My Best Me

When we are sixteen to, let’s say, nineteen years old, we are incredibly full of shit, but we are also aware of a certain magical quality to our existence. My nephews have found a way to be inside this magical quality without being full of shit, so I should say that *I* was full of shit when I was nineteen, but I was definitely aware of the magical quality of my existence.

It’s been explained away as surging hormones, and I’m sure that’s probably about right, but it doesn’t mean that you forget what it’s like. My theory is that a lot of pedarasty and our youth obsessed culture exists because of that immediacy of the adolescent mindset, the incredible surge you get when you are a high school junior and you carpe some frickin’ diem.

Most people grow out of this. Some resist growing out of it like *crazy*, others barely give in to it while they’re going through it, they want maturity so badly. My sister was a bit of the latter, my brother Ian, the former, and I think I was a mix of wallowing in immaturity while demanding the world treat me like an adult for most of my twenties. When I think back on some of my “pronouncements”… well, let me just publicly thank everyone for not kicking me full in the nuts even though I clearly deserved it.

I think what happens is that you still find those magical moments, those immediate and glorious surges when you are living a momentarily magical existence. It’s what drives the creative types, I’m guessing, and athletic types as well. The hormones surge just like they did when you were 17.

For me, the diem being carped never really did it. My friends and I stole a car when I was sixteen and drove to the Jersey Shore at 130 miles per hour and stood in the middle of the rocks facing the Atlantic daring the waves to knock us off. On our way back, we picked a fight with a guy who chased us with a hammer after I threw all our fast food trash on him. And yeah, all of that was fun, but it wasn’t quite the rush I found elsewhere. Believe me, there was no concern for our own or that guy’s welfare, it actually just never got above, for lack of a better word, mundane.

I have found, lately, a certain low level thrill when I am cooking. When I am in my kitchen and I have all the ingredients on hand, and I have a certain way that I do a thing that I think is better, I really do get a little nudge. It may seem pedestrian, but I actually do get a tight rope wire feeling when I am putting together food. Sometimes the food comes out okay, sometimes it’s great. I’ve learned enough from my parents and from cookbooks to avoid catastrophe usually. But I get a thrill the same way I used to get in geometry class, an understanding of systems based on an understanding of assumptions.

Writing music carries the same low level excitement. It’s work, slogging tough work. There are so many goddam notes, and it isn’t just the notes you have to write in, it’s the rests. The rests take forever. I am as good at writing music as I am at making food. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s great, and I learned enough from my parents to avoid catastrophe. Again, there are systems, there are sets of assumptions, and I stand in the middle of my musical kitchen and get a secret burning thrill when I can mix everything together.

But none of that is being seventeen again. Being seventeen and getting punched in the mouth for being a smart ass, having someone slide their hand up your chest to your neck for the first time, taking a buzz cutter to your hair because it just doesn’t matter what you do, sitting in a park and smoking pot and having someone say, “lunch ended, uh, two hours ago…” The thrill of those years for me is mildly muted by the fact that I was so painfully ignorant, so completely discarded in a lot of ways. I may have been an undiagnosed ADHD sufferer with mild bi-polar disorder, a pronounced fear of water and an addictive personality, but what I looked like was a lazy, stupid, moody, greasy teenager with terrible skin and an appalling ability to talk nice girls into bed by seeming like a bad-ass.

That kid is long gone, and so are the teenage emotional instabilities. But now, there is still one time when I am there, when I feel that magical moment of complete suspension, and it happened for me last night. There are a lot of things I do with my life, and I don’t really know how good I am at any of them. But last night, I sat down with a script and a score to a show in which my sole responsibility was as an actor, and I was, simply put, transported. Some people like me as an actor, some don’t, but I love doing it so much, I love it *so much*, that I actually don’t care. When athletes talk about winning, when directors talk about getting the shot right, when mothers talk about their children, the only thing I can compare it to is this.

That second, when you read the script out loud, when you get a joke right, when you make a choice no-one else might have, right then I am flying down the highway in a stolen car, driving with my eyes closed, knowing that when I hit the water, the waves will part for me.