A Creative Life

Every life is a creative life because how could it not be?  We are literally creating every moment we live based on what we do or don’t do.   

Each minor or major or in-between choice leads to another, and then another, until before you know it decades have gone by.  The very act of living means we are making something that has never existed before.

Us.

Whoa Chairy

That was not meant to reek of new ageism, even though it does.

And no, we are not in an episode of This Is Us, now in its final season in case you have somehow managed to not be assaulted by NBC/Universal’s currently relentless marketing blitz.

I will miss Milo and his denim jacket

It is merely to state, and own, that we humans are ALL creative beings.   That is to say every one of us, according to the latter’s dictionary definition, has an imagination and an original idea(s).

Which has nothing to do with what is commonly referred to as talent. 

I’m reminded of this with each hour I’ve spent watching Peter Jackson’s irresistible Get Back, an eight-hour documentary of the documentary that chronicled the 1969 Beatles’ creation of their iconic Let It Be album (Note:  Somehow now weirdly being streamed only on Disney Plus).

Does this make them Disney… princes?

It also tugs massively at the heart with the passing of international screen icon and humanitarian, Sidney Poitier this week.

Just as it nostalgically takes us back to any number of seminal artistic triumphs we’ve enjoyed that were created by people like film director Peter Bogdanovich and songwriter Marilyn Bergman.

Thanks 2022. 

And no, it doesn’t matter that the combined ages of the last three is 268.  Or that it we added in Betty White last week we’d be at 367. 

A tough week!

Not to mention where we’d be at if we included the two long-deceased Beatles.

Talent is a natural aptitude or skill in a certain area that, in its extreme form, gets developed far beyond an ability to just merely do something well. 

Cultivated in the right way and at the right time it can transform our way of thinking, entertain us beyond belief and, in rare circumstances, change the world. 

Often for the good and, sometimes, even for the bad.

… and whatever this is

Jeopardy’s current $1,000,000 champ Amy Schneider, a trans woman, has begun to change our perception of who becomes a champion, and not only on a game show.

Our most recent former president, leading a movement that’s huckster-ized fantasy into fact and earned him more than a billion dollars in donations, leads the most anti-Democratic movement in the history of the U.S.

Dark vs. light.  Light vs. Dark.  

And who said the Marvel Universe isn’t relevant?  (Note:  Okay, I have).

… and don’t ask this guy. #ImwithMarty

But let’s stay with the light for now.

Watching The Beatles in their messy creative space amid all that footage, as any aspiring artist should, the level and ease of their talent is their least surprising quality.  In fact, it’s a given.

What’s more fascinating is observing just how young, goofy and utterly, humanly flawed each one of them are.

– Paul’s smart, boundlessly creative and so up it’s annoying. 

– John broods, cuts through the bullshit, does weird voices and likes very much to do drugs. 

– George, the youngest and perhaps wisest, desperately wants to be heard but seldom is.

– Ringo, loyal and unfazed by everyone, is up for anything except for all the unnecessary drama.  When that happens he clandestinely exits the room.   

Ringo (and his shirt) is just here for a good time!

Watching them you think, is that… it???  They remind me of my high school or college friends but with more colorful clothing. (Note:  I’d buy a copy of any one of their shirts off the rack and wear them tomorrow if only someone had the brains or talent to reproduce them.  And so would you).

This, of course, is the point.

My experience with the uber talented is not only are they all quite human, both good and bad, but that in real life, they can be so down to earth, surprisingly normal (or expectedly, abnormally normal) that, frankly, it’s shocking.

Sometimes it works!

I was fortunate to meet Sidney Poitier some years ago at restaurant because a friend knew him and he invited us to sit down at a large table of his family and friends.

I figured to myself, Oh Steve, (Note: This was before my Chair days), don’t say anything stupid and DO NOT, under ANY circumstances, react to how handsome you think this 80 year-old man is.

Well, before I could process all that and several minutes into various smaller conversations around the table, Sidney suddenly puts a hand on my shoulder, looks me in the eye and says, So Steve, what do you do?

Me, trying to keep my cool.

I mean, it’s like he was interested.  Though, wouldn’t any stranger at a table be if he was seated next to you and there was a lull in the conversation?

Actually, not necessarily, which is part of what made him who he was.  He was just a guy with extraordinary talents.  He knew it, I knew.  That was a given.  But he also was a mensch, had a life and was a lot more than that.

As for Bogdanovich, I decades ago I worked on his movie, Mask.  To this day, he knew more about film than any one I’ve ever met and was not shy about proving it in every conversation.

Plus so many neckerchiefs (and only he could pull them off!)

That and his toweringly intellectual way of speaking could come off as high-fallutin’ and rarified.  Yet get him on the topic of his late, murdered girlfriend, Dorothy Stratten, whom he’d just written a book about, and he was no different than any grieving uncle who’d just lost the love of his life.

It wasn’t affectation.  It wasn’t a pose.  It was simply a truly messed up guy who had been through it and would never be the same.

None of which changed the effete public persona he liked to present to the world and came so naturally to him.  When I ran into him some years later in Westwood on my way to a movie he’d just seen, he greeted me with a huge hello and called from across the street:  I’m doing a picture at Metro!  Give me a call!

Um… what?

Metro, I thought?  Metro?  This was the late eighties. MGM hadn’t been Metro in, um….well…forever?  Nevertheless it was as real and as human and inviting as a guy like him could ever be.  That is, happily greeting a young man he had formerly employed by name and publicly inviting him to come see him at… Metro! 

What you learn about talent over the years is that it doesn’t replace anyone’s humanity or raise it to a different level.  It is only one more characteristic for a person to create a life that reflects who they are based on the choices they have made and will make.

Choosing wisely, or more to the point, authentically, is the key.

Lulu – “To Sir, with love”

2022 and Beyond

As we enter into the third year of the COVID pandemic, I’m optimistic.  

Did you know the flu epidemic/pandemic in the early 20th century lasted two years and perhaps beyond into a fourth wave? 

What makes us think we’d be any different?  Besides our vaccines, we have a lot more ways to get close and get infected.

Never leaving the house again

It’s so easy to think the horrible will never end, the future is bleak and that it won’t EVER be as good as it was.

When I catch myself going down this rabbit hole I’m reminded of what the late, great Stephen Sondheim lyricized in the vastly underrated Merrily We Roll Along.

…That’s what everybody does

Blame the way it is on the way it was

On the way it never ever was…

On a lighter metaphor, movies were not supposed to exist once television was born and theatre, well, that would soon be spoken as widely as Latin.

The Tao of Moira

So much for prophecy.

Movies are still here but the way we access them have changed.  The same with theatre.  And television.  And music.

Who remembers DVDs, VCRs, eight tracks, tape decks and…radio?

I mean, radio as a primary art form that’s on the front page or brain of anything?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

But on that latter point, who listens to PODCASTS?  

New Pod from a Chair Episodes coming soon!

You are so no better than your great grandparents.

Social media is not the revolutionary means to the end of the world but the evolution of a world where change knows no end.

Yeats famously prophesized in a 1919 poem, the center cannot hold and we’re still here. 

This despite the fact that phrase was pilfered and rephrased by any number of 1960s social revolutionaries who saw the end coming, and was recently used as the title of the Netflix doc on the life of writer Joan Didion, The Center Will Not Hold.

RIP Joan

Totalitarian reign and pushback.  They leave Afghanistan, we desert Afghanistan. Our weapons of mass destruction, they lied about weapons of mass destruction, our existence teeters on the brink of mass destruction.

This is not to minimize any one of the above issues or their many cousins that are nipping at the heels of all of our destructions.

It is simply to remember that despite all of these changes certain core issues and ways of humanity are ALWAYS the same. 

It’s simply the players, scenery and mode of import that makes it feel different.  To US.

I imagine this is what both Sondheim AND Betty White knew well before their ends.

We’ll miss you girl

On that note, it’s hard to lose our beloved elders, isn’t it?  But by anyone’s measure, living to 91 and 99 is almost more than we can ask given the realities of human frailty.  Yet, we never get enough of people we love, like and admire from afar and near.

This is a particularly heart ripping truth when it comes to our closest friends, family and loved ones. 

Death can be random and cruel, particularly when it comes to the young, but it’s also rote and predictable.  It’s always been the way of the world.  We can extend life a bit but THAT will also NEVER change.

At least as far as we know. 

That is, unless you have Irishman level de-aging tech available to you

Which brings us back to the exciting but scary part that has so many of us freaking out about 2022; what we DON’T know.

Which is….A LOT.

My late second Mom, an avid reader, once told me when I was feeling hopeless and down that life was like a great book, you never know what will happen when you turn the page. 

Expect the unexpected, weather the storm of horribleness and celebrate every second of luck and good fortune that will inevitably come your way.

This, if you have a field

If this sounds like a Forest Gumpism, a movie I could never stomach, it doesn’t to me.  Her advice wasn’t akin to life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get, even though it might be read this way now.  Rather than being about the randomness of life, I took it as the certainty that a good piece of story will always deliver to you; the ups and downs, the inescapable heartache and the always to be counted on moments of joy.

Though perhaps, for me, it was simply the book/story metaphor.  I could relate a lot more to that than some stupid container of processed sugar able to undo you or reward you beyond your wildest dreams depending on what road you decided to paw.

OK but pizza might work

It could have also been the messenger. 

My second Mom, meaning my stepmom – a parental figure who only becomes such by coincidence of marriage but can truly emerge as a lot more than that depending on who they and you are – was not a habitual advice giver and problem solver.  Though always, she was honest.  Some would say to a fault.

So when she took the time to challenge me with a metaphor of what life truly was (and would be) it compelled me to listen.  And woke me up from my malaise in an instant.

I think this idea is what sustains me through so many problematic moments, both personal and societal.

OK, but also pizza

That the secret is that not one of us, the most talented or smartest or even both that any human can be, will solve any of these issues on our own.  Nor are we likely to even manage to get through them.

We depend on each other.  Not only the people we love and trust but on all of those charlatans who we loathe. 

The best of them show us the way to survive and grow.  The worst of them try and seduce us into drowning in their bile and cynicism.

Except this guy. F*** this guy.

Not that I haven’t been known to be a cynic or offered my own bile out into the world, dressed up and spewed out as wisdom at times.

It takes a long time, often a lifetime, to become wise enough to understand what is being offered (and why) from each source and to move forward in the best way possible.  And I believe the most difficult part of this is recognizing that you – yourself – can be quite an unreliable narrator. 

They (Note: Whoever THEY are) say trust yourself, but that doesn’t always work.  When you suspect you – yourself – are not to be trusted you need to turn to people like your second Mom, one among a small handful of someone elses that we all need to cultivate, that inner circle of truth, and then decide what the best options are.

You can’t sit all alone in your room and figure it all out yourself.  That’s myopic and creepy and just plain dumb.  And it will NEVER get you through 2022 in any sort of meaningful or even pleasing way.

Deep thoughts

Once I realized this small fact and made it into a strategy, I became more optimistic.

A group effort with you at the helm but never as sole narrator and dictator, benevolent though you might think you are.

No ONE of us is to be entirely trusted.   But together, with the benefits of our small group (Note: Which doesn’t mean isolating from the thoughts and logic of the rest of the world at large), we will see a way forward.

Through 2022 and into plots twists and turns we never could have imagined or pulled off by ourselves.

“Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight” – Jennifer Hudson from SING