We live on hope and we live, sometimes, on promises.
A better job, a nicer car, a happier marriage….we sometimes dream, and sometimes get these.
I’ve just come off a run of promises. Ideas and big concepts were dangled in front of me and then proved to be illusions.
I don’t know if it’s Hollywood, or just life, but if I think back to some of what I thought I might be getting, it was all baloney.
Now I just hung up with someone whose rat-tat-tat staccato pitches and type “A” aggressive producer/director/comedian shtick I’ve listened to for some ten years or more. He was a once successful writer, highly paid, and had a deal with some studio.
He never calls me, doesn’t know or care anything about me. He just knows that maybe 10 years ago, I worked in documentary TV research. So he wants to “run some things by you”. I can’t understand what he is selling, but the words agent, deal, producer, studio, network, concept are blown through my ears.
The gist of his plea is that if I work for him, he will pay me by making me a producer if his future product sells.
Two years ago, I worked and helped elect another smooth and young and articulate man who became our President. He promised “change” and I, disillusioned and angry about a needless war, fell for his poetic prose.
Now things are worse in this nation, and there are scant amounts of people who believe optimistically that America will pull out and put its affairs in order.
Maybe I am naïve, or unschooled in the dastardly machinery of power, but I always come back to integrity. I believe in the rightness of what a man says and does, if conceived and practiced in honesty.
My father died last year, and part of his pain, was not only suffered in illness, but in what he saw as the moral decline of his children. He heard lies: little lies, big lies, white lies and all types of lies, expounded on a daily basis and he felt an ache and loneliness in his heart because the one touchstone of his family, honesty, was missing. He felt abandoned because he witnessed in his children the dissolution and decay of once close ties that were sacrificed on the altar of Hollywood success.
And in Hollywood, in our family, this year, the gruesome insertion of the murder of a human being, covered up by lying, once again proved that no act of deceit is too low when practiced by those whose names are listed in the credits on IMDB.
I started my blog, “Here in Van Nuys” and began to take photographs, as a catharsis and exploration in making sense of the ugliness and inhumanness of Los Angeles, and especially the San Fernando Valley.
Through my documentary portraits, of people and buildings, and in essays, written about sprawl, architecture, immigration and billboards, I sought to make sense of this mess of humanity inserted into the Southwestern United States.
And the Blog, sometimes, has attracted attention, and praise and criticism. It provoked discussion and made me recognizable, on some occasions, as I dined and shopped here in Van Nuys.
Lucky for me, more people with academic titles and non-profit organizations, thought my work notable and exceptional and became somewhat of angels, promising that my photography might one day be displayed in a museum or gallery.
But like all promises, everything that falls from the cloudless skies in Los Angeles, these fairy tales of hope, promise, and support were all false and empty.
I don’t think it is wrong to want to work, even as an artist, and get paid. I might take photos, I might write sentences, but I deserve and expect that I should be compensated.
And last night, again, someone texted me that a producer was directing a music video and wanted a photographer to work for free. Would I be interested?
The answer is no. I am not at all the ingénue any more. I am not an amateur. I am a professional. I write and take photos and it is just as meaningful and deserving of pay as someone who works as a cashier, or pharmacist, or teacher or clerk at the DMV.
It is hard these days to believe that anyone has any integrity, no matter how “worthy” their cause. The pitchman, the huckster, the whore, the adman, we are in the line of fire from all these killers of character.
I find that nausea, not respect, infects me as I listen to the biggest breast cancer foundation founder compose poems to the memory of her late husband who was “a complete success” and “ran an extraordinary company based on sports marketing” as he created an empire of greasy chain food restaurants.
She is on the radio, on KPCC, to sell her memoir and I think about how much money and ambition and lying it takes to be thought of well in America. You cannot be an angel if you haven’t lived like a devil.
And you wake up and live and spend another day watching the decline of a country, bleeding with a million cuts from the lying tongues of hucksters whose only motivation is deceit, and whose lives are predicated on corruption and falsehoods.