So, I mentioned George Clooney's recent interview with James Lipton on the latter's Inside the Actors Studio. During the discussion, Clooney mentioned his tendency to do the pictures he likes for scale or a little more and to do advertising in order to make real money because that combination allows him to live a "nice life", as he put it, and still enjoy his career by doing the movies that he wants to do. In other words, he doesn't have to put up with typical Hollywood crap in order to pay bills or to live said nice life a la the typical big-time star.
He mentioned that the event that really put him on that course was one time when he was doing a shoot in Europe and he was staying at this nice villa on Lake Como in Laglio, Italy. It was actually undergoing some remodeling at the time and the owner asked Clooney if he liked the place and, if so, would he be interested in buying it. Clooney really liked the area and the villa and then stopped to notice the construction workers on the site walking off for lunch. He said they looked like typical construction workers that you might see anywhere with lunch in hand... but lunch was a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine for each of them and they were singing as they walked down to the water. Right away, he realized, those guys were enjoying life a lot more than he was and he resolved right there to enjoy what he was doing or to not do it. Ever since then, he's avoided dreck like Batman and Robin and turned his career in the direction of major critical and commercial success. He also bought the villa.
There's a man who knew what he wanted and had the talent and drive to get what he wanted and is now enjoying seemingly every moment of every day. I have no idea what that feels like.
I've already mentioned my inability to feel happy about most things. That's not to say that I can't take joy out of events. This past season for Michigan was one of the more enjoyable in recent years, as the team overachieved and the coaching staff put to rest most of the fears of a return to the Carr malaise. The funny thing is that there's one moment from the season that sticks in my mind more than any other and it actually took place right before the season officially started. I had joined a number of Victards on the golf course south of the stadium and we had decided to pack up and head in for the first game against Western Michigan. The south side of the course has a number of rolling rises as the terrain generally elevates to the intersection with Scio Church Road. Upon cresting one of them, I had a perfect view of the stadium, with the monstrous brick luxury boxes and the new oversized scoreboards. I felt positive about the team, the season, and going to see the game at that point. So positive, in fact, that I remember thinking that I was looking at a cathedral of the game. Here was Michigan Stadium and here was the moment in which things were going to return to their historical trend of victories, the joyous throng of 100K, and the team, the team, the team. No matter how insipid it sounds, this truly felt like a communal event where people were gathered in appreciation of the game itself, the great, young players that currently make up the team, and the past glories that the program had enjoyed again and again.
I was inspired enough by the scene and that moment to begin composing a description in my head that could have been verse or could have been an essay akin to one of those that Spencer at EDSBS or Johnny at RBUAS have written so many times; an emotive appreciation of the near-gladiatorial spectacle that many of us likely spend way too much time orbiting. But I never wrote those words because I realized at some point that I don't have the talent that Spencer and Johnny have and I really had no outlet with which to convey them, so it likely would have been a waste of time. Once again, emotion quails in the face of reason and pragmatism.
Would I have done better to have simply grabbed my loaf of bread and bottle of wine and pushed on through to enjoy the process of it all? To enjoy life as it lay before me? I don't know that it would have been enjoyable as soon as I got to that whole "realizing I don't have the talent" moment.
Clooney's life is emblematic of someone that has found his path. He does what he dreamed of doing and he does it the right way, in a manner that he loves, and on projects that speak to him and from him. That's a path that anyone from an engineer to a bureaucrat to an athlete to a construction worker can potentially walk. It's obviously a bit more emotive and obvious coming from an enormously successful (and wealthy) actor, but it's still something that bespeaks joy, regardless of occupation or walk of life. I've often thought that various life events and/or my own failings or poor choices have kept me from finding that path and enjoying that walk. But now I'm not even sure that I could find the path even without any obstacles in my way. I'm not just constrained any longer. I'm basically lost in the woods and so much so that I'm not sure it's worth the effort to try to find my way out.
As kind of a side note, I even started talking to a friend, late of the Michigan theatre department, about acting schools. As I've noted before, I'm fascinated with (good) films and I did some Shakespeare way back in the day (but, as Slim Charles noted: "the problem with back in the day is that it's back in the day.") It's funny because you watch those Lipton interviews and, when they do the crowd shots, you see people of all ages attending the class at Pace University. The vast majority are quite young, but I frequently see people as old or older than I am. So, in that moment of positivity, you think: "It's not impossible to start at this point, is it?" until that wave of reality and reason comes crashing in and you start to wonder if it's not just another pipe dream because no other path seems feasible or worthwhile right now and hasn't for quite some time.
I have three little lives depending on me and that's what keeps me wandering in the woods, I suppose, but it's hard to say for how long or when I simply give up on the idea of ever singing my way down to Lake Como. Of course, Orpheus kept singing even after meeting up with the Maenads. I had a story idea about that once...