There’s land up ahead. I can smell it. And I see the birds. Something big is about to happen. I can feel the tingle in my bones. Seeds long planted are to grow. Why? Because I planted them. And worked hard.
A few weeks back I did yet another nostalgia interview thing. Ducks in amber. Where are they now… It’s a lot of fun. Mostly. But there is that tinge. The tinge usually happens when I am asked, “so do you ever think about acting again?” Or “So have you given up acting?” Or, “when are you going to act again?”
That tinge is, as Marsellus Wallace says in Pulp Fiction, ” pride fucking with you.” Ego. Out here in California where we try to out – spiritual each other in how evolved we are, I will resist the urge to say more on the subject and just answer the question.
“Well, let me think about that…” as I resist the urge to defend myself to a complete stranger on a video call.
Don’t do it. I say to myself.
“What have you been up to?” As if I didn’t exist because I wasn’t on day time cartoons.
“What have I been up to? Hmm.”
Just once I would like to have my Morgan Freeman in Shawshank moment, “rehabilitated… well, Sonny…”
“Let me see. Writing about three hundred tunes, recording forty or fifty of them, about love, a hill in Tuscany, floods, civil war generals, Romeo and Juliet, Orpheus, fishermen, and the devil, Jesus on Palm Sunday, a boxer, a truck stop waitres, a drug addicted housewife, pain pills, Christmas in rehab, the parole board, ex presidents, a talking purple dinosaur blues, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, wanting to kill your boss, migrant workers, Wallmart Employees, gardeners, lost lonesome old cowboys, city boys, and more, starting a bluegrass band, working as a stage hand, cement hottie, washing postal trucks, driving a cab, tile cutter, house painter, becoming a member of the Actor’s Studio, written Leningrad Sonata, Gold Star, Binky’s Place, Morning, Kalamazoo, Brother’s Play, Bootleggers, Mr. Baseball, It’s a Big Fucking Volcano, Persuasion, Balmorial Park, So I used to be white, Romeo in Mantua, All time low, Hideaway, Broken Glass, Out of Water, Jericho Road, Last House on the Block, Ruby, First Stone, The Hanged Man, Universal Soul, B4 the Bel_Ringz, The Front, and Advisory, to name a few. A novel. Short stories. Learned to play the banjo and finger pick. Directing several pieces, starting a writing lab, attending and eventually co-moderating another.
I travelled and lived abroad, taught, worked in a warehouse, on scaffolding, in ditches, at mansions, walked dogs, got married, divorced, healed from an incurable condition, recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body, acted in Dreamer Examines His Pillow, King Lear, Much Ado about Nothing, and so on and so on. I have never stopped learning. Attending class (Shepherd plays, Pinter, O’Neill, Mamet, etc). Labs. Woodshedding.
All for free. Without a penny.
Read and re-read An Actor Prepares, Boleslavski, William Ball, Natalie Goldberg, Julia Cameron, and Virgil and Dante, Ovid, and Shakespeare, and Horace, and Aristotle, and Chekhov, and Williams, and Wilson, and Victor Wooton, and Dylan, and Keats, Alan Watts, and Thomas Merton, done a ten-day silent meditation retreat, played in the dark on the floor, written on my car seat, read Chinatown over and over at the WGA library, and Taxi Driver, and Dalton Trumbo, and Cacablanca, acted above storage units of Indian restaurants, wept on scripts, literally, my tears staining the pages, pawned instruments, sold memorabilia, emptied out an old jug of vanilla yoghurt at Coinstar… is that what you wanted to know or should I just say I was in a low-budget day time sci-fi pilot for kids that wasn’t picked up?
David Sedaris was an elf. Haven’t had that opportunity yet, but Christmas time sneaks up on us.
Here’s the point.
I am not a resume. And neither are you. I had an agent tell me when I was twenty four- looking twelve, going on forty, say, “get a life, Matt, a big life, you’re not going to work steadily till your forty.” I have. Gotten a life. A big one. And now I’m forty. A vital, rich with experience, and ripe forty. Tim Stone was right. I thank him for it today.
So, for all you Creatives out there who don’t know how to explain what you do in less then twenty words, take a glance at some IMDB pages of people you really admire. Look at that gap. Or as John Prine calls is “Jesus, the missing years…” and ask yourself, maybe the reason you admire them is because of what went down during those years when there wasn’t a credit. It never tells the story and should never determine your sense of accomplishment. Believe you me, I have allowed it to be so. Many times. Too many to even count/ But I don’t any more. And neither should you.
We’re both right on time.
Cause we have truly accomplished something. As Mark Kemble likes to say, “I list my accomplishments not my successes.” My accomplishments are many. And so are yours.
Never forget it. And keep throwing seeds.