This Christmas

For the first time in, well, ever, I spent Christmas alone. I was, unfortunately, the recipient of a birthday-case of COVID, my birthday being two weeks prior.

As I sat and pondered the pandemic, the holidays, family, and all that it entails, I guess the thought arose that has been a driving factor for millennia. 

What makes a happy and meaningful life?

Now, this is obviously a much bigger question than anyone knows how to answer. It’s one that has been debated probably since the very first debates. 

What I’ve come up with, in this new solitude, is that happiness is constantly in flux, and meaning is what you give to your own life. How you view yourself is how you act, and how you act is who you are.

So, be happy? Merry Christmas. Don’t get sick. I’ll see you next year.

The Conveyance of Ideas

Words are useful tools when considering that they make up the entirety of our system to convey ideas. Without words, we are reduced to senseless gesturing, facial signals, and some distant hope of understanding and communicating. 

Language, at its core, is representational. Thankfully we have a universal acceptance of what words are and how to use them. We have rules in place for grammar, syntax, and acceptance of social norms. 

But, at the end of the day, all words are merely figments.

Consider love. The Greeks had six words for love: 

  • Eros, or sexual passion.  
  • Philia, or deep friendship.  
  • Ludus, or playful love. 
  • Agape, or love for everyone. 
  • Pragma, or longstanding love. 
  • Philautia, or love of the self.

Where we use “love” to indicate some semblance of emotion, the Greeks laid out different forms of love that we can all recognize.

Our language is only as good as our shared understanding of it. And when all of our thoughts and emotions are deeply personal, it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re understood.

Writing again

I’ve found myself once again adhering to a daily writing practice. This is in part due to the book Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. I don’t exactly remember when I picked up this book. It’s certainly after coming into contact with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, but I hadn’t started looking at it until a recent day trip to Ojai, CA. 

I was sitting outside of a little Japanese restaurant, waiting on my veggie tempura sandwich, and I started to read.  

“Just dive in,” urges Natalie, teaching, “Begin where you are.”

And so I did. I began writing again, trying to stick with it daily. Some of what I’ve written has already appeared on the blog. It’s imperfect, I realize, but it’s also honing a voice.

It’s important to write with your voice, and not adopt someone else’s. Writing should be authentic, and that’s what I’m looking for. 

495 Tabs

I’ve just updated my iPhone, and with it came new notifications and things to explore. The Safari interface changed noticeably, if not significantly. And something that surprised me were the 495 tabs that I had open. Now, iPhone caps at 500 tabs. And I know that as I’ve hit that count several times in the past, leaving me to go through and delete a couple.

What is it about tabs that make me not close them? Once information is found, the source can be let go of, right? That coming from someone who collects books and usually has no intention of letting go of them.

But tabs are less substantial than books. They just sit there, not really doing anything. A bit of data waiting to be released.

Some are stories I want to read. Others contain products I’m considering purchasing (or have considered). There are exercise tips, DIY guides, daily horoscopes. Also articles, recipes, and various sign in pages. 

In other words, a plethora of type, and a dearth of organization. 

So, this next week, I’ll be collating my various tabs, and reducing it to a more manageable number. Assuming I don’t get distracted and add more than I close out.

To travel

There’s a joy in traveling. In exploring hitherto unseen regions of the world. Of your town. Of your own home. 

You never know what currents may sweep you away, just setting foot outside your door.

The world has become smaller, though, while it’s become bigger. The ever exotic wanderings and allure of the exterior make their way into the commonplace. You can notice the architecture of Europe just down the street.

Asian foods and African garments. The smells of worlds far removed from your expected home life. Something that, just twenty years ago, maybe you couldn’t experience without travel, now you are able to find it with the click of a button.

Google, take me to Ethiopian food. 

Hey Siri, where’s the nearest Thai restaurant? 

You never know what you lose when everything is available to you.

You don’t get to experience the joy of surprise. When was the last time you just took a walk around town, looking at the things that are around you? Did you even notice? Or were you glued to your phone the entire time?

It’s hard to gauge, really. What is the point of travel? Of exploration.

Is there something unique to the human experience that we long for avenues that are far different from our own? Do we seek the exotic, in an attempt, as de Botton puts it, “to find that which we recognize in ourselves but don’t get at home?”

Travel is unique. It is an experience for all of us. It’s something that anyone can enjoy if they are brave enough to try out the movements required.

Step on, clothe up. Winter wear for cold, or something cooler in hotter climes.

Step two, walk outside. 

Keep walking. That’s it. Now you’re traveling. If your eyes are open, and you yourself are open, you can experience the joys of travel. Of exploration. Because travel and exploration should be synonymous.

There should be no instance when one travels just to get to another point. It’s a sacrilege.

On a recent plane ride, I myself couldn’t help but look at the other passengers. Wondering if they were LA residents, or just passing through. Were they coming home, or leaving. Did they seek some greater adventure off the plane, or was this it? The last ride before the adventure came to an end.

I don’t know! But I can guess. I can see who was tired from their journey. Who was excited. Who wanted more, and who just wanted to stay in bed. 

The bed part I can understand. Sometimes it’s easier to just stay in the bed. 

Several years ago, as I traveled through Dublin city, I stayed three nights in a hostel. The entire second day I stayed in my bunk, possibly fighting off the hangover from the night before, or the exhaustion of the long hours spent walking during the preceding days, or, perhaps, I just needed a break to decompress. To step away from the process of traveling, and just be in the space.

We sometimes are so focused on the forward motion, we forget to be present. Again, it’s the same as looking at the phone, face down, ignoring the surroundings you think are familiar because, in your mind, you’ve seen them all before.

But have you even looked? Is it possible you missed something? The quintessential element that makes it what it is?

Next time you make your way on whatever perambulations you feel the need to commit to, look around. Enjoy the scenery. See what can be seen, hear what can be heard.

Be present. Be here, now, as they say.

Thanksgiving … again

Somehow, we’ve managed another year. Already to the holidays. Tomorrow is Black Friday, and shopping is already underway for what will likely be an expensive holiday season.

At the time of writing this, I’m not sure where I’ll be. I’ll have just finished one gig, a quick reshoot for an HBO show. (Just typing that makes me so uncertain as to whose life I’m actually living). I’ll have another couple of weeks of wrapping out the Fox show I’ve been working on since August.

This is personally a hard day, as on this day eleven years ago my grandmother died. I don’t talk about it much. The facts of it come up from time to time, but the emotions behind it… Those I keep locked away. Not sure if it’s the healthiest, but I’m also not sure if it isn’t.

I like to believe that I came to terms with it a while ago. In the aftermath of my engagement falling apart, I feel that I gained a lot of insight. Most of the person I am now, at least in choices and lifestyle, is a result of that time, back in 2016. It was that point that also allowed me to let go of some of the guilt of losing my grandmother.

I guess in port in the storm will do.

Not that I mean to dredge it up here, or riff on it for too long. But it is fresh in my mind this November, as this is the first time that Thanksgiving has fallen on the 25th since she passed in 2010. 

We lose a lot, living life. I think sometimes we forget what really matters. We push forward so hard to succeed, to be someone that can be seen as having achieved their goals. In the end, I guess I’m just thankful to the family and friends in my life who’ve been there through the good times and the bad. To the ones who consistently remind me that I’m cared for, no matter how much distance separates us, or how much time passes since we’ve seen each other.

And, as not to forgo tradition, here’s this little chestnut.

Thanksgiving is a great time for vegetarians.

LA is a fox

Cities seem to be living things. They have arteries that course with lifeblood. They have central nervous systems, interconnected thoroughfares, electronic signals, and hubs that control the whole of it. But they aren’t quite alive… not really.

I’ve been thinking of the anthropomorphization of cities since reading Harry Carr’s comments about LA vs. San Francisco from the LA Times in 1923. He described Los Angeles as a white bull terrier; San Fran as a Russian wolf hound. 

I’ve yet to go to San Francisco, but, for me, LA is a fox. It’s beautiful, evasive, and quick. It’s hard to pin down, and loves to play. It can also be dangerous, under the right circumstances. But hidden behind the fangs and claws, small, sharp, and deadly, is a wit and cleverness that makes it exalted among all the other animals.

a day in the life

Most mornings I wake up (grudgingly), make my bed, shamble into the kitchen, pull out a protein shake from the fridge, then drink it down. I’ll brush my teeth, get into gym wear, and stir myself a pre-workout. If I hadn’t done dishes the night before, I’ll do them at this point. 

It’s off to the gym, where I’ll stay from an hour to an hour-and-a-half. Then it’s back to the condo, another protein shake, this one made in the blender, and then I’ll change and head to work. Work is roughly a 13-hour day, though I’ll have an hour lunch midway through. They also provide breakfast, two hot snacks, and many other assorted snacks. I split my team between answering emails/taking meetings in the office, and on set checking in on my team. 

Once we wrap, I head home, have a beer, try and do dishes, read a bit, shower, and then off to bed. That’s the bulk of the last two months here in sunny Los Angeles.

into november

The months tick down, 1, 2, 10, 11. Suddenly, we’re in to the Holiday Season. Suddenly two years of COVID has passed. So much has changed, and the world keeps moving forward.

Every morning I wake up, get ready for work, make my way to set. I’ve been fortunate to stay so busy this year. The last two years have been full of financial ups and downs, and yet we still manage somehow to carry on.

Keeping up momentum is difficult at times. For me, it can be usually difficult, if not impossible. With the right structure, even I can maintain a practice. Such as work, exercise, or meditation. But I need the structure. Without it, it all falls apart.

October comes to a close

I haven’t been writing. Well, posting. Every time I sit down, my thoughts seem half-formed. I wouldn’t necessarily call it writer’s block, as I am writing. However, it doesn’t feel like I have much to say. It’s a few sentences here, a couple more there, then I walk away. But, I will eventually sit down to write more.

There are things I’m considering – money and pay (almost always); safety on set; health and fitness; certain West Coast vs. East Coast differences; October, being always busy, somehow; and a myriad of other topics.

So, for this first post in three weeks, this is something I’ve been enjoying lately. Spooky mini-stories: iHeartRadio’s 13 Days of Halloween. If you listen, enjoy. And keep a light on.