I have tried starting this entry several times during the last 5-6 weeks or so and every time I have been defeated by one of my core arch nemesis: Writer’s Block.
Which isn’t entirely honest of me. It’s more than Writer’s Block. It’s a myriad of symptoms of the thing you’re gonna learn about later, too.
So Writer’s Block + Symptoms.
Oh. Also there was that time that SCOTUS overturned Roe and set off a political chain reaction that I’m still dealing with as an executive member of my local democratic party. And the Proud Boys going after an LGBT safe space in my community and being pepper sprayed while cops stood by and did nothing.
So. Writer’s Block + Symptoms + SCOTUS Coup + Proud Boys
And then I found out on Twitter that a christian nationalist is threatening a holy war and when I went to said white christian nationalist’s FB page it turned out they were friends with cast members and producers of Ye Olde Show I Twas a Part of. Always great when you find out that nazis are fans of your show… or maybe the show groomed them to be nazis. That grooming claim goes both ways, right?
Writer’s Block + Symptoms + SCOTUS Coup + Proud Boys + AIO Fan Nazis =
And my summer plans have been scrapped because you assholes refuse to ever get vaccinated or take public health or science seriously. And from the bottom of my heart fuck each and every one of you. I’d like to see my 93 year old grandma before she dies and I can’t get on a plane cuz of you cultists.
Suffice it to say that finding the motivation to write has been impossible. But even then, doing the discipline of writing has been impossible– discipline being what you fall back upon when inspiration wanes. I gotta be honest with ya. I’m starting to feel like there’s not much point to doing this. I’m just one dude yelling into the ether… kind of feels like praying actually. Passionately articulating all my thoughts and voicing them only to feel like I’m talking to a wall.
So. Much. Wasted. Energy.
The other major problem that I’ve been having goes back to an earlier issue brought up in this post where I agonized over whether to tell the story as I’d like to tell it, randomly and abstractly and as I feel organically motivated, or whether to tell the story chronologically. And when I was battling that decision THIS POST WAS WHY. I knew it then.
I have a love/hate relationship with writing. At times I love it. It’s one of my two core art forms. Acting and Writing. I’m a natural actor who was later trained. But, honestly, I’m a better trained writer, I’ve done it longer– which is saying a lot considering I was professionally Acting at the age of 10. My mom was an English teacher. My Dad was in the printing industry. My family reads a LOT. When I got punished as a kid I’d be sent to my room usually to go write an essay on why I shouldn’t argue with my brother(s) and I wasn’t allowed out of being grounded until the essay was grammatically perfect. So you learn to write good. And Fast. And with good grammerness and no mitsakes;”
I tend to associate writing with punishment as a result. It’s a grind to get in the mood to write. It’s something I have to be in the head space for. I write when I get to the point where I HAVE to write– like when I started this blog. Where whatever is in my head needs to be sorted out and only the written word and the structure of the page can alleviate the suffering of whatever I’m dealing with at the moment. I’d like to provide an example if you’ll indulge me:
That is probably one of the best examples of me NEEDING to write in the moment. I’ve been told that’s a very funny piece. Many folks liked it. I wrote that piece about 90 minutes after learning that a really close friend had died last year. I was at a chess tournament. My first major travel-from-home tournament ever. And my first trip anywhere after the pandemic started. And literally on my way down from the hotel room to play my first round, while in the elevator, a friend called me with the bad news and I exit the elevator stunned.
Played the first round and lose to a nine year while in total shock. Headed back up to the room and opened the laptop. Started writing and burst into tears. That piece was written while I was sobbing. Literally. I had trouble seeing the keyboard from the tears and I was running out of time before the next round and had to keep running to the bathroom to get tissues to wipe the tears and snot off the keyboard. An interesting creative challenge.
I was trying to find some way to not have this entire weekend be ruined and squeeze some tiny amount of joy into my life after a brutal first pandemic year of death and destruction. I. NEEDED. TO. LAUGH. It was an actual emergency. That piece was written in one sitting in about 15 minutes between rounds. That’s not an easy piece to write in terms of flow and rhythm and cadence and crescendo, btw. Sometimes at my worst moments is when my best creativity arrives.
THAT’s how I write. I write because I have to. To stop the tears flowing. Or because I’m angry and need to cool off. Because there’s something screaming inside me to come out. And usually I write comedy. Because comedy keeps me writing. It’s so much easier to write when I’m having fun. And laughter is fun. I don’t like to write serious things. I love to Act serious and dramatic content. But writing is something that always ends up with my writing humour/comedy. Go back and read those punishment essays my mom forced me to write. They were fucking hysterical. I learned that, too. If you make the adults laugh your draconian punishments are a little less medieval.
And that brings me to the main reason why it’s taken me so long to get out this post:
Writing this section about my life isn’t fun. And I don’t want to do it.
I don’t like talking about myself. Most actors and artists you can’t get them to shut up about themselves. Not so with me. I admit I am fascinated by myself from a psychological viewpoint I suppose, but honestly, I do not enjoy my own existence or having to voice it. And I don’t like thinking about it. This is what drew me to theatrical arts. I loved being somebody else. I love fantasy. Creating characters and stories because it’s a reprieve from having to deal with… well… me.
And so this project is inherently a struggle knowing that I have to write about myself, and some of the worst aspects of my existence for potentially negligible results… man that doesn’t sound like fun.
Not. One. Fucking. Bit.
AND THERE’S WRITER’S BLOCK AND SCOTUS COUPS AND NAZIS AND PANDEMICS AND DEMOCRACY IS AT STAKE AND I CAN’T STOP CRYING THIS MONTH AND AND AAND AND AND AAAAAANDNDNJHDBKCYGJHKGCEGCLu!!!
AND I DON’T WANT TO WRITE AND NOBODY WILL CARE ANYWAY.
And so for the last month I’ve been wandering around thinking about this stupid fucking post. And it’s hard to write because THERE’S NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT MOVING FROM TEXAS TO CALIFORNIA. It sucked. I was in a bad mood for about 15 years afterwards. I missed my friends. And because I had somewhat of a meltdown after that week I mentioned where the house caught fire and the parent almost died (see last post) blah blah blah I had to switch schools and go to this private school and I hated it. My school picture that year was EPIC, btw.
Anyway, I had a meltdown– something I’ll come back to later on– and became this stressed out miserable kid. And so my parents thought it would be a good idea to hold me back a year and repeat the 4th grade in my first year in California.
This… was… a… bad… idea.
Terrible, terrible idea. See, I’m an overachieving perfectionist. I had just spent my 4th grade year busting my ass trying to get straight A’s. And the one subject I kept getting knocked on was handwriting. (This was the 1850’s btw when penmanship mattered) I would agonize over my homework every night trying to slowly, sloooooooowly get my cursive letters to be more readable. It took me half a year but I DID IT. I finished the year with straight A’s! Woohoo!
You can do anything you set your mind to, kid….
…. And now you have to repeat the 4th grade because your parents think you’re too stressed out.
Ahem. You can do anything you set your mind to, kid… buuuuuut life will fuck you and you have no control over it.
Get used to this, child, you’ll see it again. Ah, how I wish I could have told that little 10 year old kid, “Hey Little Dave, the next 35 years are gonna get so much worse. And you will stubbornly not be able to die to avoid it.”
Whatever ego I had at that point in my life– not much of one tbh– it was fairly well shattered after that.
Everything about California was so different, too. I missed my pine forest swamp of southeast Texas. You could run through people’s yards and the woods and build forts. And in California there’s no forests in this neighborhood and it’s a desert and neighbors glare at you and nobody says “hi” back when you pass them on the sidewalk AND WHAT THE FUCK IS A SIDEWALK?!?
Everything sucked. And it was 1987 and the greater L.A. basin– for those unaware all of Southern California is mountains and valleys and they use the word “basin” for a reason. In 1987 there was smog. It collected in the basin.
Air so thick we could not see the 10,000 foot mountain 3 miles behind our house. Even the air… sucked.
And now I have to start the school year and the school has quads? WHAT THE FUCK ARE QUADS? Where are the hallways? Why is everything outside? I remember going into the school office right before the year started and my mom asking what we needed to buy. And the school lady said, “nothing.”
And this was bizarre to us because at the beginning of the year we got to shop for our cool Trapper Keepers binders and boxes and pens and mechanical pencil sets and putting the fresh new reams of paper in the binders IT WAS A WHOLE THING. IT WAS THE ONLY GOOD PART OF THE BEGINNING OF THE SCHOOL YEAR STARTING. THE ONLY BENEFIT OF SUMMER ENDING WAS GETTING COOL NEW SHIT AND CALIFORNIA TOOK THAT AWAY, TOO.
And now this stupid state is saying that you don’t have to buy anything because the school provides it? WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS NONSENSE? YOU MEAN EVERYBODY GETS AN EDUCATION AND NOT HAVING MONEY WON’T LEAVE YOU BEHIND?
Ev. er. y. thing. sucked. And I didn’t fit in.
There were two places where I did feel like I fit in, though.
I’ve mentioned before that I have a lot of early life memories, but oddly I don’t recall ever attending church in Florida. My first church memory was being in my first play. And that was around 4 or 5 years old in Texas. Some easter or christmas thing where I was a roman soldier with a sword.
Man, plays are cool! YOU GET SWORDS.
Confession: I have never liked church. Ever. Not ever. I can’t think of a single time in my life where church was something I looked forward to. Church was that thing that ruined half your weekend. See, other kids get two whole days off from school. But not us Fucking Evangelicals™. *cue sad music*
We only get one day of weekend. Because on Sundays you have to go to church school. It’s like school, but they spend a lot of time telling you that everything you learned in school is wrong because of the SkyMan. And then after SkyMan School, half your day is gone and your friends are already playing without you and then it’s dinner time and THANKS A LOT JESUS. Why you gotta be stealing my weekend but you never answer my prayers about making things better and I feel sad all the time?
So, as much as I may not have enjoyed church… it was a place of familiarity. And in my unhappy, new, communist, smogged-and-sidewalked hellscape world it was a place of some stability and normalcy.
One of the two places that didn’t completely suck was church. When we found one that suited whatever the criteria was, we were marched off to ChurchLand every Sunday. Even if I hated it, I could at least blend in. I knew how to work the system. And I fit in. The language. The ritual. The church is an easy place to hide. This would be a place of comfort I would learn I could always turn to as the years went by. Or, so I thought… But that’s later. Way later. For this period of my life, church was probably the safest of all my spaces.
The other place where I found that I fit in… was The Stage.
If making me repeat the 4th grade was a terrible idea, my mother finding a local christian theater for kids was a stroke of parental genius. I had shown an enjoyment of theater back in Texas. At church or school or making puppet shows at home, I think story telling always was a natural way of expressing myself. Still is. The world of make believe and roleplaying was a very natural fit for me. And I think she figured it could be an outlet for this miserably unhappy little kid.
I mentioned earlier that writing is something that I do as a way of mentally processing things or coping with the world. Acting was different. It was mental AND physical. I was happier Acting than with writing. Writing doesn’t make me happy. Acting does/did.
I enjoyed plays, but I’d never gotten a major part in any. I was just happy to be there– albeit slightly jealous of the other kids that had more lines and things to do other than stand there as background but I was happy in the background– and then my mom finds this local theater for kids and she signs us up and they’re gonna do this big play with… *checks notes*…
Joni Eareckson Tada.
(this is a name that will mean absolutely nothing to anyone outside of the Evangelical sphere, but inside the Evangelical sphere she’s a BIG name)
And I scored a major part. About 2 months after moving to California. And 2 months after that? I’m in front of an audience of 2,000 people at some giant church somewhere in SoCal standing on stage under the lights next to Joni Eareckson Tada… and it clicked.
I fit in here, too.
This is my place.
This makes sense.
I know how to do this.
I don’t know how I know how to do this BUT I KNOW HOW TO DO THIS.
And everybody is clapping and happy.
And I’m happy.
And at a time in my life when I desperately, DESPERATELY needed something positive to build on and feel good about and look forward to, it arrived.
Maybe prayers do get answered.
Some kids, it’s sports. Little tyke picks up a ball and throws it over the house and makes his parents dream of Major League Draft Day. Or cooking. Or building things. Or taking them apart. There are those kids that find something and it becomes their thing. (shout out to those kids that never found their thing– I don’t know what’s worse, the frustration of never finding a purpose, or finding a purpose and and the frustration of never getting to do it. I can attest that the latter is a pure living hell I wouldn’t wish on anyone)
I was good at stuff. And I enjoyed things. But never had the two ever really perfectly aligned. Until that night. That night I discovered why I existed. That unique and specific mix of ancestors in my DNA awoke.
I realize I’m completely breezing through one of the most pivotal experiences of my life and this story probably deserves more than a couple short paragraphs. It occurs to me that doing your first real play at the age of 10 with Joni Erickson Tada in front of 2,000 people and finding an existential reason to live with a natural skillset that will forever change your life might deserve a little more narrative prominence… but fuck it.
Let’s get back to being sad.
Because that’s what happened. I had fun for this short period of time… and then I had to get back to being sad. Real life. Again. School. Again. 4th grade. Again.
And during the weeks and months after that performance, I would think back to the magic of that experience and how it had made all the noise in life fade into the background. It was an anaesthetic. It was this wonderful escape. I didn’t have to be me. My dopamine sensors in my brain were probably forever blown out. Gotta keep chasing that high.
If writing has been a way to process things in my brain, Acting was a way to truly be free from head to toe in my body and the whole of me.
When I Act, I am at my most happy, most free place. To this day. Still. Nothing makes me happier.
And I was a kid at that time that desperately needed a way to be happy and feel free.
I had found a Skill Set.
In fact, in October of 1987, I was probably the one kid on the entire planet that most needed a regular Acting outlet. I had just discovered this ability… and I needed a dependable fix.
And I just happened to live in Southern California.
And I just happened to be involved with a children’s christian theater company.
Where the founder just happened to attend church with this guy.
Who produced a show that just happened to be looking for child actors.
And it just happened during a rehearsal for the Joni show.
If there was one kid on earth more perfectly primed for what just happened next… it was me.
Newly Discovered Skill Set + Desperate Need to Use Skill Set…
The end of rehearsal. The usual last notes. Btw, will the following 6-10 kids please stick around afterwards.
I thought I was in trouble, because that was always my go-to response when ever I was singled out, “what did I do wrong?”
“There’s a radio show looking for kids. We’d like you all to go audition at the following date and time…”
Skill Set + Desperate Need + Opportunity =
A radio show? Cool.
My first real professional audition!…
… I hope I get a part.
I’d like to quickly say thank you to Michael from South Carolina for reaching out and nudging me with some positive feedback this week. It helped me feel that this project mattered and gave me enough of a boost to be motivated to knock this damn post out. Not my best writing, but sometimes you just gotta grind through it. Point being, I appreciate feedback and engagement and when it’s given I try to honor that input and I’ll do my best to make an effort in responding to it.
Anyway, If you like what I’m doing, leave a note or say hi or follow blah blah blah <insert self promotional language>. Thank you, Michael!