It’s a coincidence, bittersweet, that the day should start like this on the second anniversary of Thousand Movie Project: last night I went to see Creed II (loved it) and bought four beers at $10 apiece, two of them before the show and two more during it, and then I got home and had two more beers, fell asleep drunk, and then I woke up in a surge of panicked energy at 3 a.m., couldn’t find my phone, didn’t even remember getting into bed. Then I set Mango on the floor and he peed three times in quick succession in different parts of the apartment (I think he’s got this territorial defiance now of Laz’s new dog, Jerry) and so I’m cleaning piss, and then I’m cleaning piss, and then I’m cleaning piss and finally, afterward, I find my phone under the couch, it’s dead, so I put it on the charger and then sit by it, dreading I’ll find some long chain of embarrassing drunken texts. I look around my room and see eight beer cans/bottles from the past few nights of drinking in bed. I go to the kitchen — itching like an addict for my phone to charge — and I stand at the stove and drink glass after glass of water until my stomach is bulging and then I just stand there.
And I’m hating myself.
I’m thinking of what my bank account probably looks like after spending $40 on beer and about the fact that yesterday, with my day off, I only watched one movie from the List. I had a chat with the ghost writer where he said something cryptic about self-publishing and now I’m re-thinking this plan to release Horny Nuns on my own, thinking of how professionally damning and embarrassing it might be.
I’m all over the place. Dizzy, nervous, swearing, flustered, sad.
And then I remembered this is exactly how Thousand Movie Project started.
On the last Saturday of August, 2016, I woke up at like 5 a.m. after a date with Rosie (we’d gone to see Don’t Breathe). That night, after our date, I got Taco Bell and drank until I fell asleep. Woke up with a head- and stomachache and this all-consuming panic. I checked my bank account and saw that I’d blown nearly all of my money the night before. Wasn’t gonna get paid for another month.
Maybe these are like lowkey panic attacks. Ahdunno. But anyway: I was hating myself, feeling aimless and broke and pathetic, and then suddenly, with total clarity, I started wondering about some kind of creative project I could embark on that’d keep me busy and focused. The whole idea of TMP came to mind at once (except for the name): buy the Schneider book, watch each movie in chronological order, write a piece about each one. Post three a week — or no, that’s a lot. make it two.
And it’s pretty much what I’ve done, with a few exceptions. I no longer prepare four exhaustive drafts of each essay, I’ve now got the stamina for watching three or four movies in a row (doing so would never have occurred to me at the start of the Project, when I was projecting a seven-year run). And it’s been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
I woke up that morning and needed things to be shaken up, is my point, and when my own shittiness was finally rubbed in my face is when I got the gumption to make a change.
But so this morning goes on. My phone charges and I find no bad texts and I go back to bed at 4 and sleep until 6. Wake up feeling wildly alert but not quite panicked. I get dressed and grab my bag and head out the door and on the long walk to Starbucks I listen to an interview with Conan O’Brien on The Nerdist. It’s from 2012 and he’s talking about getting fired from The Tonight Show and how, in order to stay busy and keep from going insane with anger and depression, he launched into creating a roadshow: music, comedy, banter, sketches. Talks about how urgently he needed to create something at the time. There’s another interview with him that I listened to yesterday where he talks about baseball players having to play so many games in such quick succession that they don’t have time to dwell on their mistakes, to lament. They make note of the mistake and just try to do better next time.
What I think hits me hardest, though, is his saying that the Tonight Show he’d worshipped when he was young, the institution to which he’d aspired for the past 20-odd years, no longer existed. He couldn’t lament being robbed of something that didn’t exist.
I’m thinking there’s something in what he’s saying there that’s pertinent to my nervousness about self-publishing Horny Nuns. The book has problems and I’ll do my best to fix them but I do believe it is, overall, a good and funny book. And, as Conan says in his interview, there are no clearly-delineated rungs towar success in ana rtistic career, and every succesive generation has to do it differently. The one thing they all have in common is that you need to work like a fucking demon. Unrelenting. As for his riff about the Tonight Show having not existed: I know that the traditional publishing route to which I’ve always aspired is still very real, and lot sof people younger than myself have enjoyed the fruits of it just recently, but there’s a chance it might not be the route for me.
Marc Bernardin referred, in a recent podcast, to Rod Serling’s run on The Twilight Zone — Serling not only hosted every single episode but wrote most of them — as one of the most staggering displays of imaginative fertility int he medium’s history. This prompted me to do a little research and, sure enough, the dude was insanely prolific. Twelve-hour workdays, seven days a week.
I don’t need to do that, of course, but why not reach for it? I’ve got a base of a thousand subscribers on YouTube, not exactly huge, but it’s something I could easily develop if I just made more videos — which I enjoy doing. I’m posting to this website almost every single day — surely I could read some of those posts into a mic, do a little riffing about em, and produce three quick podcasts a week.
It was a rough morning, but now it feels baptismal. Just like the one I had two years ago in August, the one that kicked my ass into new gear. (Mabye these feverish early morning awakenings are a sign of something coming to life in my head? Sure. Panic attack = cause for celebration.)
Anyway. Just riffing. I feel good, energized, and as I embark now on the third year of Thousand Movie Project, I’m feeling pretty sure I can make it the most active one yet.