After my swim in the Pacific off Santa Monica, I had the absolute pleasure of having brunch with a cherished friend. A friend I met via YouTube. A friend I will call Mr. Jumpshot.
No, it’s not Justin Bieber.
I had stumbled upon a hilarious show that dovetailed with some writing I was doing at the time. Mr. Jumpshot wrote and starred in it. I sent him an email telling him how he made me laugh so hard I went silent. Yes, the silent laugh. It’s the best feeling in the world. He was gracious enough to thank me. Then we became friends on FB. I learned a little more about him there.
He’s made every single one of you laugh. I would bet my last dollar on it. He’s written lines that are so simple, so pointed, so basic, yet utterly profound. Even when it’s the same three words repeated. And nothing more. His take on the human psyche is raw, primal, and dead on. And freaking hilarious. You may not know him, but you love him.
I was just a chick from back east and had no warm intro, no reason for him to extend himself. I imagine when he received my email something clicked. Even if he wasn’t conscious of it. On my next trip to LA we met for coffee.
A coffee that lasted for two hours, and a conversation that covered topics from around the Universe – the Pope, traffic tickets, Jennifer Aniston, canyons, Brooklyn, love, humor, the afterlife (or lack thereof) and the madcap nature of the human brain. We launched into it from the first tongue-burning sip of our Starbucks coffee. (As an aside, I think they coat their coffee beans in sugar or heroin. Something’s going on there…) We clicked and remained in touch.
It’s been a few years since I’ve seen him. Might as well have been a few hours. We took a stroll along the canals in Venice, his old neighborhood when he first moved to LA. (In typical Cleo fashion I didn’t draw the Venice, CA – Venice, Italy correlation until we had finished brunch and were walking to his car.)
That’s where the funny couple lived, and that’s where the old guy lived, and that’s where the person lived who we all looked down upon, because every neighborhood needs one of those.
And that’s where I lived.
We paused in front of a two story, cute as a button home whose ceilings could not possibly have contained Mr. Jumpshot. Thankfully, it had an upper deck so he had one place he could stretch his neck up straight. It was sweet to see this larger-than-life man gaze at his first LA home with such fondness. Such appreciation for that time in his life when nothing was a guarantee. Making it was not a done deal. Making it was, perhaps, a pipe dream.
As I gazed up at the deck a small green speck caught my eye. It was two feet above me, dangling in midair. About an hour later, or so it seemed after my 46 year old eyes finally focused in on it, I could tell it was an inch worm. A better moniker for this one would be a ¼ inch worm. If that.
Look at that! I pointed up at it.
Mr. Jumpshot looked off in the distance.
Not there, I pointed. Here! I still pointed in the same direction. He still looked off in the distance, but now a little to the left.
No. Right here. In front of us. I stood on the tips of my toes and pointed right at the tiny little head of that ¼ inch worm.
Mr. Jumpshot looked through the ¼ inch worm at the tree, ten feet away.
I could just reach him. I stretched my index finger up and poked his tiny little belly. He sat on the end of my nail for a few seconds before he slid down it like a four year old on a playground slide and disappeared. Thankfully, Mr. Jumpshot saw him. If he hadn’t, our time together might have had a premature ending, with him vowing to never meet people through YouTube again.
We laughed. Well, he shrugged and smiled at me. That smile that says, You really got that much out of that? I laughed.
We crossed over the canal to make our way back to a restaurant that caught our eye. Along the way I smelled the roses that spilled over fences containing the postage stamp sized backyards. Some had elaborate fountains, others little play structures for little ones. A tiny cottage on one patch and a modern masterpiece, its walls of glass retracted, laying bare the life led within, on another. All backing to a wide canal dotted with canoes and kayaks. With the ocean a few blocks away.
In a city where unique housing options are a dime a dozen, albeit a pricey dime, the canals of Venice are truly special.
While stepping aside to let a group pass us on the path, I came rather close to Mr. Jumpshot and looked up. Way up. Dangling off his chin was a tiny green dot. I laughed right at his face, pointing. He had no idea what to make of me. I gently plucked the silk and brought the ¼ inch worm over to the leaf of a rose bush, said goodbye and thought only of food from that point on. I had been up for 5 hours, swam 1.7 miles, all on a Cliff Builder’s Bar. (Love them.) I needed real food.
Over fritatta and granola, we caught up on each others lives. There was a lot to cover. After I wrapped up the story of HGM, we paused to breathe and soak it in. I looked over at him, my head propped on my right hand.
Have you figured out relationships yet?
He shook his head and leaned in.
When I was working with (insert two utterly brilliant creative minds here), we would sit around the table and try to – he gestured with his hands as if he was either fluffing a pillow or pretending to be The Godfather – …It never worked. We just moved on.
Meaning, they tried to get inside relationships, understand them, get clever with them and create great dialogue but they could never really get inside them to start the whole process rolling. You can’t write great dialogue if you don’t understand what it is you are writing about.
You needed a girl at that table. But not me. I don’t get them either.
(I read a quote from Meryl Streep shortly after returning home from LA. It’s appropriate here: “Women have their antennae up more. It is all self-preservation, they want the relationship to work. Women make a religion of relationships. They study how to make them work, while men do not, as a generalization.”)
Shortly thereafter I hugged his lower rib cage and we parted ways. I’ve thought of our encounter a few times since then. But it wasn’t until tonight that I thought about the ¼ inch worm. I smiled when I pictured his tiny, dangling body and the fact that he rode Mr. Jumpshot for a good 150 yards, from in front of his old house to directly opposite his old house on the other side of the canal. Not an easy feat. He must have been swaying like a tire swing, what with the long stride of someone who’s 6’6″ or north of that. I decided to look up the animal, or in this case, insect totem card for caterpillar. Technically, inch worms are caterpillars.
Yes, I had to google that.
This is what I found:
The infant stage prior to transformation, teaches patience that all things will come to fruition in nature’s time and not before, perfect timing and time of growth and harvesting, preparation period. Notice how you are moving like the caterpillar; inching along, resting, rapidly moving, pausing now and then. Caterpillar qualities will show one should move for the moment. His lessons of movement and preparedness is for the greater good of the transformation that will be arriving. Are you ready?
For Act Two? Yes. I’m ready.
I’m ready to get this divorce over with. I’m ready to make my own decisions and not have to answer to The Genius on anything outside of our duties as parents.
I’m ready to celebrate fall with the boys. Pick apples, carve pumpkins, dress in outfits from the Gold Rush period – we’re masquerading as residents of Bodie for Halloween.
I’m ready to know if Mr. Delicious is more than just a seasonal treat. I’m ready to know if Mr. Triathlete was only in my life for the bay swim or if we’ll train for something else together soon. I’m ready to know if Mr. Jackpot will be brave and make bold and confident choices as he faces a major life transition that may have him leaving the country.
I’m ready to know if I have what it takes to create a novel that is memorable. Enjoyable. I’m ready to know if I can support myself as a writer. And provide for my children regardless of the outcome of my divorce. I’m grateful that I know it’s not a pipe dream, but it’s still no slam dunk.
Yea. I’m ready. Ready to move like the inch worm; by gut, with bursts of speed when needed, but overall with a focus on steady progress.
All this readiness has me feeling not so patient. And instead of feeling like an infant, I feel like the clock is ticking too fast.
Welcome to Act Two, kittens. Big questions with big outcomes will slowly be answered over the next three months. I predict they will be the most transformative days yet.