When two people start becoming that peculiar entity known as “a couple” they are also creating a story that starts with the moment they “met”. Over the last week or so I got to hear Dude relaying bits and pieces of our own slowly developing story to various friends over various dinners. It’s interesting, and maybe a bit surreal, to get that other slant on yourself, as a character in a narrative starring someone else: in this case a man who had just re-entered the dating marketplace and was headed to a hip event with a sympathetic female friend where he knew there’d be single women. He dressed to impress: slacks and Paul Smith shirt and leather jacket. He knew he was a catch (he is correct) and figured he looked good (he’s a good-looking guy).
At the event, people milled around a white-walled, cement-floored lofty space, sipping drinks and looking at cool cars while a DJ played house music from a booth in the back. A group of people were dancing near the speakers. I was among them, and although Dude and I knew each other from fundraisers and black-tie events, this was the first time he had seen me with quite so much…swagger. He and his female friend came up to say hi. I looked him over in his dress-to-impress outfit — that was, he admits now, maybe a bit rumpled, in that bachelor-doing-laundry kind of sense — and instead of hello I said, “Wow. You look like you just rolled in off the beach.” It would be another eight months before we went on a date, and we truly met for the first time six or seven years ago (shortly after I first moved to LA), but Dude starts our story right there, with my swagger and attitude and crack about his disheveled appearance.
Rachel Resnick started off her “Writers on Fire” workshop by asking the participants to tell some personal stories of their own. The goal, she said, was instant bonding: we had very limited time to get honest and real with each other, and in order to be comfortable enough to discuss each other’s writing we needed to establish trust. Now.
I was late. This, sadly, is not unusual for me. I had underestimated the time it would take to drive to Topanga Canyon, which is off the coastline highway between Santa Monica and Malibu, and then navigate the long winding roads through the hills. Everybody wants to live on the beach, but I love the hills: their lush, tangled, sun-dazzled beauty staggers me as much as it did the first time I saw them. When I showed up at the house, Rachel’s assistant, a softspoken man named Michael with an appealing manner and a promising manuscript, led me to the kitchen — coffee! — and then to the living room where Rachel held court over half a dozen of us who had paid a decent sum to be there.
Rachel brought me up to speed: we each had to explain why we were there, and tell the group two things. The first was a secret that we had never told anyone. The second was a crime that we had committed.
So much for introductory smalltalk.
“It’s kind of like ‘The Breakfast Club’,” I observed.
(And now, to bed. Will continue tomorrow.)