“We finally got the wounded out on the first day and uh, we’re like holy crap, when is this going to be over? When’s the mission going to be over? And we stayed there. It went on day after day. It just became so like, we’re never leaving this place. Just kill as much Taliban as you can. It never got better. I prayed to God, please don’t rain. Please don’t rain. And then it rains. And then it snowed and then it hailed.”
This is 23 year-old Thomas Dewar, Sergeant in the US Army 101st Airborne Division, 1st Brigade, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion. He fought two tours of duty in Afghanistan, the first, 2010-2011, the bloodiest year on record.
We’re sitting in a sunny café facing the San Gabriel Mountains. Patrons chat happily as they drink their cappuccino’s. Dewar could be any all-American boy. Sandy blonde hair, sun-tanned skin.
But look more closely and his body tells a different story. Muscles coiled, eyes darting, a double blink, an involuntary twitch. His injuries may not be visible, but they’re debilitating at times. A door slam makes him run for cover. Rain throws him into spasms of depression. When he looks at the mountains he once played in, he scans for Taliban. He never slept more than a two to three hours a night his entire two years of duty. When he wasn’t under enemy fire, he suffered torrential downpours, or oven-like temperatures.
The worst of it was Strong Eagle III. But we’ll get to that.
Obsessed with Prince since his passing, each morning I awoke with an ache so heavy it was hard to breath. His death stole the possibility of something for me. Something I’ve been chasing since. In the dark moments before dawn, as I once rose to study scripture, I opened my phone to read every story on Prince— as if more information might reveal more, lead me into his presence. It only blurred the edges of him further.
His belief in conspiracy theories. His recent celibacy. His mercurial relationship with scheduled meetings, time, and saying goodbye. One never seemed to know if he’d show up or when he was gone, if he was gone for good. In his penetrating Prince biography, I Would Die 4 U, Touré recounts the time he interviewed Prince at Paisley Park. Abruptly, Prince left him without saying a word. Touré waited for him to return. Finally someone came out and told him it was time to leave. Prince didn’t do goodbyes.
Today I finally stopped. My obsession soured to disgust. I’d become a cliche. One of those middle-aged women in the office with Twilight posters pinned to the walls of their cubicles. Continue reading →
A former student wanted help breaking into the entertainment industry. Her plan included calling studios and setting up appointments with studio executives.
I’m mystified why people imagine they can navigate the entertainment industry with ease. Particularly my students. Haven’t I warned them enough? Didn’t I tell them repeatedly they need a body of work before they come to L.A.? And none of it matters if they don’t have the right introductions. And none of that matters if they don’t have the right experience.
Make your own path, I pled. Shoot your own films.Get a presence that draws talented people to you. Then network the hell out of yourself. Continue reading →
At 16, after careful study of the Bible and much prayer, I took an oath in front of the congregation on a Sunday morning in June. To me it was as serious as joining a convent. I pledged to give my life to the church and save my body for marriage.
Cicadas buzz in the sorrow of night. Late summer heat and humid fear vibrates on my skin. Insomnia breeds paranoia and terror.
Dad’s gone. Two days left of this visit. My first one back since his death. This is not a night, or a day, but an in between. A purgatory. I remember another sleepless night in this bed a year ago. They’d found the cancer that killed him in the frozen dead of winter. We were hopeful then. We sat at dinner, over Mom’s vegetarian bbq. He was in a good mood as they discussed the spot on his pancreas.
I read somewhere that the personal essay is anti-journalism. It is a subjective exploration of self that cannot be verified by another source. The reader therefore cannot trust the writer’s voice. I read this and stopped writing personal essays for a time.
All my life I’ve wrestled with a different truth than my family’s. I grew up in a different house than the one my mother created. I wrote about it in an essay for The Weeklings.
When it was published I shared it on Facebook. It was the last piece of writing I ever shared there. It was about two years before I could write anything again. It hurt everyone I loved, a classic case of he said/ she said. If the events in question ever went to court, I’d lose. There isn’t a shred of evidence. Continue reading →
Hunter Thompson’s work is a beacon in the black. This letter, written to a friend in 1958, might have been written to all blind souls tossing about in the midnight sea. Here is a brief piece.
Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN — and here is the essence of all I’ve said — you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.
Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.
So if you now number yourself among the disenchanted, then you have no choice but to accept things as they are, or to seriously seek something else. But beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life.
I’m overwhelmed with gratitude at having found these words tonight. Now if that could just pay my bills.