I spent last weekend driving with my oldest son, Max, from our home in Seattle to his new apartment just a few blocks from the Hollywood “Walk of Fame” so he could begin his career writing for television. We weren’t in L. A. long before I began feeling something familiar and unpleasant. I felt it when I first read the words “Hollywood Blvd” on a street sign, and when we met a woman smoking outside Max’s apartment who advised him to not get stuck working as a grip as she had. I felt it when I saw the Lamborghinis and Bentleys parked near his place, when we passed two young women who looked like models, and when I drove by the Netflix building and the Viacom building and the CBS Studios.
It was a such a sneaky sort of feeling that I didn’t pay much attention to it until I was having lunch with my Max and my brother John (an L. A. native for the last ten years), and realized I was dipping toward miserable. I felt like I’d contracted a disease, and I found myself wondering, “What’s wrong with me? I mean, what’s really wrong with me?”
That’s when I remembered where I was. We’d left the restaurant and were exploring the shops on Hollywood Blvd, and Max and John were talking about the proper etiquette for pitching, so I didn’t want to interrupt them with my epiphanies. I decided that when I had him alone I would tell John why this town was tricky for me, how it was like sending an alcoholic to a bourbon factory offering unlimited samples. I just needed to tell someone, I thought. Come clean about what happens to me when I start sniffing status and money and fame, how I want to know where I rank on all fronts.
John had to go to a dance recital for his girlfriend’s daughter that afternoon, so Max and I decided to stroll the Walk of Fame. I was still thinking how I would tell John about this town’s effect on me, though as we found our first star I wasn’t feeling as bad as I had at lunch. I could remember feeling bad, but now I was just talking to Max about the stars whose names I knew and those whose names I didn’t. Max said you had to pay for your own star and I thought that was weird but believable.
I still felt it was important I tell John, but we met him and my screenwriter friend Chris for dinner, and being with those two and Max, having them talk about helping my boy, and listening to their funny stories, I couldn’t feel anything but happy to be where I was. We left the restaurant and people in general were feeling friendlier to me, both the waitress and the guy across the street I thought I recognized from television. I thought then about how I liked helping people, how I liked talking to them about their troubles and their aspirations, and how I hadn’t known that about myself for a long time.
I forgot what I had wanted to tell John until I was sitting in my gate at the Bob Hope International Airport. Maybe I’d tell him the next time we talked. I already missed Max, but I was glad to be headed home. I realized I wouldn’t be carrying my disease back to Seattle, that I’d been absolved, having apparently confessed to the only one who needed to hear it.
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Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence.
You can find William at: williamkenower.com