WRIT LARGE: Ch 1, Part 3
That evening I’m on a red eye bound for Paris. A seven hour trip would have me on the other side of the ocean in a vastly different climate and culture to the one I was leaving.
The person sitting next to me in business class busies herself when I board. She is friendly enough and gives me a smiling hello before she dives back into her bags.
We are both clearly frequent travellers as we give the safety announcement nothing but scant attention.
I usually study the air stewards and make-up imaginary life stories for them.
But today, my fellow traveller’s fidgeting is distracting me and at first I am annoyed. I then settle back into the same kind of inevitable calm I feel when I am hospitalised: keep your wits about you, but go with the flow as much as possible; nothing you do, no matter how much you rail against the machine will get you discharged or discarded any quicker or more comfortably; so you might as well be an interested observer rather than an anxious antagonist; and the journey will be just that iota less painful for all involved.
I am not sure if the rest of the airplane feel the way I do, but no-one undoes their seatbelts and goes running for the exits during the safety announcement. We are all, to greater or lesser extent, willing passengers on this plane.
I feel similarly about my life. I know I am extremely fortunate to be alive and I am eternally grateful, but in many respects I am a passive participant, living a life that leaves as little a mark on the planet as possible, while doing the greatest good. This is why the syndicate suits me so well. I am having major impact, by boosting the capability of a small team of incredible writers to have outsized inspirational influence on the planet. I am not CEO of some or other company hell bent on global dominance, raping and pillaging the planet to grab market share. Nor am I a Netflix or daytime television couch warrior stuck at home whiling away my days.
The plane leaps gracefully into the air and the lady next to me seems to settle down into her seat, accepting the mimosas being handed around the front end of the plane. I don’t drink alcohol. I gladly accept an orange juice instead.
She introduces herself and says she is on her way to Paris after meeting with various potential talent signs for her musical agency in New York. She behaves like it is her agency, very sure of herself and her place in the music industry pecking order, but that could all be a front and she may be a talent scout. Either way, she dresses the part with amazingly colourful hip hop pants, high visibility sneakers and a plain white silk shirt. Around her neck hangs a large gold necklace which looks genuine enough.
I tell her I am an author and am on my way to France for meetings with various writers who work on my team.
She wants to know if any of my books made it onto the screen.
When I tell her that I was the producer of the Netflix series, Last Ally, her eyes light up.
“OMG, honey! I loved that series. It’s dope. That was some serious kick ass family for sure.”
That is enough for her. I am transformed from the passenger in seat 6B into her lifelong friend who’d made the big time.
Her life oozes out of her in one long diatribe. The best I can do is nod occasionally or get in a “wow” here and there.
She’d grown up in East Harlem and done it tough. Her parents were hard working until they weren’t.
Her father lost his job and began drinking heavily. Her mother copped a beating most nights. Together with her four older brothers and one younger sister, she’d learnt the hard way to avoid her father either in the early mornings when he was cranky or from late afternoon when the booze kicked in and he became increasingly aggressive.
Eventually, her mother lost her job as a waitress when she kept showing up to work bruised and battered. No-one wanted to give their restaurant order to a waitress sporting a black eye and bruises all down her left cheek.
My fellow traveller found escape in music and used to spend her every waking hour in the clubs soaking it all in. She’d had some time in the limelight, albeit a very small pool of light in a dingy downtown club, but it had given her a taste for what type of raw talent was required to make it.
She was spotted by a talent agent wanting to expand their pool from Los Angeles to New York. This agent taught her the ropes and before long she had a steady flow of clients that she was bringing into the agency.
When her mentor decided it was time to hang up his hat, she stepped into the ring and took over the agency. As it was based out of Los Angeles, she now divided her time between the two cities.
I ask her which city she prefers.
She is torn. New York would always be home to her, but her heart beat in LA. It is where she feels most energised. The culture, the sheer depth of talent, the proximity to so many key features of the industry in one place. There is no place on earth quite like it.
Her life has not been without its pain for her too, though. She has a daughter that has since become estranged from her. Now seventeen, she sometimes lives with her ex-husband in Ojai.
She has started running with the wrong crowd and doing hard core drugs. As much as my co-passenger has tried, she cannot reach her daughter. She’d tried moving her to a different school, but this seemed to exacerbate the situation. The young girl was even more out of her depth in normal society, and she quickly fell in with the outsiders.
And then, without even discussing it, the girl dropped out of high school and moved in with her father.
Her ex-husband was no help either. He was part of the spiritual, new age crowd in Ojai, an epicentre for such thinking and practices. He felt nothing to smoke a joint with his daughter before breakfast.
“Not that I’ve got anything against getting stoned,” she says, raising her glass of whisky. The flight is already well under way and this could even be her second glass already. I am not really counting. Instead, I am intrigued by her facial expressions. She was deeply saddened when she spoke of her lost daughter, but any mention of music and she lights up.
I suspect she is a bit of a workaholic, always on, always seeking the next best thing and for this she will have paid a toll in terms of relationships.
Love is not a one-way stream, it is an ocean to be drunk from liberally, and often, by all concerned parties.
It is not my place to judge. On this flight I am but an unwitting observer to the slice of her life that she so willingly shares with me.
I’m not sure it is an affliction all authors have, as I can’t speak for them en masse, but certainly in my case I can sometimes be misconstrued for a priest. People open up to me, at the oddest times, for the slightest of reasons and with such copious plenty that I have become comfortably numb to the many behaviours I’ve been confronted with. I could also say that I cease to be amazed, but that would be a lie. I am endlessly fascinated by the human condition.