of a lifetime of work. This is the burden and joy of my life; that this crow helps to carry the collected accomplishments of many people. I do not often share in the direct blessings of great wealth, but I am adept at shouldering its responsibility.

But this lunch, in the dining room of a country club (the clink of ice cubes floating in crystal glasses, the soft murmur of carefully-restrained conversation, the hard heft of a silver fork), this conversation was to be different.

This time I asked for advice. I asked for the advice of a writer, a wizard of words who has spent six decades writing. I asked him to tell me his story. I asked him about destiny.

I've been thinking a lot lately about destiny.

"Do you think," I said, as my fried ravioli were set down in front of me, "that there are things in life that are somehow meant to be? That there are pieces of our destiny that are unavoidable."

This dear man's eyes twinkled. It was the kind of question that can only be asked by the young to the old. It was the kind of question that only matters to the young, and can only be answered by the old.

"I think that may be true," he said. He then shared his story, his history, and how he came to be a writer. Drafted into World War II, he auditioned to be a writer for the shows that were put on for troops. He got the assignment, was stationed with some of the best artists of his time (in the military!) and began his journey down a path that would ultimately lead him to his own destiny.

"Did you know that I'm a writer?" I asked.

His eyes sparkled again, "No," he said.

"I stopped a while ago because it scared me, but I know that it's only a matter of time before it finds me. There are days when I can feel the need to write."

"It will find you," he said. "You're a writer."

Today, dear Reader, is one of those days. A day when the stories wake me like impatient children, prodding and nudging. This morning, I awoke with a set of stories fully formed in my mind, complete with questions that could only--that must--be answered by writing them. I awoke with the sense of being choked from the inside, as if I was trying--but unable--to cough or wretch or gag. My eyes watered; I want only to sleep. Let me sleep.

So these are the questions: What if you had made different choices? What parts of you would be the same, and which would be different? How? Would you be happier? Would you be less happy? If our lives are slab of marble (textured and solid!), where are the stress lines of destiny--where is it possible to break away, if only for a while? What parts of a person are immutable? What about the destinies of others; they must surely be affected by our own, individual destinies? And how do you recognize your destiny when you have found it? By what sign is it known?

And if, by luck or work or tragedy, you have found your destiny, then what power do you have to step away from it, to choose another path? Is it even possible? Would you want to?

Dear Reader, what choices have you made that have led you to the life you live, to reading this blog right now, to doing whatever it is you will do next? Where does the backdrop of your life blend with you, and what parts of you are just backdrop?

I Am The Comrade

Whoever You are, Holding Me now in Hand

Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.

Whoever you are holding me now in hand,
Without one thing all will be useless,
I give you fair warning before you attempt me further,
I am not what you supposed, but far different.

Who is he that would become my follower?
Who would sign himself a candidate for my affections?
The way is suspicious, the result uncertain, perhaps destructive,
You would have to give up all else, I alone would expect to be your sole and exclusive standard,
Your novitiate would even then be long and exhausting,
The whole past theory of your life and all conformity to the lives around you would have to be abandon'd,
Therefore release me now before troubling yourself any further, let go your hand from my shoulders,
Put me down and depart on your way.

Or else by stealth in some wood for trial,
Or back of a rock in the open air,
(For in any roof'd room of a house I emerge not, nor in company,
And in libraries I lie as one dumb, a gawk, or unborn, or dead,)
But just possibly with you on a high hill, first watching lest any person for miles around approach unawares,
Or possibly with you sailing at sea, or on the beach of the sea orsome quiet island,
Here to put your lips upon mine I permit you,
With the comrade's long-dwelling kiss or the new husband's kiss,
For I am the new husband and I am the comrade.

Or if you will, thrusting me beneath your clothing,
Where I may feel the throbs of your heart or rest upon your hip,
Carry me when you go forth over land or sea;
For thus merely touching you is enough, is best,
And thus touching you would I silently sleep and be carried eternally.

But these leaves conning you con at peril,
For these leaves and me you will not understand,
They will elude you at first and still more afterward, I will certainly elude you.
Even while you should think you had unquestionably caught me, behold!
Already you see I have escaped from you.

For it is not for what I have put into it that I have written this book,
Nor is it by reading it you will acquire it,
Nor do those know me best who admire me and vauntingly praise me,
Nor will the candidates for my love (unless at most a very few) prove victorious,
Nor will my poems do good only, they will do just as much evil, perhaps more,
For all is useless without that which you may guess at many times and not hit, that which I hinted at;
Therefore release me and depart on your way.

12 June 2009

10 June 2009

The Joy of Less

For those of you attuned to the irony of my last post, I offer this: a balm.

This is what I've been asserting for last year; that the economic downturn would provide us opporunities like the dinner I enjoyed last night.

Some fancy restaurant? A concert? A cocktail party? A black-tie benefit?

No. A dinner at home, with the most perfect breaded chicken I've ever made, and friends dropping by to eat. Food and laughter and hustle and bustle and bed. All this after I'd been sitting at my therapist, dreading an impending feeling of loneliness and sadness.

Pride is this weekend. Another year gone. I think sometimes about the kid that sat in his room at 16 and cried, terrified of the future. Then, I was aware of a comforting presence, a suggestion that perhaps all was not lost. Now, I send love and healing back to that past-self. I am my own Ghost of Prides Future.

What would I tell him, I demanded of my shrink. Brace yourself for a long haul?

But that's not fair to either of us. Not fair to either the past or the present me.

I would still tell him what I told him then, and what I tell myself now: Be patient. Match your wants with your needs. Let the rest be unexpected joy. Love the journey. Try to be open, and try not to judge others or yourself so harshly.

And learn to make a damn good breaded chicken.

07 June 2009

Leaving LA

I have recently been considering the idea of leaving this city of mine, and abandoning this once-Golden State. Afterall, its livelihood rests on the shoulders of affluent taxpayers like me, not the mealy-mouthed many-childrened who suck at the teat of state resources.

There is precedent for this: Atlas Shrugged comes to mind. For those of you who haven't got the time to read a 1200 page novel, I'll give you a brief synopsis: The wealthy and entrepreneurial go on strike, leaving the world behind and establishing an utopian society where they live in harmony and--ironically--mimick a commune. They don't pay taxes, they have no government (what utopian society does?), and they have a big, solid-gold dollar sign in the center of their community.

Here's a short film that encapsulates my feelings about Los Angeles, and California generally.