I could write a pretty funny book about all the shit I got up to when I attended CalArts in 1989. The world had not changed yet -- meaning things were still pretty loose, Valencia was still somewhat rural, you could smoke anywhere, and tattoos were not main stream yet just to name a few things. CalArts not only had not changed, it had not actually lived thru the 80s yet. As an institution, it was still living in the 70s. Worked for me! 

Most of my stories about CalArts involve me and a whole lot of bad behavior, but I did learn a few things while I was there. Life things. Things that have served me well, and I have no regrets about how I spent my time there. Perhaps I didn’t appreciate them until later. The thing I learned that was the most valuable to me was never to take another person for granted, no matter what role they play in your life. I could illustrate this through several relationships, but the one that stands out to me the most was with my friend Steve. 

Steve was a graduate who came to the film school to make a feature length film. No easy task. Steve's mother was the head librarian so he had no tuition, could live cheaply, use all the resources of the school, and make his film. I forget how we met but we did, and we formed an instant friendship. Steve was a tall surfer who’d grown up in Ventura County and had that quiet, dark sense of humor that is particular to that specific demo. I was wild and, in short, did not give a fuck about anything. I somehow found a way to turn my partying into my work and was developing a rep. Not good or bad, but a rep for sure, and that was good enough for me. 

I wanted to make films but had no patience for what I called the "math" of it. Loading film into the mags in a bag, focusing, lighting, light meters, telling people what to do, and let's not even talk about sound. It was all boring. But then I met Steve and he was making his film and I started to hang out. Most times it was Steve and me and the star. Thomas (Steve used his real name in the film) was a fringe character in real life. Steve had met him while giving blood for extra cash. Thomas was into heavy metal and worked at Greenpeace. I eventually got a role in the film, too, as the femme fatale who ultimately is just one more disappointment in Thomas’s life. So that’s the back drop. Me and Steve making his film, drinking beer, me watching him surf, him taking me thrift store shopping making fun of each other and everyone else, and laughing a lot. We were inseparable for a time, and I was inspired to make my own movies --  which was good since I was in the film school. As it turns out, I’m not a filmmaker but Steve was... is. I’m sure he was born to it. He had all the attributes a real director needs in my opinion. Methodical patience and a total blind belief in what he's doing; very little interest in your opinion;  and a way to communicate to others without apology. 

I started to detect that Steve liked me more than just as a friend. I’d seen those looks before. Which was problematic for a number of reasons. I wasn’t sure what was on the other side of those looks. The bottom line is this - I was terrified of boys, like in an intimate way. I had zero experience and understanding of how any of that stuff worked. Sure I had had crushes and I’d probably even made out with a few guys, but I’ll be honest -- all that intimate long-looking-in-the-eyes, being-alone-with-someone stuff scared the hell out of me, so I just bobbed and weaved around it for as long as I could and, unfortunately for Steve, I was nowhere near growing up for him. 

Things were great for so long between us. Perfect, in fact, until I saw that “Butcher's Hook”. Then I knew our days were numbered.

I don’t remember when the actual “romantic gesture was played. I want to say it was after a party in Silver Lake but I don’t remember. I just remember the feelings I had. Like snakes in a barrel. A feeling of vulnerability. So I did what I knew how to do at that point in my life with the tools I had: I ran. Not literally - knowing me, I probably played it off like it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me and then just cut him off, because that’s exactly what I did with anyone or thing that brought out my vulnerabilities. 

He wrote me a note which he slipped under my studio door. I remember being angry and not returning to my studio for a few weeks, the note left unread. I was now turning avoidance into a sort of justified anger. Why is he forcing this? Why can’t he just leave me be? I never read the letter. I was too scared. Months went by. I found a larger group of equally emotionally challenged misfits to tread water with and life just rolled on.

Somewhere down the line, when the dust had settled, Steve and I reconnected and it was cool. IT was never talked about and we just kind of picked up where we left of. Sort of. It was never the same and we eventually drifted apart, running into each other here and there. I was aware of the shift and I was aware that it hurt. It hurt much more after I had left CalArts and was drowning out in the real world. The hardest pills to swallow are not the bitterest; the hardest pills to swallow are the ones you choke on. 

I remember running into Steve and his girlfriend at the time and having for the first time in my life regret. I remember thinking - that should be me. When the time eventually came for me to grow up. Steve was right there, sitting on my shoulder drinking a beer and watching the train wreck play out in slow motion - Some say what goes around comes around, I don’t believe that. I believe that Steve was just Steve and I was just me and because I decided to look I learned something about myself and then slowly I changed and that is the crux of the human experience. Change.



Spotify | Playlist