“I was sitting at home and had a profound experience. I experienced, in all of my Being, that someday I was going to die, and it wouldn’t be like it had been happening, almost dying but somehow staying alive, but I would just die! And two things would happen right before I died: 1. I would regret my entire life; 2. I would want to live it over again. This terrified me. The thought that I would live my entire life, look at it and realize I blew it forced me to do something with my life.” -Hubert Selby Jr, Author of Last Exit To Brooklyn And Requiem For A Dream
Some people are overachievers. Others approach life differently – a little more lackadaisical, dreamy, maybe even with a bit of abandon.
Lately I’ve had an overwhelming feeling that I’m straight up blowing it. Wasting time. Not realizing my “potential” (a word I hate, and you probably do too). All I ever wanted to do anyway is write. The life of a writer, it has a certain dirty, sexy allure to it. I picture an overflowing ashtray next to a typewriter, in a dingy studio apartment, in New York. Cars are honking outside, it’s on the ground level, and there’s the smell of hot pavement.
Regret? I don’t know, why bother? In 1818, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein at the age of 20. Steven Spielberg was 27 years old when he wrote and directed Jaws... In my 20’s, I was slinging drinks and livin’ it up in Haight-Ashbury. And I wrote. I wrote about my life, the way I saw things, so I would never forget the way I saw things, but I didn’t keep any of it. Knowing me, I see things the same now as I did then.
I don’t like to plan, or be responsible for much. I think Bucket Lists are boring, because it feels like a list of chores, and those lists always seem unrealistic. I’m (probably) never going to meet the Dalai Lama. I wouldn’t know what to say to him anyway.
But I’ve been lucky. I grew up in L.A. in a little family of four. Not much to tell: I listened to albums, and I would hold the cover while the record played, and look at the artwork. Music set me free. My favorite thing to do was to take the ’68 Cougar, roll down the windows, and cruise down Sunset. At dusk. Summers were spent at the beach, all day, every day. I read The Great Gatsby in 10th grade and I knew what I wanted to do; I started writing.
This is where things get a little muddy. I dropped out of college, kept writing, and relished in my freedom, working nights as a bartender. There were apartments and relationships; the Cougar got stolen; a marriage, a separation, no children; I stayed broke; my brother moved away, my mother’s health declined, my father died. I began to feel small. And I wrote about it. I ended up burning a lot of that writing.
I always wanted to run away with the rebel beat poets of the 50’s. I wanted that gritty, bohemian life. Still do. If you ever read Howl by Allen Ginsberg you know what I’m talking about. But I’m really just a chick, a child of the 70’s, from West L.A., in love with artists and artistry and poetry and books. It would be a waste not to revel in it all.
So no, I don’t regret anything. Do I wish to live it all over? Hell yeah.
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by
madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix... Allen Ginsberg, Howl