My friend Ted Rooney and his wife recently left for Portland, Oregon, where Ted is from. Ted said they'll be gone for the rest of the year, maybe for forever. But Ted is a successful actor. How's he gonna act from Portlant, I wondered? "We'll come back down for pilot season. Or not."
Wow, Is this it for Ted and his art? Over and done?
It made Larry and I think about moving to Portland, where Larry is also from. Maybe in a few years. Maybe as soon as we no longer have to live here. When we can live wherever and come down when needed.
Because really, why live in LA? When "living" means being forced to look for affordable housing in Los Feliz, where it's all non-airconditioned coffee houses next to Muffler Shops next to urban decay. Or in Atwater Village (Los Feliz adjacent) where the "up and coming" areas are industrial warehouses and gangs. The beaches have good air quality. And unaffordable rents and horrible traffic gridlock.
Where are the places that have a sense of PLACE? Community? I know, you to have to create community. Our friends are stretched out from Long Beach to Monrovia to Koreatown to Culver City to Woodland Hills. The circumference of that circle is about 250 miles. Or, a $40 tank of gas. If you're driving a Prius.
There are those of "us,” and I’m thinking of the artists, who are forced to live in big cities because that's where the work is … cities that seem to squeeze the art out of the landscape and the art out of your soul.
My friend Anna, a despairingly beautiful writer (read her beautiful writing and you'll despair of your own talent), sent this poem to me.
"For us," she wrote.
A Dream of TreesOne reason I loved Redeemer Church in New York, Pastor Kim Keller has a vision of WHY they were in the city. Not just to help people get by, but to give them a sense of purpose. That's what it comes down to. Purpose. I never wanted to live somewhere just because it was pretty or calm or affordable. My life has always been driven by a sense of calling and purpose.
By Mary Oliver
There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,
A quiet house, some green and modest acres
A little way from every troubling town,
A little way from factories, schools, laments.
I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,
With only streams and birds for company,
To build out of my life a few wild stanzas.
And then it came to me, that so was death,
A little way away from everywhere.
There is a thing in me still dreams of trees.
But let it go. Homesick for moderation,
Half the world's artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.
I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?
That's one of the most amazingly wonderful things about Larry. He's got the same sense of calling and purpose in his writing, in his art, and his faith.
There are all these new superstars of the post-modern (pomo) church. Young and hip writers like Rob Bell whose bleached blonde curl makes me not want to read him, (which would be bad for me, because he's a great writer and speaker) ... Rob Bell can who can talk about quantum physics and how Genesis I is really Hebrew poetry and 20 somethings who don't remember rotary phones, they get him.
But what about all of us who grew up writing with a pencil and hitting puberty when Saturday Night Fever hit the movie theaters? The Baby boomers and the post boomers, we grew up thinking "God has a wonderful plan for my life" and if I just follow it, and read the Bible literally, my life will fall into place?
Here we are in our forties or fiftes thinking, "What the F happened?" Was it all a lie? Is the Bible even true, on any level? Did I just fall prey to a Christian marketing scheme, the way a bride gets suckered into buying a $10k dress she'll only wear once?
That's me. That's Larry. We're both stuck on figuring it out. Figuring out our faith, throwing out the dirty over-processed christianese bathwater and keeping the Baby Jesus. Just the real baby jesus. And we both are set on figuring it out and talking about it, writing about it, getting up on stage and performing it, publishing it on blogs and books, and living out a different kind of life.
I'm excited to be marrying Larry.
For now we'll dream of trees.
And write in a city that needs more of them.