2008 was without doubt the worst year of my life. 2003 sucked pretty hard when I was in the middle of a divorce with my ex-partner. But at least then I had someone to blame; a focal point for my misery, angst and rage.
This year though, I had nowhere else to point except right to myself. However, I didn’t realize that till the end of the year, after I’d been through the worst series of confidence destroying encounters with men in LA.
The year began with an illness which tail spun into a depression, then did a greased rail slide into total despair.
But before we embark on this section of my life, don’t panic; it’s not a total wrist slasher dear reader, but it is quite personal. As for whether there’s a happy ending and a sunset at the end of it all, well, you’ll just have to read on.
So, the sickness.
When I’m sick, I turn into a six year old. Not a snugged up on the couch, just waiting for this fever to pass while I color in between the lines kind of toddler, but more a Damien meets a Hollywood Hills spoiled brat who wails against the crushing weight of the universe’s injustice while I bang my head against my apartment walls.
So in a way, it’s ironic that I caught a virus that made me sick like I haven’t been since I was knee high.
There was this thing doing the rounds in LA while I was away in Berlin and Sydney for all those months that took people down for the count. A kind of weird, multi-symptom flu that literally sucked away your will to live as you watch your soul disappear down the toilet.
It started as a tickle at the back of the throat, which turned into a party cancellation, which turned into an I-have-no-reason-to-go-on-with-this-life in just a matter of days.
And so it went for the next 6 weeks. There were times where I barely had the energy to get to the bathroom and moments where I seriously thought about checking myself into the hospital. All told, I spent nearly a whole month indoors.
The setting could not have been more tragic for my imminent death rattle. Having just moved into my new Venice beach apartment with nothing more than a handful of furniture I’ve dubbed the “What if I don’t get my Greencard Collection”, I lay in a sweaty delirium of paralysis on a futon pushed up against a wall.
My one consolation was that I would draw my final breath on my own makeshift Trainspotting crack den couch and not on a friend’s chesterfield. One hates to impose with one’s cadaver. Plus all my Dutch, Chinese and Jewish friends would be so proud of how I was really getting my money’s worth out of that first month’s rent.
I tend, by my own admission, to be a bit cerebral at times. You may remember me from your last GAP sale. I was that guy holding a pair of sport socks looking at the fiber percentages on the back. Hmm, 83% cotton, 15% polyester, 2% spandex. That could be a little sweaty. Is spandex sweaty? It sounds like it is. But don’t they make women’s skirts out of that? So it couldn’t be that bad. But the air can get to a skirt, whereas my foot will be in a shoe. I should have bought those Adidas trainers instead of the Asics ones. They were a bit more breathe-y. But that’s a moot point because the socks still have 15% polyester and that’s a lot. I think. Hang on, why do the white ones have less polyester than the grey? I hate white socks. But they will be cooler. But they look too gay. If I buy these I may as well go to a tanning studio, shave my legs and tell everyone I’m 29 again. Sweaty or gay, sweaty or gay? Hey, why are the white ones made in Ecuador and the grey ones made in Singapore? Oh! Maybe the black socks. It’ll be a bit ninja…
This can go on for a good half hour until I decide to come back tomorrow and repeat the process. And then find out that there are none left in my size.
So, me, quarantined and landlocked in my apartment, with nothing but the tick tock of the clock, I naturally start to think about the state of my life.
I moved away from Australia 12 years ago and apart from a couple of aborted attempts to return home, have lived away all that time.
But I had never felt so far away from my family as I did during those weeks. You start to think about stuff like, if I really did die, I would be here, alone in this room with nothing to show for it but a couple of unproduced screenplays, a fledgling career, a semi decent wardrobe and an empty fridge.
This thought makes me so sad, I feel like I don’t want the sun to come up again.
I think about my friends. My really, truly, great friends a lot of whom live overseas. People I have history with. People I might never see again. People I have had conversations with that don’t involve films.
I don’t want a posthumous Oscar, I’ve rehearsed my acceptance speech like a million times already.
Then I let it get really bad. I start thinking about my dating life here in LA. To visit this topic, you need to alight at the final stop on the underground: Black Pit Of Despair Station. I thought I was there already, but then I realized I was a few tube stops up on the Midnight Blues Express line.
Five years of single life; the first three with some promising moments, the last two a fiasco in LA. I start thinking about all the drop kicks I’ve given half a flying fuck about since I arrived and where that has got me. I imagine another five years of unreturned phone calls, pointless chats online that go nowhere, indifference, lies, stand ups and half arsed sex. With an occasional high point that I will cling to, way beyond what it was meant to be, in order not to feel like I’m drowning in the ocean of disappointment.
Not that I’ve been an angel. I try my best to be honest with people, but when I have no idea what I want myself, I’ve laid a few emotional land mines that exploded under the feet of men I beckoned forth.
And because I love a good sprinkling of guilt over a plate of misery, I think about how I fed all the stuff they dwell on when they want to think the worst of themselves.
That was the start of my year. Put on the kettle and let’s get into the rest of it…