I arrived in California on this day, 25 years ago. I remember my mom crying goodbye as I pulled my car out of our driveway. I waved goodbye and naively smiled, not realizing that I was making a life-changing, one way trip. Nor did I realize that mom would be gone less than 10 years later.
Thus began a six-day cross country drive that went from Bridgewater, New Jersey, through Pittsburgh, Akron, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Albuquerque, the Arizona meteor crater, Flagstaff, and ultimately ended in Anaheim. (I had to see Disneyland, after all.)
I look back on how my life was, then. I knew virtually no one in California, and my first apartment was a roach-infested, sweltering little studio hellhole in the mid-Wilshire district. A man was stabbed to death in my building, two floors beneath me. The neighborhood was full of violent crimes. OJ’s civil trial dominated the headlines. I missed my parents and my cat. I was perpetually broke, and the credit card bills were mounting.
I struggled through many of those early years. There were fair-weather friends, thankless jobs, abusive bosses, and every time I seemed close to having a dream come true, some terrible circumstance would happen at the last minute, dashing them again and again.
Later on, I’d eventually find safer places to live, a little more stability, and – best of all -- a small circle of true friends. Even if my life wasn’t up to my expectations, it was, little by little, improving.
It seems that each of us goes through an inevitable rite of passage, as we stop growing up and start growing old. The deaths of my parents, especially my mother, was absolutely devastating. I frankly don’t think I could have endured it all had it not been for the support of my friends – including an adorable Siamese Snowshoe cat named Kubrick.
Now that I enter my silver anniversary in California, I’m truly appreciative of the good people out there I feel privileged to call my friends. Yes, the entertainment industry is notorious for fostering – and rewarding – its share of narcissists, liars, and all-around jerks. But there are good people out there, too. And as I get older, I find I have less tolerance and fear of the former, and a lot more reverence for the latter. (You guys know who you are…and you know who you are not.)
Now that I’m in my late forties, I’ve begrudgingly accepted the strong likelihood that I will not last long enough to see my golden anniversary in California. No matter. I’m grateful for what years are still ahead of me, especially now that I have a family to share them with, and a home to call my own. It certainly took me long enough.
That’s not to say I’ve yet to grow up. I’m still a dork, a geek, and a complete misfit. I’m anything and everything but cool.
But you know what? I’m absolutely A-fucking-OK with that, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
To all those who have given me their friendship, their guidance, their kindness and generosity, I am grateful to each and every one of you.