note from Ray Carney:
The following letter is different from the usual ones I get,
but it contains so much truth, so much of importance, that
I couldn't resist posting it. Anyone who thinks this has nothing
to do with film or art understands neither.
Subject: How People
Hey, what's up?
So, out of curiosity, what *does* a professor do during the
I wrote to you
a few years ago after reading Cassavetes on Cassavetes, bloviating
about how amazing the experience of reading the book was,
etc., etc. just like everyone else who writes to you. I was
browsing your letters section + was surprised to see that
you quoted my old, now defunct, blog (kawara.blogspot.com)
re: the Rowlands situation. Very flattering to see my ravings
on your site. How did you find that old blog, anyway?
I was in your neck
of the woods about 9 days ago. Northampton, actually, which
I know is an hour or so away from Boston, but I'm from L.A.
so an hour or two of driving is nothing to me. I moved to
Northampton on July 11th from Portland, OR, but very unexpectedly--
and very, very suddenly-- had to move back to L.A. It's a
really, really long and bizarre story. I was living and working
in Portland for 6 months at a small mail-order company. We
distributed small press books, DIY zines, buttons, t-shirts,
etc. all with a decidedly progressive bent.
In early June I
met a girl who was visiting Portland from Northampton. She
had just graduated from Hampshire and was visiting some people
who live in Portland (it seems that people who go to Hampshire
end up either in NYC or Portland). So I met this girl, I'll
call her J, and we fell scarily in love. Just unbelievably
intense, crazy, I'll-kill-myself-for-you in love. She had
plans to spend time with some people in Portland but totally
ditched them to spend time with me, someone she had just met.
And I lied and told my boss I got really sick and needed to
take some days off. Maybe it wasn't the smartest move but
we had sex within hours of meeting and everything was just
insanely intense between us. We were in her hotel room and
I was holding her and she started crying and I asked her what
was wrong and she told me that she had never felt this way
before, that this was too overwhelming for her and that she
was really scared. I told her I was scared too.
Our few days together
in Portland are a complete blur and I had trouble remembering
what she looked like. We exchanged contact information and
talked every day on the phone for hours. While we were together
in Portland I told her that I had been thinking of moving
and she asked me if I'd ever been to the east coast. I told
her no and she suggested I come stay with her. I didn't think
anything of it but she brought it up again during one of our
marathon phone sessions. I asked her if she was serious and
she said yes and she asked me if I would really do it. I told
her I'd do anything for her, so I did. I bought a one-way
ticket, told my roommates I was leaving, gave notice at work,
crammed most of my belongings into 8 boxes and shipped them
to my parents' storage space in California (I like to travel
as lightly as possible).
I left Portland
on July 11th at 6:30 pm. I flew to SLC, and then on to Newark,
NJ, finally arriving in Hartford, CT at 9:35 the next morning.
When I stepped off the plane in Newark my thoughts were: Oh
my god, what the fuck have I just done? I mean, I had literally
just given up everything to move across the country for a
girl I had known for about a month, and most of that was through
the phone. Yes, I have a *major* problem with impulsivity,
particularly when it comes to love. But she asked me to come
live with her and I loved her and would do anything for her,
so there I was. Our first day back together was magic. We
went to the store and J was very excited and domestic and
she wanted to buy all kinds of things for us. Plates, throw
rugs, sheets, etc. She had gotten modeling opportunities in
Montreal, Costa Rica, NYC, and L.A., so she was very, very
excited about all of the possible places we could live. And
I'm just a lowly artist, so I can create anywhere; it all
just seemed so amazing and perfect. I had never seen her so
excited and happy. J is usually a very cynical, scathingly
sarcastic person. She is very, very blunt and says what she
feels and thinks and doesn't care if it alienates people,
which I absolutely love about her. That was one of the first
things that attracted me to her. I love strong, "bitchy"
women. But our first day back together brought out a sweetness
and warmth in her I had never seen before. It sounds cliché,
but there was something almost childlike about her. She just
kept talking and talking about everything, everything made
her happy and excited and we walked around Northampton for
hours that night, musing about everything. It made me think
that this totally crazy thing I had just done, of moving across
country for someone I had known for about a month, was the
only thing in the world that made sense. We got home that
night and had sex for two-and-a-half hours. Everything was
just so amazing and inexplicable.
Then the next day
J had a nervous breakdown.
She would cry for
hours and I would have to hold her to keep her from shaking
so violently. There were just so many things. The enormity
of what we just jumped into really hit her. Not to mention
a legion of other problems she has that have nothing to do
with me. The next few days were the most painful and exhaustive
days of my life. J would vacillate between wanting me to stay
and live with her and wanting me to move out so she could
be alone. I didn't know what to say or do. She would apologize
over and over again for "ruining (my) life." I would
assure her every time that she hadn't. She would burst into
tears and tell me that she had, that she had asked me to come
there and that it was all her fault. I told her I was a big
boy and I made my own decisions and would have to live with
whatever happened. She would just sob about how horrible she
was for doing this and that I should hate her or be mad at
her. I would get mad, but only for a little while. I'd leave
the apartment and walk around Northampton for a few hours
until I felt somewhat better. She would drive around looking
for me, but she never found me. She worked at a children's
center and called in sick for most of the week. It's not exactly
a job where she could just not show up without significant
notice, and she loves working with children, but she was just
completely breaking down. One moment she would cry and tell
me she couldn't do this right now, the next she would cry
and tell me she was sorry and that she really wanted to be
with me, the next she would change her mind again, etc. Her
behavior was very erratic. I've been depressed for most of
my life (I was even hospitalized last October) and it was
torture having to see her go through this. I knew, on some
level, what she was feeling and it killed me. Thursday and
Friday were very crazy, unpredictable days. J would crack
over the slightest thing. She constantly accused me of hating
her or being mad at her and I would have to painstakingly
assure her that I didn't. She almost begged me to hit her
or hurt her in some way. I mean, what do you say to something
like that? I know she asked me to hurt her so it'd be easier
for her just to end things, but I could never hurt her.
She had a massive
breakdown on the 16th. We actually had a nice day. We went
out for lunch, drove around for a few hours, had amazing sex,
etc. Then she totally lost it. This was her biggest breakdown
yet. I couldn't begin to tell you why-- it just fucking happened.
Think of Mabel the night Nick has her committed, but three
times as bad. It was awful, the most painful thing in the
world. I was going to call 9-11 or her brother or her roommate--
anyone-- but J wouldn't let me near the phone. I didn't know
what to do. She finally called her mother in NY and her mother
told her to come home as soon as possible so she could be
taken to the hospital. This made J feel three-hundred times
worse because she had no idea what to do about me. I mean,
I don't know anyone on the east coast and there was nowhere
I could go. Every moment it kept changing: I would just stay
in her apartment, I would find a room in the area, I would
fly back to California, etc. It changed right up until she
bought me a plane ticket bound to LAX. We left Northampton
that night and stayed in a hotel in Hartford. She took me
to BDL the next morning and we said goodbye. I called my parents
during my layover in Chicago and shocked the hell out of them
by saying that I'd be home in about six hours. No one had
any idea I'd be coming back to California, particularly me.
What's worse is that my parents are moving and have to be
out of their place by August 19th. So I've been sleeping on
their couch, totally baffled as to what just happened.
J went home and
spent the night in the hospital. She had to leave her job.
We agreed it'd be easier if we didn't talk to each other for
a while. I'm not sure what's going to happen with us.
I'm not really
sure why I'm telling you all of this. I mean, there is so
much more to tell, but I've tried to be as succinct as possible.
I think I'm telling you this because you're one of the few
people who could understand this sort of insanity. I've been
a great admirer of your work for a few years, but I've never
*really* understood the things you were saying until now.
Your words have been kicking my ass this past week. What Cassavetes
said about making films "about" experiences and
situations he didn't understand-- god, I've never understood
that until now. I mean, intellectually, I knew what he was
saying, but the comment was more or less an abstraction. I
mean, I have no idea what just happened to me. No idea at
all. I have no reference for this, and I've done some pretty
crazy shit in my life. A week ago I thought I'd be living
in the northeast for the foreseeable future and now I'm back
in California. Two weeks ago I had a job, my own place, a
girlfriend, etc. and now all of that is gone. In a matter
of days it all disintegrated. I went from being the center
of someone's universe to being thrust into solitude. In the
span of hours, really. It fucks with your head a bit. I have
no idea what I'm going to do or where I'm going to go or anything.
I've never felt the need to write or make a film (I'm primarily
a musician), but suddenly the thought of making a film makes
sense to me. Really, I hate movies. There are probably 15
(and at least 4 are Cassavetes movies) that I like and the
rest I couldn't care less about. Besides, I always thought
Cassavetes had more or less come the closest to an approximation
of the truth with his films, so I I figured it'd be pointless
for me or anyone else to try and improve upon the medium of
cinema. (Kind of like how every trumpet player tries to be
Miles Davis, but there already *was* a Miles Davis; not only
that, but they seemed to have missed the point that Miles
never copied anyone else or did the same thing twice.) But
now, I don't know. I can't make heads or tails of this experience
and the only thing that seems to make sense is to write it
out, as clearly as I can remember it, without inflection or
affectation, and see what, if anything, happens. I know some
poeple here in L.A. who are in "the industry" and
perhaps I could "borrow" some equipment to make
an eventual film. Like I said, I hate movies so I thought
I should just make one as opposed to bitching about them constantly,
but I never felt that I had anything worthwhile to say or
write about. Sure, I could dive into that whole aimless/navel-gazing
twenty-something trip that Zach Braff, Sofia Coppola, et.
al. are on, but god, I'd rather kill myself than make drivel
like that. I can't relate to those filmmakers or to their
characters, anyway. They all seem emotionally stunted, afraid
to take any chances (like Braff's zombie-like character in
Garden State; or Lost in Translation, which is a love story
where the two people in love barely touch each other), and
I'm the most impulsive person I know. I'm like a twenty-four-year-old
Well, I don't know.
I just wanted to write to you and tell you that your words
have really been the only things that have made sense to me
these past eight days. I won't be dramatic and say that they
saved my life or anything, but they have helped me a lot.
Life really is bizarre and people are profound mysteries.
I mean, I just kind of lost everything, you know? I'm not
sure how I feel about anything. I just don't know. I can't
even begin to explain how I feel because it's unknown to me.
I know I feel something but I don't know what it is. I don't
really know anything. I've always wanted to go to the east
coast, to NYC and to Boston (and maybe sit in on one of your
classes) and when I met J, everything seemed like a real possibility.
We just connected in the most visceral, intense way. I had
never experienced anything like it before. It was all too
good to be true, though. I just don't know what to think.
sound like an extraordinary person. Thanks for sharing your
thoughts with me. There is nothing wrong with emotions. It's
just our culture that makes us ashamed of them, or feel that
the "head" is superior to the "heart."
writing is very beautiful. Truth always is. Beautiful doesn't
mean "pretty" of course. Real beauty (in writing,
in film, in painting, in music, in dance, in drama) can be
(and usually is) wrenching, confusing, painful, and can even
be ugly at times. In other words: it's NOT like a Hollywood
movie! It's NOT like a postcard or the photo on a calendar.
don't know what else to say to you. As it happens, Right now
I am not in Boston anyway, so we weren't quite as close as
you imagined. I flee north in the summers and scribble, scribble,
scribble all day long and listen to Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart
in the evenings. (To answer the question you asked about "what
professors do with their summers.")
letter is so important and illustrates such important truths
that I would post it on the site (with your name removed if
you preferred) if you let me. But if you don't feel comfortable
with that, I understand. But, whatever happens, it really
is an important letter. The deep spiritual truths of life
come in many forms: movies, short stories, plays, and even
occasionally in e-mails--like the one you wrote.
you from the bottom of my heart.
Wow. I don't know
what to say.
Well, I definitely
go with what I feel. I always have. I try really hard not
to, but I can't. I try to be a responsible, proper adult but
it's impossible for me. I try to tell myself that it's okay
to be emotional and impulsive, but really it's just lonely
and painful. J said that she has never had a relationship
like the one she had with me-- that it was too much for her--
and she's an incredibly sensitive, emotional person herself.
I mean, she is stunningly gorgeous, but most people cannot
handle her because she is way too intense.
I think this is
why I identify with Cassavetes so much. He was insane, but
it seemed to work for him. Or maybe it didn't. It's hard to
tell since most of the people who knew him swear up and down
that he was never moody or depressed, which I find impossible
to believe. (Was he acting at all in Mikey + Nicky?)
You're crazy too,
aren't you? Do you alienate a lot of people? I don't mean
professionally, but in your personal life? Is that too direct
a question? I seem to drive everyone insane eventually.
What're you writing
these days? You allude to so many secrets on your site and
I'm curious about all of them.
Bach is by far
my favorite composer, closely followed by Mozart. What other
forms music do you like besides classical?
Well, you can definitely
post whatever I write to you on your site and use my real
name and everything. Honestly, I don't know what to say. In
truth, I'm kind of euphoric that you would say those things
to me. You've been such an enormous influence on me these
past few years. You challenged everything I thought I knew
about art + life. So, really, I should be the one thanking
It's 4:12 am, so
I apologize for any egregious spelling errors or non sequiturs.
are right about Cassavetes of course. (And the others are
wrong. Or dumb. Or imperceptive. Or lying.) It's one more
thing, among so many others, that is wrong with the Kiselyak
documentary! It makes him seem too normal, too ordinary, too
fact, last night when I wrote my reply to you, in support
of what you wrote me, I almost quoted a long passage from
the Husbands novel Cass. wrote. It is 415 pages,
one page after the other surprisingly similar to the pages
you wrote me. The novel is really uncanny in its crazy extremity
and passionateness. Even greater and more interesting than
the film in that respect, in my opinion. It shows where Cassavetes
lived--imaginatively and emotionally I mean.
as far as I can tell GR intends to suppress (or destroy) it.
It apparently scares her too much.
to my being or not being crazy, that's for others to say.
: ) But we know Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven were. That's what
made them so amazing. All art is necessarily what the world
excerpts from a follow-up exchange:
I'm curious to
know what you think my email has to say? I mean, you say there
are truths in it, but what are they? Tell me. I'm lost. I
mean, obviously I had the experience, I shared it with J,
but I'm floundering. I'm just confused about what happened
and if you think there are truths to be found, tell me. Give
only have a minute so I'll have to borrow from William Blake
for the first few, John Dewey in the middle, and Dogen Zenji
for the rest. No new thoughts here.
The tigers of war are wiser than the horses of instruction.
Energy is eternal delight.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
Experiencing is greater than understanding.
Mind is a verb.
And, above all, truth is not abstract. It is an action. As
the parking sign has it: That is not just a good idea. It's
don't forget the biggest truth of all: After you've heard
it, forget it, throw it out! Life is not ideas or words. Forget
all these words, and dive into your life.
of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." Didn't Jim
Morrison live by this? Would you say you're an empiricist?
I wish you were
my therapist. Actually, I started seeing my old therapist
again. His response to what happened to me was, verbatim,
"Holy shit." There's actually a lot more to what
happened than what I told you and I've had to see him three
times in the past 8 days just to squeeze all of it in. He
went on and on about the "red flags" and asked me
why I'm attracted to "unstable" women, etc. He asked
me if this was the craziest thing I had done and I said yes,
but then he asked if I have a history of doing impulsive things
when it comes to women and I said yes and then he asked if
I'm going to "learn" from this experience and I
paused and told him no. I know I'm not going to change. He
didn't have a response to this. I suppose this is what people
mean when they say that therapy is hokum?
normalcy. Fight normality.
make the movie you described to me. A movie about your life.
forget everything else. Plunge into work the same way you
plunge into love. They're the same thing when the work is
the right work. Work is love and love is work.
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