Don't Stop Believin'
In Spring of 2009, at high recession time, I was out of a 9-to-5 job and needed some kind of project to occupy my days. And so I'd sit in a Starbucks in Westwood (Los Angeles) every day for hours upon hours, banging away at a screenplay and writing up posts on this blog.
To paint the time period with pop culture reference points, Lady Gaga was just happening really big. Jordin Sparks' last great song, "Battlefield," was out. The Black Eyed Peas were having a renaissance with "Boom Boom Pow," Pet Shop Boys had just released their pretty great Yes album and La Roux was maybe the coolest new thing around. What ultimately got me to pick up with the script — one that I'd started four years prior but set aside for a rainy day (or 120 rainy days) — was seeing the movie Adventureland in the theater. Nice coming of age story, I thought. Then, haughtily, I can do better.
That May, in the last few weeks of my unemployment, Fox aired the pilot for what seemed on the surface like a TV series knocking off the then-three-and-a-half-year-old High School Musical. It was called Glee. And, thankfully, it became obvious in the first five minutes that any HSM comparisons were unfounded.
If I took the time to actually have a think about what, culturally, was going on in 2009 to ignite Glee's mass appeal — more so than simply "everyone's been through high school and likes a good a cappella rendition of the latest radio jam, right?" — then I'd maybe come up with something about a group of kicked-around high school losers battling the big, bad odds stacked against them resonating extremely well in the time of America's economic crisis.
Glee for me was all about that last number in the pilot, when Finn, Rachel, Tina, Mercedes, Kurt and Artie came together on a dark stage in an empty high school auditorium and found a spark where there was seemingly no fire, all via a joyous performance of Journey's early '80s ephochal ode to loneliness, "Don't Stop Believin'."
The rest of this will work best if unashamedly play this clip loudly. (Trust me, it's the only way, and "shame is a wasted emotion.")
****Growing up an only kid, I always felt comfortable in lonely surroundings, and confident in taking on the world — something that might have been obvious from the fucks-free tone of Chart Rigger from the get-go. When I look back now, it's easy to pinpoint that in early 2009 I felt on top of things, creatively. As far as this blog goes, that period capped off a peak three-year stretch. My screenplay was finished. I was out of a "day job," but I was getting full-time freelance work. I was even making an extra hundred bucks a week by picking up dog-walking duties in the afternoons. (Random memory: through all of this, I listened to Cut Copy's albums Bright Like Neon Love and In Ghost Colours albums around the clock.)
And then my dad died that July. A blur of three weeks spent in Pennsylvania followed.
A few weeks later, back in Los Angeles, one of my best friends was in a life-altering motorcycle accident. I took on a freelance job for a major record label cranking out trivia questions for an iPhone app that would never see the light of day. Somewhere in the haze, I got offered an editor position at Idolator. Astoundingly, a disastrous move to Texas followed in 2010, where isolation and loneliness broke through my once-sturdy barricade and haunted me at every turn for over two years.
If I've ever been "Zen-like" about anything, it's now, when I look back on that span of what I can only describe as a really abysmal end to a the previous decade.
And so, adrift in the middle of nowhere — or, more specifically, Dallas — a light inside of me went out.
****Somehow through all of that I kept watching Glee. The show got preposterous — like, absolutely fucking terrible — as the seasons wore on, and Season 4 was the undeniable worst. But I stuck with it...barely.
I can admit that I phoned in three years of blogging here on Chart Rigger. There were a dozen times where I thought about writing The Final Post between 2010 and 2012, or just letting it slide into disuse without a word. Still, somehow that never happened. (Trust — I'm not delusional enough to think this blog has any significance in the world, other than being an outlet for me to put words on the Internet in the midst of each day in my life.)
The funny thing about hitting rock bottom, emotionally, is that life has a way of kicking you in the ass at some point and telling you to grow up, if you're willing to let it. Once and for all, just grow up.
I did a lot of traveling in that otherwise drab period, and eventually the opportunity for a move to New York presented itself. Sure,why the hell not?
****Checking Twitter while on a weekend trip to Connecticut early Sunday morning, July 14, it became apparent very quickly that Cory Monteith had died. Years of writing about celebrities has a way of numbing you to such events, but one out-of-the-blue factor made this sink in like a dagger, which was that it also happened to be the four-year anniversary of my dad's death. I cried for an hour that morning, and did the one thing at that point that felt natural. I logged on to Idolator and cranked out several posts about Cory and Finn and Glee and sadness.
Back in New York late on Sunday afternoon, I walked around Central Park listening to "Don't Stop Believin'" and "The Scientist" and "Keep Holding On" on my iPod, the songs I felt the show did an exceptionally well job of incorporating a powerful gut-punch into.
Man, "The Scientist" can wreck you. I sat on the steps by the Bethesda fountain in the park, hiding behind dark, dark sunglasses, and played it over and over.
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard
I'm going back to the start
I know my dad would have totally dug Glee, or at least the first season or two. He really loved music and was always rooting for the underdog. He just never had a chance to see it.
****Last night's episode of Glee dealing with Finn Hudson/Cory Monteith's death, "The Quarterback," was one of the saddest things I've ever watched, as far as episodic TV series go. Maybe the saddest. I re-watched it on Hulu this morning and did several posts on my Tumblr that are really just screen grabs from every bit that had me ugly-crying. There are 30 images altogether, so that gives you an idea what kind of morning I had.
But the point of all this isn't to enforce and air of doom and gloom. Quite the opposite. (And I realize this is also the sappiest, schmaltziest post that's ever existed in this space. You know I don't give an F, though.)
I'm really enjoying living in New York. And my outlook on life really turned on that day in July when I sat in the park and thought about getting back to being happy. It's a re-learning process. I've had to stop questioning where the universe has dragged me and let go of a lot of sadness and confusion with regards to the past four years. Sometimes it's best to just lean forward and fall into the flow of what will be.
Funny enough, as I'm writing this, I'm sitting now in the same Starbucks in Westwood where I spent so many hours finishing that screenplay in Spring 2009. The sun is shining and the sky over this city that I've missed so much over the past 48 months looks surreal, blue. It feels warm here.
Oh, and I finally re-read that script last night on the flight from New York to Los Angeles. I didn't cringe once — always a good sign. In fact, I guffawed out loud multiple times, much to the annoyance of the slumped over dude beside me who was trying to sleep. I even got out my red pen and made a few minor changes.
I guess it's time to go back to the start.