Tag Archives: Woody Guthrie

A Love Letter to California

Hollywood Sign
Hollywood Sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Working at a country club in New Jersey affords me two months of “vacation” meaning that the club closes for January and February due to lack of interest in snow golfing, which to me sounds like a lot of fun, actually. Nevertheless, I’m free to collect unemployment and reconnect with my thoughts for two whole months.

How should I celebrate this wondrous lapse in obligation? There is a wild child within me, chained deep down in the cellar of my heart that sometimes screams loud enough to connect with my brain. This wild child screams, “Go to California!” And maybe he adds a few expletives, too for good measure.

Oh California, what a lovely thought. Ah Los Angeles, the only destination for an aspiring screenwriter/director seriously looking for validity. How nice it would be to axe the “aspiring” part when I tell people about my time spent pursuing filmmaking.

I would love nothing more than to pack my Chevy with copies of my screenplays, changes of clothes, camera, and paperback copy of Woody Guthrie’s Bound for Glory as I set off on the kind of cross country, coast to coast road trip that movies have been fawning over for decades.

How glorious to travel, stopping as I please, all in culmination of seeing the big, bold letters of the HOLLYWOOD sign. I could careen my car up and down Mulholland Drive, hoping desperately to not be sidetracked by amnesia-by-car accident or run off the road by any Mr. Eddy’s demanding that I get a driver’s manual. (I’ve been watching a lot of David Lynch lately.)

California is a place where a young man with long hair can get by on conversation alone; swapping anecdotes for bottles of booze, wisdom for a warm place by a beach bonfire. It’s a place where I can transition seamlessly from my dream of surfing the Pacific coast to doing what they call “couch surfing,” trading my board for a place to crash for the night. If not a sofa, then a fine patch of stained carpet on a guy named Brody’s apartment floor.

I could even march into one of the big name production studio’s lots, barging into a tired producer’s office, and slam down a copy of my latest script pointing a definitive figure to the cover page saying, “This is the next big thing.”

And that old, tired producer wouldn’t be able to hold back a grin at my outsider naivety, my out-of-towner’s courage, and he’d probably cut me a check right there on the spot because California is a place where people take chances on newcomers based on gut feelings.

But alas, this love letter, though straight from my heart (fucker) seems doomed to be only the meandering thoughts of a boy stuck in his Pennsylvania bedroom hacking out fantasy on a piece of paper. It takes a lot of money and a whole lot of determination to be spontaneous, it seems.

Why do we thinkers, us readers, we with such passion burning holes in our soul; why do we, why do I feel the need to restrict myself from such desires? Perhaps it is just fate, with a firm grip of my inner workings, trying to tell me that there is no perfect place, no place more pregnable with dream-realizations than the place your two feet are standing. Certainly this fact is grounded by the words I read earlier today in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, that my promise land “is not down in any map; true places never are.”

Get Naked

Bob Dylan performing at St. Lawrence Universit...
Bob Dylan performing at St. Lawrence University in New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been talking a lot about how much I’m reading lately. I’ve plunged into literature with all the fever of seasoned heroin addict. Reading makes for good writing. I’ve been delving into poetry and blog writing as a result. The productivity has also made for one of my finest weeks of filming. I started production on a short film I’m writing and directing and then had a very fun day filming two skits for my YouTube channel.

While on the set of the short film, I went up to my lead actor’s bedroom where he was stowed away as he prepared for his scene. When I found him, he was ironing a shirt in the bare bedroom. We talked about the scene, his motivations, his character’s spine, and then I noticed his bag full of books and magazines. He reads a lot too. He pulls out a copy of Bound for Glory, poet-folk singer Woody Guthrie’s autobiography and hands it to me. I’m perplexed, not knowing who Guthrie is and not recognizing his face on the cover.

My friend tells me that he was Bob Dylan’s mentor and that Dylan would read this book a lot on the road. Also, Dylan would go and play guitar for Guthrie in his hospital bed. Since Bob Dylan is a hero of mine, a book by his mentor seemed like a good read. I told him I’d have to check it out. Fate decided I should read it sooner than later. My actor friend lends the book, without reading it himself, to our mutual friend and my Director of Photography to read. Later when filming the skits, my DP says he probably won’t read it any time soon and lends it over to me. Wonderful. Add it to the pile.

I finished Chuck Palahniuk’s Rant and moved onto the first chapter of Bound for Glory. I wasn’t too impressed with the train riding tale in the first chapter but I went onto the second chapter this afternoon and couldn’t choke back tears at the beautiful innocence of Guthrie as a child asking his mother why she didn’t have two wedding rings, a gold one and a diamond glass one. I know this book is going to have many more treasures within.

English: Portrait of Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dy...
English: Portrait of Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan by Elsa Dorfman (1975) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I jumped on the computer and started YouTubeing Guthrie songs and then moved into Dylan songs and eventually into one of my favorite activities, reading lists of quotes from both men. My love for quote reading is perplexing. I know why I like it. Listening to the powerful words of my heroes puts confusing emotions and life itself into a perspective I can understand and live by. The problem lies when I’m holding conversations with people and most of my dialogue is other people’s words. I rattle off these quotes like a Christian quotes Bible verses, treating them like a firm commandment to live by. As a writer, when will I stop being able to form my own opinions and just start spouting out other people’s words? I’ll have to keep an eye on that.

I discovered that I missed Bob Dylan’s birthday by two days. Happy late Birthday, Mr. Dylan! In addition, I found a quote I liked:

            “A poem is a naked person… Some people say that I am a poet.” -Bob Dylan

Having been writing poetry and knowing what distinct voice it gives my writing, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been telling people that the reason I write poems is to put a voice to the emotions I have that I can’t transfer into my fiction. Poetry is me at my most honest and usually is about myself, not a character. Putting it simply, I’ve told people that poetry is being naked for the world to see.

Finding a quote from Bob Dylan, a man I respect majorly, that basically says the same thing as what I was saying is great. My fears of losing my voice and becoming a quote machine subside as I see my own thoughts solidified by great minds.

This is an idea to live by. Not just for poets but for everyone. There’s a lot of risk in putting yourself out there for the world to analyze. You’re opening yourself up to a point that you probably won’t be able to close up the incision. It’s scary and not something I’ve been able to fully embrace yet as I am young, learning, and protecting my emotions against forces that are ever changing and adapting to my defenses.

However, when I write an honest poem or display my emotions to somebody, I’ve only ever had positive outcomes. There are no regrets when you put yourself out there. There can’t be. If you’re laying yourself on the line and being truthful than what can you regret? You’re only being yourself and how could you possibly chastise yourself for that? Other people will do that for you. Another Bob Dylan quote says, “all I can do is be me, whoever that is.” I find that so reassuring.

I’ve had these moments where my thoughts feel like poisonous snakes, squirming and tangling and intertwining in my head and my heart wants to burst open from the inside out from the pressure of flies, fleas, maggots, these insects of regret. But that quote says I don’t need to worry. I don’t need to doubt myself or wonder “what if?” because as long as I continue to be honest and truthful to who my character is then I’m doing my job. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said “Amor fati—‘love your fate,’ which is in fact your life.” See how fast I become a quote monster?

Back to the quote that inspired this post. Let’s all get naked. That’s what I’m urging you to do. Take off your clothes and stand in front of the mirror. What do you see? Most people probably won’t be completely satisfied. That’s ok. You’re just you. You’re doing your job.

Now try to take off the clothes from the inside out. Try to peel away the sweater from your heart. Take away the veil from your mind. Have you scared yourself, yet? Those fears made you who you are. Embrace that.

Now try to take down those barriers for someone else. Start with a loved one, family, husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, best friend. They should already know what you’re showing them. But you’ll open their eyes and reaffirm your bond with them.

One day, we’ll be able to do this with everyone; strangers, enemies, the whole world. You will display yourself honestly to the world if you have the guts to do so. You’ll walk down the streets, fully clothed and bare as the day you came into this world all at the same time. People will notice the difference between you and everyone else. You will be you. And there’s nobody on earth who can imitate it.