Teatering on The Edge

The set is quiet, the camera is rolling, the lighting is adjusted one last time. The director whispers “Action” and an actor delivers a powerfully emotional line with expert precision and timing. “Cut!” Lights come up and Samuel L. Jackson climbs out of a sedan parked in the middle of the room and walks off in the direction of his dressing room with his small entourage in tow. “Photo Double” is yelled and a tall skinny assistant director leads me to the same vehicle from which Mr. Jackson had just emerged.

It was the winter of 1996. I was working as an On-Set Production Assistant on the mega flop “The Long Kiss Goodnight“. Wanting to save a few bucks, as producers do, they passed on hiring an extra and used me instead as a photo double for Samuel L. Jackson. OK, I know what you’re thinking, yes he is black and last I checked I’mwhite but before you bleed your brain out of your ears trying to figure this out I was photo doubling his socked and shoe-covered foot. The scene called for him to stamp on the gas pedal then the brake and rather than have Mr. Jackson stay on set for a menial insert shot they use photo doubles. I executed the director’s instructions flawlessly. If there were a category for foot stomping on gas and brake pedals at the Oscars I’d be a lock!

Throughout our lives we’re presented with opportunities to experience the unique and unusual, moments that define us as players in the game of life. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience many unique and unusual moments in my own life. In addition to having worked along some of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest, I’ve been to ridiculously expensive parties, I’ve traveled the world (with still lots yet to see), I’ve been talked about in books, I talked my way onto a naval submarine and shot footage for a film I was doing 4,000 miles away in college, I sold my cut off jean shorts for $1000 (for charity), I was on eBay’s most popular auctions list twice, I’ve climbed mountains, watched the sun rise over the Red Sea, I’ve seen things (on my job) that would make a goat throw up, and so much more. I’m not saying any of these things to impress you, as Tony Robbins might say, I’m saying them to impress upon you what is possible for one person in a single lifetime. I’ve only been on the planet for 39 years and already I’ve lived what seems like several lifetimes. I’ve worn so many hats in my short time here and yet what have I really done?

The things I’ve come across in my life are valued experiences and moments I would never take for granted, but they’re not essential in the grand scheme of things. They’re really nothing more than a few cool stories which I rarely even bring up when amongst friends as I hate being the center of attention, I’m a much better listener. I’ve done so much but achieved so little. OK, before I sell myself short I do have a degree, I’ve got a great job that I had to cross Hell and high water to get, I have a beautiful wife who made me a daddy after giving birth to our beautiful little girl three weeks ago. I have success but I haven’t achieved my dreams.

Several years ago, while I was still working in the film business, I was having breakfast at a popular restaurant who’s name escapes me at the moment, on Ventura Blvd in Los Angeles. It was a perfect LA morning, I was with friends and we were talking about life and taking those big chances, making ultimate sacrifices to achieve our biggest dreams. As the topic segued into what celebrities we wished people would mistaken us for my mind lingered on the previous conversation and that’s when it hit me. I needed to take the chance and go my own way, break free of whatever reservations I had aboutof leaving the film business and like Nike used to say “just do it”. Well, it took a few years but I did eventually leave the film industry in pursuit of a career as a cartoonist. Fortunately I fell in love with the kind of woman who would support my endeavor and our finances for a little while while I attempted to get one of my strips published.

It’s the same old story from here, the days turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into years and still nadda, no contracts from the syndicates, no publishers knocking at my door, no book deals. What the hell?? I’m oozing with talent for god’s sake, do these people have any clue how gifted I am??

I’m one of those guys that a lot of people hate. I can make an attempt at something for the first and pull it off like I’ve done it for several years. I’m simply good at nearly everything I try. I’m gifted musically, artistically, I sing, I play the guitar, piano, I draw, I create amazing sand sculptures (see below), I’m a good public speaker, I’m confident, blah, blah, blah, blah… but bupkis! There’s nothing so disheartening than not being able to make enough income to survive based on talent alone especially when you have a ton of it. It was a rude awakening when I realized I threw away one career before setting a firm enough foundation to begin another. For the first time in my life I was depressed, lost, I was so far down at the bottom they had to send James Cameron in a bathysphere to come get me.

I could write chapters on what my life was like those couple of years after leaving the film biz but I’ll spare you the gory details… for now. Let’s just say that there comes a time in a man’s life when he has to sacrifice even his greatest dreams if only for a little while and step up to the responsibilities of a husband and a provider. I needed a job and needed it fast.

I’m an eternal optimist so things have a habit of working out for me, opportunities tend to fall into my lap. It wasn’t long before I secured a great career and although it had nothing to do with art I was happy once again. I have one of the greatest jobs in the world right now and what’s most frustrating is that I can’t talk about it. Don’t ask me about it, don’t e-mail me telling me you wanna know what it is, just accept that I ain’t talking about it! I will, however, tell you everything the day I leave it and take up a full-time career as a cartoonist/writer… but that may be a little while yet.

I’ve gotten older since my stint as an unemployed, down-on-his-luck cartoonist, and wiser I think. I’ve really taken stock of my life and now that I’m on the verge of my 40th year I’ve come to see not only the things that are truly important to me but the reasons I have failed to achieve in the past. I look back now and see a pattern in my decision making that was shaped like a big hula hoop. What I see now is a guy who, despite his talent, jumps from one unfinished project to another unfinished project to another. I’d be half way through one idea then say “hey, I just got another awesome idea” and it had nothing to do with the one I had been working on at the time. I’d jump ship and begin anew before the previous one had even reached its infancy. I was so scattered in my thinking because I got so excited about the new idea and ran with it. Now that I’m older I’m thinking a little more clearly about the tasks at hand and what I need to accomplish them. I need to finish what I begin and find news ways, if necessary, to stay focused and enthusiastic about what I’m working on at any given moment. I need to sustain the ability to finish!!

I have two projects on the go at the moment, ones I’m incapable of leaving incomplete. As a promise to myself (and I never break my promises) I will finish what I’ve begun and it’s most helpful that I’m extremely passionate about these ideas. But like my job I can’t share them with you just yet. They’re still baking in the oven and if I open it now that cake won’t rise and I want too badly to eat this one and savor the true sweet taste of success.

For the first time in my life I feel very close to finally achieving my dreams. There’s no more wavering, no more straying off course. I’m a firm believer in fate and I don’t have all this talent for nothing. My ship hasn’t come in just yet but it’s nice to know that it hasn’t sunk and is still en route!