L.A. Times – L.A. Affairs: Cautious driver faces the prospect of a blind turn

Original Article: http://www.latimes.com/home/la-hm-affairs-20150425-story.html

I hadn’t been a personal driver long—it was a way to make extra cash, working the South Bay and Long Beach. She was my first job in Redondo Beach, and she had kept me waiting for 15 minutes outside her apartment. When she appeared, she was in a black cocktail dress and flip flops. She carried a pair of blue high heels in one hand, and her clutch purse in the other. She was friendly and complimented me on my tie.
“I’m so sorry. I’ve been running behind all day,” she said.
“It’s OK,” I replied.
The traffic on the 405 North was moderate. I figured I could get her to Hollywood in a half hour or so, but clouds had lingered for most of the day, and it had started to rain. I had already seen two accidents on the way to pick her up, so I was being extra cautious. We engaged in the usual chit-chat. She asked how long I had been driving. I told her a few weeks. She told me about her job in broadcasting and how she loathed having to go out on weekends—especially to Hollywood. I agreed that Hollywood had changed, or maybe I had just gotten older and it had lost its appeal.
“Roads are slick,” I said, “People drive too fast in the rain here.”
I merged into the slow lane. She reached into her purse and produced a small compact—she was finishing her makeup.
“I look all right?” she asked.
“Yes. You look nice.”
She laughed. “Does that make you uncomfortable? Are clients not supposed to ask those types of questions?”
I told her it was fine. Conversation always put the clients at ease, especially women traveling alone. She seemed to relax the more we talked.
“Damn,” she said, “I forgot to call my sister and tell her I’ve left. She likes to make sure I’m safe.”
She spoke to her sister and reassured her she was fine and that she’d call her after the event. I took the off-ramp to La Cienega and got bogged down in traffic around Pann’s.
“This is why I never leave the South Bay,” she said, “Traffic all the way to Hollywood.” She was looking at a travel app on her phone when she got a text. She said it was her sister reminding her to text once she got to Hollywood.
“If I don’t text my sister throughout the night, she has a fit. I wish she’d get out more.”
She explained that her sister was a very attractive girl and had gotten into fitness modeling. After dating a string of the wrong kinds of men, she opted to focus more on her career. She stayed in most weekends.
I had grown quiet, fearing where our conversation was leading. Then it came, the dreaded: “So, do you date much? Are you married?”
I rarely talk about my personal life, especially with strangers. However, she had a kind of openness that I appreciated, and I found myself opening up too. I told her I had been in a relationship that had ended. We had recently entered that awkward phase of trying to find a way to be friends—a phase that required some form of make-believe, pretending that our emotions and any lingering romantic urgings were gone.
She was sympathetic.
“You’ll find someone awesome. It just takes time.”
I had heard that continuously in the past few months and, frankly, it never seemed to make me feel any better. That’s the curse of a breakup– no matter what people say, it’s a dark valley you have to navigate on your own.
We were a few miles south of Sunset when she decided to call her sister, again. During their conversation, she mentioned me.
“Yes, I already told you, the driver is not crazy. Actually, I think you would like him.”
I stayed silent. There was no protocol for this. She was trying to set me up.
“Yes, he works out,” she said followed by a chuckle. She soon ended the call. I drove north on Ivar and found a meter.
“So, my sister wants you to call her.” She handed me a small piece of paper with a phone number.
“She’s never met me.”
“You’re a good guy. She trusts me.”
I told her I’d think about it. I wasn’t sure I needed to be dating at the time. The wound was still fresh and I was emotionally fatigued.
“You can call her while you wait.”
I was hesitant to say anything. I smiled, appeasing her. She headed toward the club’s entrance. I fed the meter, walked a bit, and then got back in the car.
I placed the number on the passenger’s seat and tuned the radio to jazz. After listening to a few songs, I got up the courage and took the phone from my suit pocket.

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The Last Love Letter (An Exercise in Emotional Unearthing Inspired by S. Burke and E. Cleaver)

Dear:__________________________,

Lately I feel my words have been failing so it’s with great apprehension that I commit these words to paper. I’ve come under a kind of bout, a stupor that I can’t seem to shake. This could be a great catastrophe, but I’m prepared for the fall out. Shameless thoughts bullied their way into my head and they’ve taken up residence in my consciousness: I deserve to know you, to communicate with you and this entire happening. I’ve never met a woman like you before and in many ways I’m at a loss. I can’t really form words, build on ideas that can describe the complete gravity of my feelings, but I will try.

I don’t believe in the concept of merit, or karma without the sutra, or any other mystic jazz, but I do believe in fate. As clichéd as that may sound, and believe me it almost pains me enough to erase it, but it is a very real thing…at least to me. It is no mistake that I met you and in our few encounters I’ve developed a profound respect for you. I do seek the profound. Contrary to the advice of those around me who claim wisdom, I’ll take the credit and let the cash go. I prefer to incur interest or debt with the hope one day I’ll be able to pay such a thing off. I could write letters, poems, bleed on the page if need be and get nothing in return. I could do this everyday if it pleased you. I am not afraid of ultimate failure and I do not believe that a beautiful relationship has to always end in carnage. It’s a lie when they say all good things must come to an end. It is true that I’m a realist. Many say too real for my own good. But I do dream and not arbitrarily. I intend to make all things I dream sublime realities. But I’m not without folly or fault. I suppose you caught me in a transition. I have been accused of being things that are not complimentary. I’ve been called aloof, a playboy and an eccentric. So I consider the stakes are high. But with all honesty I must say you’ve cast a spell and in the words of Solomon Burke, “I feel your mark upon me now as surely as the hand that leaves the bruise”.

We know each other little, but with the capacity for much. I know words can be lethal, and can bring about frightening realities. They can resurrect, create and destroy. So I must reiterate that this was not an easy task. But it is an awesome thing and I hope you have the ego for a compliment, but you deserve these words and much, much more. I know as an artist that inspiration can overpower us. It can cascade down on our heads and threaten to beat us into the ground, into the dust. But I’ve never feared such unknowns in my work, so why in my life? I suppose in my work I have more control, but in life one must account for what is not written: real emotions, real souls, and real-life. I am learning. Any man would be lying if he said he would rather hold a woman than for her to stay out of her own free will. Just as any man would be lying if he denied wearing a mask in an effort to impress or con a woman. I say con, because I believe that a man who operates in a sham is a con artist. I bare my soul proudly. I Am what I Am. Now that I’ve begun to write, I’ve put it all on the table, emphatically. I’ve lowered the boom, so to speak. I know what I’ve done but I do not regret it, not one word. I suppose this is all a gamble, a game of hearts and craps. But by meeting you, you’ve tossed me a lifeline. I’ve already won. There is no pressure. In fact, if you never responded to the words I’ve written I’d be fine with that. I just want you to know the impact you’ve had. I admire your tenacity, drive and determination. Your passion astounds me and during our conversations I’ve found myself in owe of you. Aside from your immense beauty is your intellect and wit. I could talk with you for hours and not think of anything else except the words being spoken…what can I say, you put a smile on my face every time I see you and now just for now, nothing is more real than this.

Truly,
Aaron

You Scare Me To Death (Working through “Gone Girl”) (Spoiler Alert)

I recently saw David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” which resonated on a few levels. It’s a slick film based on the novel by Gillian Flynn, with an underlying metaphor about the futility of marriage. The female protagonist is Amy, a scorned woman who is also a psychopath. She constructs a revenge scenario of biblical proportions and sets out to make her husband suffer in unimaginable ways.

The film treats marriage as some type of shared psychosis. It’s emotional but also very mental. What exactly happens to a person’s brain when they get married, or better yet, fall deeply in love? Things change upstairs–chemicals and neurons, an altered psychosis.

Amy’s mission is to make her husband feel as bad as she did–worse. She recognizes that at some point, early on, she did love her husband but that love turns to hate upon discovering his infidelity. I understand that Amy is a murderous psychopath, but how she sees marriage may not be that far-fetched. Her philosophy is that when we meet someone and begin to build a relationship, we enter into a social contract. Who you say you are or pretend to be, is who we accept as the truth. It’s like both parties are agreeing to this lie or revision of who they both are–sure, things will come out later but they shouldn’t be earth-shaking shockers.

Where the overall theme becomes apparent, is within the last 15 minutes that leads to the climax and resolution. Amy attempts to restore the contract she had with her husband and in the process she kills. She reclaims her marriage and renegotiates the terms of their agreement. This time with a trump card–pregnancy. The fear of Amy having a child and raising it is what propels her husband to stay. And their marriage becomes an even bigger production. Most marriages are just that–a production. There’s the public version, the private version, and then the version that exists in silence. It’s what isn’t said in the moments at the dinner table. There are people who have been married for years and quietly resent each other, but they don’t divorce. It’s that shared psychosis–a mental illness. Yes, Amy is insane but marriage isn’t for the sane. And they aren’t always about happiness for some. There are those who take comfort in knowing the devil they sleep with. Once you understand the nature of a thing, you know what it’s capable of. It can be much more frightening starting something new and having to get to know the ends and outs of that person. What if they’re worse than the person you left? What if they hurt you again and you can’t recover? These are frightening thoughts for most. 

In marriages people hurt each other–some hurt big, some small. Some go out of their way to hurt, and some just make horrible mistakes. Meeting someone sets unknown events into motion. It’s the unknown that we crave and that’s healthy. However, when venturing into the unknown, always be sure you can see a light at the end of the tunnel or at least a good exit route.  

The Rewind

Looking back on a past relationship is never pretty. It requires having to filter through moments you thought mattered but didn’t. Those moments that resonated on an emotional level, but for the other person were simply a series of seconds that made up the minutes of some mundane event. It’s harsh but real. When entering a relationship, you must face the possibility that the person you are with isn’t with you because they love you. They can be with you because they fear being alone. Or you may be that experiment–that person they think will save them. 

The following are rules when rewinding through the past:

1. It’s going to hurt–it’s going to hurt bad. Even if you weren’t in love with the person, humans have an insatiable need to never give up. There’s always going to be that feeling of–“What if I tried harder?” or “Communicated more?”. The fact is, there is nothing you could have done. In the words of James Caan, “Sometimes we just don’t mix.”

2. Was it really romantic? Romance is a major part of sustaining a relationship. For some, they believe sex over romance will keep something going, but that always fails. Sex changes things. What begins as one thing, is something completely different in the end. You don’t include love, respect, romance, faithfulness–it’s doomed. It’s imperative that you ask yourself, was it ever romantic. Did you get those butterflies in your stomach when that person came around. I’ve felt it a few times in my life and it’s unmistakable. The most recent was with a girl, almost a year ago. She’s gone to Louisiana now, but I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since. I remember standing at her door and waiting for her to open it. I always had a lump in my throat and my stomach was doing flips.

3. Were you inspired? This is major because I’m a firm believer that the person you’re with should inspire you in some way. You should wake up and want to be better for that person because you care what they think of you. If you don’t feel inspired by the moments shared, then they weren’t anything special.

4. Now this is difficult but were they always present in the moment? Was there a time you caught the person drifting off or looking at someone else in front of you? Were they always intently focused on you, like you were the only one in the room? It’s painful to confront but it must be done. If you ever felt like they weren’t fully engaged–eye contact, body language, listening, etc. Then you experienced that so-called “connection” alone. They were simply occupying the chair next you.

5. This may be the hardest, but were they honest with you? Honesty is key, always. Was there ever a time when you just knew they were holding back information (omission), maybe even flat-out lying? I’m one for the truth, no matter how terrible it is. However, there are those who con and through deceit, gain your trust and access to your heart. But with any lie, it falls apart sooner or later. That little lie was a sign of things to come. It meant that you didn’t truly matter, not enough for the person to be straight with you. And it can easily snowball into cheating or more terrible forms of deceit. 

In the end, we do the best we can. Dating and relationships of any kind come with risk, but with great risk is the potential for great reward. In the city of dreams, it’s easy to get lost. But Drake put it best, “Know yourself, know your worth.” Don’t ever compromise. Good luck out there Dreamlanders!

Knowing is Half the Battle

“You can hook up with someone for a long time or know their middle name or what records they like, but that’s not a connection…Anyone can have that. Really knowing someone is something else, a completly different thing. And when that happens, you won’t be able to miss it. You will be aware and you won’t hurt or be afraid.” – Adam, HBO’s Girls

It can be a frightening reality, that the people we love are strangers. We don’t always know they’re strangers but one day, maybe a month after meeting, six months, a year, ten years, you realized you didn’t really know the person you shared your life with. We humans, we dreamers, have a way of building people up–making them into something they’re not. People do it everyday, we revise people so they’re what we desire.

Yet, it comes a time when you have to accept people for who and what they are. Sure, we want people to be their best because on some level we all aspire to be more. But we all get there at a different pace. Pushing someone to be something they’re not never works. It causes resentment and mental anguish. The real work should be spent knowing the person–who they really are. We should learn to listen more and talk less. Enjoy the moment and after all that, if the person still seems to be an enigma, there’s a reason. Some mysteries just aren’t meant to be solved.

Tinder Moments

After some urging from friends, I recently joined the Tinder craze–yes, that app that links you with random strangers with the off-chance you’ll make some kind of connection that will propel you into romance, or just an easy ‘hook-up’. I thought the app was sleazy. And to an extent it is, it’s mostly used by call girls to sucker men into ordering their services. However, there are everyday women using the service too. I tried my hand at it–swiped a lot until I got a match. When I did, I viewed her profile. She was a grad student working on her MSW. We had things in common. She liked live music, beaches, and independent films. A conversation ensued. All day we talked off and on. It was nice. So nice we agreed not to spoil it by actually meeting. I think we both wanted to live the fantasy and knew that meeting would just deflate it; after all, who starts a relationship from meeting on an app?

 

text tinder

 

I know there’s a kind of loneliness out there, especially for my generation. We used to talk on the phone, now we text. We used to write letters, now we email. And we’re all desperately alone–looking to make a connection through social media or some app. I realize it’s like gambling–it’s like going to Vegas and betting on red or black. You swipe on Tinder, thinking will this be it? Will this be the one? You go to a bar dressed to impress some imaginary person you just know is there waiting to make your acquaintance. We’re all addicted to hope, to chance. Maybe it’s because we’re fed a heavy dose of romance. It’s practically shoved into our faces. Such and such met and fell in love on Match, eHarmony, OkCupid, etc. Do people even meet face-to-face anymore?

I love romance. I think it still exists, somewhere. But I question if it exists in Los Angeles. I think Angelenos may have killed it. The bar and club culture in this city has people convinced that romance is a shared Uber to Mel’s Diner, and afterwards a dip in a hot tub. Los Angeles reinvents itself all the time, just like the people who inhabit it. You don’t like who you are one year, next year get a new job, new friends, new hobbies. In Los Angeles, you can pretend to be someone else. The trouble with that is when you do find someone worth your time, the role you’ve decided to play is the character they want. It’s who they fell in love with. You can’t just take the mask off and if you do, you run the risk of them not loving you. Masks make us forget who we really are–they’re dangerous. If people really want to find love in Los Angeles, they should start by figuring out who they are and what they want. Then they should give up on searching and live their lives–get some hobbies, meet new people, join clubs and groups they’ve always wanted to join. Stop fantasizing and live in reality.