please, help yourself

At the insistence of my girlfriend, I’m listening to a book on tape. It’s a self-help tape by some bald-headed Texas "life planner" who’s had the great luck, financial and career-wise, to have been brought into the great Oprah fold like many healers and fiction writers before him.

I have a very limited experience with the vast self-help field to have as many opinions about it as I do – but I suppose you could say that about many many things, from the stock market, to child-rearing, to Canadians. Apart from having worked at the self-help capital of New York, the Learning Annex, for 6 months, and turning off the cassette of Men Are From Mars… after 10 minutes because I couldn’t take another second of John Gray’s wimpy, fey voice, I’d had very little real life experience with Deepak or the Giant Within or the Road Less Traveled. (How can someone who sounds so damn gay be the guru of male/female relationships anyway?)

But as I’m sick to death of all the tapes in my car and LA radio generally blows, I gave it a shot.

Within 5 minutes I was looking at things differently.

I came home and got my mail in a straightforward, unafraid manner. I took an hour nap because I was "optimizing my life energy", went on a power bike ride, and then made a life plan for the rest of the evening, which consisted of working on a screenplay with a friend, eating pizza and ice cream, then drinking beer while watching the Late Show and then maybe a little porn.

Come to think of it, my new empowered evening wasn’t much different than usual.

But, I realized, that is the key! These things, almost by virtue of making the effort to listen to them, make you see your normal life as being more in your control, even if it’s not. I chose to eat pizza. I had a plan! I did! A life plan! Man, I can’t wait to hear Tape 2.

It is all about the illusion of change. Which is in essence the foundation upon which my life in LA is built. That’s why I wear a pager: because it might go off! I might sell a screenplay for 1 million dollars! I might land a great role on a sitcom. But that hope, as Jon Carroll pointed out, is something that once you get to where "you want to be", you will miss. The pleasant ache of longing. It’s what is wrong and at the same time right about the self-help industry. They serve up a more palpable hope, and they should be happy with that. They should stop there. Instead of saying "is your life missing something?." They should say, "is your life missing something? Good!"

In the meantime, I’m going to continue to listen to my bald friend and choose my beer with more assurance.

At least until the jazz station stops their fund drive.

This is where I let Larry King take over my body for a few minutes.

A couple weeks ago I almost died when some pots flew out of the back of a gardener's truck on the freeway. I hate LA gardeners for many reasons: leaf blowers at 8am... OK, 2 reasons really. Serious folks, be fucking careful...The movie Whatever is quite good. No breasts, but quite good nonetheless...Two old friends are getting married. Another's girlfriend is pregnant. Yes, I know I'm 27, but I'm seriously not ready for this...Ben Folds 5. Nerdy. Excellent. One of the few bands that write melodies anymore...