I thought I was done being a bastard. It had been weeks. Maybe a month or two.
The last spectacular bastard flare-up coincided with my thesis at the UCLA directing program. My ego had been wounded by countless film festival rejections and the looming possibility that others might be right about my lack of genius and/or general specialness. I was terrified at the potential of returning to real life wielding only an MFA and a hundred grand in debt. Inspired by every art-as-life-cliché, I threw myself into a series of web videos which at the time seemed like the purest expression of my creative self.
On-screen, there were Civil War re-enactments, self-help gurus and grainy, romantic Super 8 music videos. Behind the camera: fraudulent credit card applications, a string of bad behavior (mine) that lead to a sad and nasty breakup, and a google-analytics fueled vanity of pageviews, comments and press hits. In the end, the result was a series of very disposable webisodes.
Now I was sitting at a desk at MTV in the loneliest time of my life. I was working in a digital department in a job I’d been lucky enough to get a month before graduation. It was a rare good thing in an otherwise bad spell. My grandmother - like a parent to me - had recently died. My father had cancer. When I wasn’t working, I was alone in my apartment waiting for an unlikely phone call from my ex forgiving my bad behavior and taking me back.
The best days were the ones that were packed with conference calls and tech meetings, and if I was lucky - a meeting with the jackass guys - a circus of cattle-prods, chaos, and punches to the balls that could distract anyone from anything, really.
This particular day was just an okay day. Lots of tech calls. Lots of emails to respond to. It felt good to be busy. In the minute between two hour-long meetings, I got a call from an old friend - a friend from high school.
This friend and I had drifted apart in a previous stretch of my bastard behavior (also filmmaker-ambition related), but we had recently reconnected. His mother had died just over a week ago, and when it happened, I jumped on a plane back home to Houston to see him. It felt good to be there for someone. It felt good not to be the sociopathic me of six months ago, but the kind, useful, “new” me.
We reconnected. At the reception after the memorial we drank too many beers and each time I tried to excuse myself from what felt like a family-only event, he’d pulled me back and pleaded with me to stay. Finally, I stumbled away from the house to do a “mission critical” conference call about jackass and social media, hoping that no one on the line noticed me slurring. I told my friend I’d come back soon. I told him to come see me in LA. The friendship had been repaired.
So, when his call came - although I was still finishing an email, I picked up. I was only half-listening. “Hey, man - how’s it going?” he asked. “Good, good.” I said. “How’s your family?” he asked, “How’s your mom?” Half-listening, I kept typing. “Good, good, man. How’s your mom?”
“Well, David,” he said, “my mom’s dead.”
Los Angeles, California