When I was still living in my native East Texas, on the verge of striking out to seek my fortune at age 20, I was working at the lobster joint as a server, having a good time with others my own age, just living and putting in about nine to 12 hours at the local junior college. My stint in food service started with my first job at age seventeen when I came on board at the local country club. After a couple years working as a bus boy and snack bar attendant, I needed a jump in pay level. Since the country club had no openings for servers, I decided to find greener pastures. The server work at that age is fun because most co-workers are also in the eighteen to twenty-four range. There were plenty of interesting people to hang out with, both on the job and after hours. For someone who had no idea what to do with his life, it was a pretty good transition into the real world. It was a little like more high school but with new people and new experiences in higher education which included my first drama class. They had drama at my high school but I was never exposed to it. Given my natural attraction to film history and production later on, it would have been an awesome activity to be involved in because understanding acting helps tremendously with both writing and directing. I think this was the first time I read plays other than shakespeare and the more contemporary American author plays seemed much more relatable and real. Studying it and practicing acting in a small group was a lot of fun however, the anxiety from being on a stage was probably the reason that I never really took it further than just a few classes (that is until I tried it many years later). I think I was afraid of, “what if I screw up and somebody sees me”. I didn’t perform well in front of large groups and at that age its our tendency to trust our anxieties, thinking that its a wise inner voice helping us to avoid danger, when in reality its more often just worthless fear. Without a mentor that understands and can recognize the fear, then it takes years of experience to thresh out a new perspective and come to a place where you “get it”. The only family member I’d had that ever knew anything about show business died five years before I was born…C’est la vie.
When I was a little bit older and had spent a few years out in the real world, I realized a couple things; First: Mom was right when she said “You can do anything you set your mind to”. And #2: When different people from different communities make the same observation over the course of an extended period of time, its wise to pay attention. Once we see that we have some kind of affinity for a thing, then its possible to think on how it could work to our advantage. This second point relates to the first because, while the former is true, its also a reality that if you want to fill a role that others in society wouldn’t pick you for, then it takes an extraordinary amount of work because youre swimming up stream. So attention to what it is about us that “works” in the eyes of others, helps to get the boat moving with the current. This revelation was spurred by four memories that had one thing in common and it got me thinking.
The summer before high school, I got a compliment. I was getting my hair cut by the woman who had been our family barber since my first time in the chair. In those days, my Mom was not too shy to rebel against red neck attitudes by continuing instructions that Linda cut my hair long in spite of the occasional townie comment “look at that little boy, he looks like a girl…Ha ha ha”. Years later, she told me a couple stories about that and got upset just from the telling. She finished up the talk with, “That used to make me so mad!”. This was the first memory where another conferred the compliment by virtue of the childhood hairstyle. The second came from Linda herself my fourteenth summer. These are all predictable and you might wonder how this is any kind of a trend. I would agree that both of these women were more than a little biased. The summer before I left for Austin, it happened again and then a fourth time after graduation from college. This last time, I was talking to a movie producer with several theatrical movies to his credit. He said, “you have a look” and suggested that I might look into getting an agent. The memory of the producer’s comment could also be a fluke because the advice IS kind of general for a producer. The third memory however, was a little strange and completely unpredictable.
Flashing back to the Lobster joint my twentieth summer, there was a new guy, Jason who was a 6′ 4″ ex-marine who was always bragging about how he could kill a man with a blade at least as large as a toothpick. He and his girlfriend were also planning to move to Austin and had heard that I’d been accepted to the University there. Jason came up to me after work on my last night and said, “So, you’re headed off to Austin huh?” I said, “Yup”. He said, “So what’s your major…business?”. Being the proud creative that I was, I grimaced at this insinuation and said, “Hell no. What on earth made you think I would major in business?” He replied, “Oh I don’t know. Cuz you have pretty hair”.
That’s it…I’m sold. Bring on the overnight success.