Today I received my signed copy of “Brain Movies” by Harlan Ellison (also signed by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczinski) in the mail, and I couldn’t have been more ecstatic. Here was a collection of ORIGINAL scripts, scanned from the original documents written on Harlan’s old Olympia Typewriter (he still uses an Olympia Electric for his work), with all the notations, deletions, notes in the margin. It was a brilliant look into the creative process of the world’s most awarded writer (and hands down my favorite author of all time and my personal hero). It was a look into what makes a writer great, and what makes the man tick…and what makes him tock. It was a full and beautiful view of some of the best scripts ever written for “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”, and two from “The Outer Limits” (among others). It was my own personal gold…it was something that gave this humble writer a few short moments of joy in his day and in his life.
As I was looking at what were some rather interesting videos of Harlan on You Tube, the thought occurred to me that the very reason why I connect with him so much is the fact that he is an observer of the human condition. So am I. He is one angry at the world son of a bitch, and so am I. He doesn’t give a damn what people think, where he is or who he’s with, if he has an opinion it’s going to be out there regardless of its appropriateness for the occasion. That’s me too. Once when I was watching the great documentary about him called, “Dreams With Sharp Teeth”, Harlan was on a rant and my daughter who was on the computer nearby said, “Dad, he sounds just like you”. Needless to say, I took that as a badge of honor. My wife has always said he and I would get along like a house on fire and maybe one of these days I’ll get a chance to meet him where he’s not behind a table and I’m waiting as a fan to get my head ripped off by him. Perhaps I can meet him on a street, shake his hand, and simply say that I enjoy his work and walk away. (As a native New Yorker, that’s kind of how we do things; it’s rare we kiss anyone’s ass unless its Anna Kornikova’s and I’d do a hell of a lot more than kiss her ass, believe me). Better yet, perhaps one day in the next decade Gods willing he’ll still be alive and I can share a panel discussion with him having my second novel just behind me. Or maybe we can have a pastrami on rye at Katz’ Deli on the Lower East Side after a bowl of Matzoh Ball soup washed down with a Doctor Brown’s Cream soda. One of the things that I do is observe what the rest of humanity is doing; it’s foibles and how stupid and wonderful we can be…sometimes simultaneously.
All writers are observers of the human condition. I don’t like what I see now politically, with the debt ceiling about to cave in on us and we get to say hello to our upstairs neighbor Mr Chang. I don’t like the fact that I’m stuck in a marriage that is the closest thing to paying off all of your karma in one lifetime that you will ever see. I love the fact that my kids get great joy out of a stupid insta-pool that we bought for the backyard complete with filter and ladder (4 deep and 15 round). I love the fact I can float in that thing and fall asleep on a floating bean-bag like device like I did the other day. I dig that I have 3 very cool cats. People say I tend to have a pessimistic outlook . I like to refer to it as “stark realism”; after all, the glass is neither half full nor half empty, it is simply at 50% capacity. I state it the way it is. I don’t sugar coat anything. I’m blunt, but I will admit to holding back and sugar coating when the situation mandates it. (My daughter however, is a work in progress…). But I look at things and I write about them. I’m writing about my life now for Christ’s sake. I mean, you survive a terrorist attack, alcoholism, acute PTSD, Bi Polar II, and start to get yourself together when your wife suddenly decides that she’s no longer in love with you. Not only that, she’s acting on her urges. Now THAT my friends, is a book. THAT my friends, is the Human Condition…
…and it’s MY Human Condition. And sometimes it sucks, and sometimes it’s great…but it beats the alternative. Then again, after completing all of my karma by staying in a failed and loveless marriage…the other side has got to be amazing. But I still have a lot more work to do here. So I’ll write, and finally get that damned book finished so I can help someone out there realize that THEY need help. I’ll write to get my own beliefs and philosophies out there, because no one is going to do it for me. And I’m going to try and make the second half of my life better than the first, because I deserve a little island of happiness on this sea of storms. For I am the lookout on the mast, lashed to the ship and yelling down at the helm. I am the one who is going to save your ass from the rocks looming ahead and my own soul in the process.
For I am an observer of the human condition.
“We walked for some time, and grew to know each other, as best as we’d allow. These are some of the high points. They lack continuity. I don’t apologize. I merely pointed it out, adding with some truth, I feel, that most liaisons lack continuity. We find ourselves in odd places at various times, and for a brief span we link our lives to others and then, our time elapsed, we move apart. Through a haze of pain occasionally, usually through a veil of memory that clings, then passes, sometimes as though we have never touched.” – Harlan Ellison