Friday, April 07, 2006

Top 20 Books, #1

My #1 favorite book of all-time is.....

You'll have to suffer through an interminably personal story to get to the end of the list. So here goes.... I'll try and make it worth your while...

It was 1992, a tumultuous summer. Over the summer months, the future Mrs. was working and living in Highland Springs, a small town out near Beaumont/Banning in the dessert before you hit Palm Springs. I was working tirelessly on a short-lived Fox sitcom called "Down the Shore." I'll spare you the details, but the relationship was "opened up," as we decided that we should have the opportunity to see other people and, in so doing, realize how wonderfully perfect we were together. It was our only real "break" in the relationship since we first started seeing one another in the Fall of 1988. That's an oversimplification, but this is not the history of the relationship, but the story of my favorite book.

Anyway, the details are a little hazy, but some are not. One of my co-workers, who was the assistant to the Casting Director on the show, had a friend she wanted me to meet. I could meet her at a party some friends were having on Saturday night. Bring a pal. It'll be a blast.

And so it went. I went to the party with my friend Tino. It was a warm August night. The party was in a small house in one of the canyons separating Hollywood from the San Fernando Valley. It was hopping. Was there a band? I do not recall. It was full of young, vibrant, Hollywood production types, mostly casting assistants, production assistants (like me), and various other twenty-something Angelenos. My co-worker was there, along with her friend, a tall, pixie-haired blonde, with a winning smile. I don't remember her name.

Tino and I mingled. There was a keg, I believe. Beer flowed. A group of party-goers were behind the house, up a hill in a small clearing on the property maybe fifty feet from the house. I believe the moon was full, or close-to-full. How do I remember this? Conjecture, we were out back in the L.A. night, and the scene was illuminated. Tino, the blonde and I were outside, up the hill, drinking beer, talking. Perhaps about what was to become my number one book. Perhaps not.

This is what I remember. There were others about. Tino and I stepped back into the shadows where some of the guys were recycling their beer, returning the water to the earth, in a slightly different form. A third person joined us. His name was Randy. It was a party. I remember urinating downhill. A conversation ensued. We returned to the group of people. Something about the guy we had just met was familiar. We felt we knew him and then it clicked. It was Randolph Mantooth, co-star of the 1970's hit Emergency! Any child of the 70's remembers "Johnny Gage" of "Rampart, this is Squad 51" fame.

I was not one to be starstruck. I worked on a TV show and had done work for MTV on a periodic basis, but this was an actor who played one of my childhood heroes, and we weren't working, we were hanging out drinking beer. And he was totally cool, although he was easily the oldest person at the party.

Fast forward: I must have talked to the young lady my friend wanted me to meet. She needed a ride back to her car, or we needed a ride back to Tino's car, it's all rather hazy. We agreed to go out to dinner. On a date. Without Tino. Such things petrify me.

The date wasn't a catastrophe, it was pleasant, I guess. In hindsight, it was clear that we did not have much in common. I immortalized the experience in a poem called "The Turning Point," in which I recognized the date as a moment when my life could have changed significantly, but it didn't. The break between the future Mr. and Mrs. BillyBlog was just a blip on the radar:

She drives me back to my place, I
invite her upstairs, on what pretense, I forget.
She gracefully declines.
Here it is that awkward first date moment
everyone dreads like a biopsy,
only it is worse
as my lips whisper helplessly
across a turned porcelain cheek,
the embrace ultimately thwarted
by the gearshift stabbing me
just below the lowest left rib.

She drives away. I stare at the moon.
as loneliness replays the evening
in a medley of should-have-dones.

Years later we recognize the turning points
that never quite turned.
One reality continues, while others linger
only in memories
of botched arrangements,
awkward moments
and final first dates.

In cyberspace, you can hear crickets, can't you? I can hear the whispers, "Uh, what is this, a confessional? I thought he was going to talk about book #1. What's up with this? Has BillyBlog lost it?

Fear not, dear readers, I do have a point. I hopefully have illustrated what a significant time this was in my life, a turning point in a sense, in which a chosen path was covered with underbrush, and then eventually cleared away.

However, this post is already quite lengthy, so I'll make it a cliffhanger. Ha! I started my top 20 on September 22, 2005. I've already dragged this out over six months, another day or two won't hurt.

Have a great weekend!

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