Moby, Stephen King, and the Art of Getting Fucked Up for Your Art

I heard kind of an amazing story about Moby last night from an Uber passenger who’d just seen him at the Improv (I don’t remember the part of the story explaining why Moby was at the Improv, so just don’t worry about that). I’m going to relay the version of that story from my dubious memory without any Google fact-checking, because that’s just how we did it in the old days, bro.

Apparently, Moby was a notorious addict: sex, drugs, alcohol, all the really fun stuff in life. I say “notorious” because that’s the term my passenger used. I had no idea. My vision of Moby was that he was always the bald vegan and champion of indie artists whose music was nonetheless in every car commercial and the end credits of every movie for over a decade.

But no, apparently, Moby also had really good taste in vice. As with many people who suffer with addiction, he sought help and got clean for long periods of time but then also suffered relapses. He drank and did drugs throughout his youth before going sober for the first time in 1993 when he was around 28 (again, dubious memory, the story is correct but I’m probably making up these numbers). He cranked out a lot of work then and started establishing himself as an artist.

Then in 1998 (this date is correct, and it’s important), Moby went through an awful breakup and decided he needed to drink something a little harder than a Diet Coke. He went to a bar, had his first taste of alcohol in five years, enjoyed it, and decided to have another. After his 12th drink (that might be made up), his memory dropped out. The next morning, he woke up hungover in an obese dominatrix’s house surrounded by snakes.

And this is the part of the story that I love, because his first thought when he woke up wasn’t that he fucked up or that he really let people down or that he was so ashamed of himself. His first thought was simply two words:

“I’m back!”

The other fascinating part of this story is when you start comparing Moby’s personal life to his discography during that time (yes, I researched this part, but don’t get too cocky because all I used was Wikipedia). When 1998 began, his most successful album was 1995’s Everything Is Wrong, which had sold 250,000 copies. His last release, Animal Rights in 1996, was a critical and commercial flop, and he’d consider quitting music altogether to study architecture (before you start comparing his struggles to yours, Moby did get calls from Axl Rose and Bono saying they loved Animal Rights) (He also did release a compilation album in 1997 that did better, but we’re not going to let facts get in the way of a good story here) (This is way too many parentheses).

Basically, by 1998, Moby had a lot of reasons to get back on the sauce even without a traumatic breakup. That same year, drunk Moby started working on a new album called Play. Even his own label didn’t want it, so he had to release it through the much smaller V2 Records in 1999. It looked like another flop at first, but eventually coffee shops and retail stores got ahold of it, played it nonstop for its customers, and it ended up selling 12 million copies. 12 fucking million copies. From a previous best of 250k.

Moby’s next studio album, 2002’s 18, while selling “only” five million copies, cemented his status as the god of electronica, and the rest is car commercial and end credits and VMA Awards history.

Around 2008, he got clean again. I don’t know why. I never know the stories behind why people get sober, because they’re usually much longer and more complex than the stories about why people get trashed. The moment someone falls off the wagon always sounds the same: this happened, so I decided to have a drink/do a line/sit down at a poker table/browse backpage.com/etc. Going clean might be triggered by some tragically irresponsible incident, but it’s generally a culimination of years of pain, regret, and shame. Also, unless there’s another relapse, that’s usually the end of the story. The third-to-last scene of the movie before the getting-back-to-work montage and the poignant final conversation with the one you hurt the most to bring closure.

And that’s always the destination, isn’t it? That’s where you want to end up: back to work with closure and without the demons. The alternative seems to be a gun in your mouth or a belt around your neck.

Yet I can’t help but think about the implausibly tremendous success that Moby experienced after he woke up drunk out of his skull in some S&M reptile petting zoo. It reminded me of something I read about Stephen King from his seminal book, On Writing. For those who haven’t read that book, read it. The first part is a brief autobiography, and the second part is a rather spiritual guide to writing where Kings praises authors he loves and trashes authors he hates while providing actual examples of their writing to explain why.

From the autobiography part, King mentions that he got a massive, oak slab desk in 1981, put it in the middle of a spacious, skylighted study, and spent the next six years “behind that desk either drunk or wrecked out of my mind, like a ship’s captain in charge of a voyage to nowhere.” What I don’t think he intended to do with that anecdote was to give 1987 as a demarcation to assess his career both pre- and post-sobriety. Yet he did, since he was drinking and writing before then and has been sober and writing since.

Here are all Stephen King’s original novels in those two eras, according to his Wikipedia bibliography.

Drunk Stephen King Sober Stephen King
Carrie 1974 The Eyes of the Dragon 1987
Salem’s Lot 1975 The Dark Tower II 1987
The Shining 1977 Misery 1987
Rage 1977 The Tommyknockers 1987
The Stand 1978 The Dark Half 1989
The Long Walk 1979 The Dark Tower III 1991
The Dead Zone 1979 Needful Things 1991
Firestarter 1980 Gerald’s Game 1992
Roadwork 1981 Dolores Claiborne 1992
Cujo 1981 Insomnia 1994
The Running Man 1982 Rose Madder 1995
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger 1982 Desperation 1996
Christine 1983 The Regulators 1996
Pet Sematary 1983 The Dark Tower IV 1997
Cycle of the Werewolf 1983 Bag of Bones 1998
The Talisman 1984 The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon 1999
Thinner 1984 Dreamcatcher 2001
It 1986 Black House 2001
Dude is prolific as fuck. From a Buick 8 2002
The Dark Tower V 2003
The Dark Tower VI 2004
The Dark Tower VII 2004
The Colorado Kid 2005
Cell 2006
Lisey’s Story 2006
Blaze 2007
Duma Key 2008
Under the Dome 2009
11/22/63 2011
The Dark Tower VIII 2012
Joyland 2013
Doctor Sleep 2013
Mr. Mercedes 2014

First of all, I’ve been out in LA pretending to be a writer for five years now, and I haven’t written anything worth wiping my ass with. Stephen King has published more than a novel a year for 40 fucking years, and that’s not including the 13 story collections, six non-fiction books, eight e-books, nine screenplays and innumerable short stories he’s also cranked out during that time. That should make me feel like shit, but actually it just makes me feel like I should be writing. Also makes me feel like I should check out The Dark Tower.

But to my point, let’s compare King’s 18 original drunk novels to his 33 original sober novels. On the drunk side, we’ve got some of the most recognized titles in the history of horror writing: Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The Stand, Pet Sematary, etc.

On the sober side, Misery is an absolute classic and perhaps King’s finest work, though most likely it was published when he was sober but written when he was still drunk. Then there are a few other memorable titles, seven Dark Tower sequels, and a ton of books I’d never even heard of until I looked at his Wikipedia page.

I’m not saying that Stephen King has become a worse writer now that he’s sober. Honestly, I haven’t read the vast majority of these books, so I’m really just judging based on popularity instead of actual quality.  That’s not to mention that the publishing industry today is almost unrecognizable to the one 40 years ago when he dropped Carrie on us.

Still, just like with Moby, I can’t help but notice that King created some of his most timeless classics and ascended to prominence while he was “wrecked out of his mind.” That’s no secret, of course. Artists of every type are notorious for abusing drugs and alcohol, yet they do it for a reason, whether that’s to be creative, productive or just maintain the balance in their lives outside of work.

Some of you may be concerned that I’m careening towards a dangerous conclusion: that drugs and alcohol are not only beneficial but vital to the creative process. That’s not at all what I believe, and I’ve written about my own dilemmas with drinking. However, I do believe they are catalysts to the type of life needed for creative inspiration. A graphic designer friend of mine, who specializes in dramatic generalizations, once told me in college that all the design students who spent their entire lives working in the studio produced the most mundane work. He didn’t believe you could produce inspired work unless you were out living an inspired life.

I agree with him, but there is a thin line between inspired and reckless. Both often result in great stories, but one is not a sustainable lifestyle. One will inevitably get you in trouble if given enough time and opportunities. I know which side of that coin I’m facing right now, the side that makes my parents write me long, concerned emails. Yet, I do know that one day in the future, if I am to have a future, I must embrace the final words in King’s autobiography: “Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.”

Thank you, Mr. King. I’ll keep that in mind. In the meantime, here’s a video of you schooling Edgar Allen Poe in a rap battle:

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Genie, I wish you would’ve wished for anything other than to be free.

Like many people this week, I’ve been enamored with looking up Robin Williams stories and rewatching old Williams clips since hearing of his suicide. To be honest, I’m normally in the same boat as the scornful crowd that denounces our obsessive nostalgia over celebrity deaths pushing more pertinent news out of the news cycle (though I like to believe I’m on the rational side of that boat, because there’s definitely also an asshole side, and sometimes it’s hard to tell where one side ends and the other begins). Yet this death felt different from the start.

I don’t know if it’s because Robin Williams was such an iconic figure in my childhood. Perhaps it’s because the manner in which he died felt completely different than the work that I associate with him, which was largely the over-the-top comedies for which he had unfortunately and unfairly been stereotyped (The Crazy Ones didn’t help). But it also could’ve been the stories that I started hearing for the first time after he was gone.

Obviously I never knew Robin Williams personally. I’m sure he’d been a bastard to many people in his life. Who hasn’t? So, although these are stories of generosity and kindess, to me, the more important aspect of Williams in them was his sense of self-awareness. Robin Williams understood exactly who he was and what he meant to people, and he felt a responsibility to be benevolent in every interaction because of that. It’s the anti-“I am not a role model” cop-out that Charles Barkley made notorious. It’s a sense that I don’t get from any other celebrity except Bill Murray.

And of course, Williams did it in his own unique way. Here are the two stories that stood out most to me:

1. Questlove could not believe Robin Williams is a Roots fan.

This was the first one that most people heard, as Questlove posted this to his Instagram very soon after the news broke.

Man. The smallest gesture can mean the world to you. Robin Williams made such an impact on me and didn't even know it. He named checked all of us in the elevator during the 2001 Grammys. I know y'all think I do this false modesty/T Swift "gee shucks" thing to the hilt. But yeah sometimes when you put 20 hour days in you do think it's for naught and that it goes thankless. Grammy time is somewhat of a dark time simply because you just walk around asking yourself is it worth it or not: all the sweat and blood. I just felt like (despite winning grammy the year before) no one really cares all that much for us except for a select few. Especially in that environment in which people treat you like minions until they discover what you can do for them...if you're not a strong character you run the risk of letting it get to you. This particular Sunday we were walking backstage and had to ride the elevator to the backstage area and we piled inside when suddenly this voice just said "questlove.....black thought....rahzel....the roots from Philadelphia!!!! That's right you walked on this elevator saying to yourself 'ain't no way this old white dude knows my entire history and discography'"....we laughed so hard. That NEVER happened to us before. Someone a legend acknowledged us and really knew who we were (his son put him on to us) man it was a small 2 min moment in real life but that meant the world to me at the time. Everytime I saw him afterwards he tried to top his trivia knowledge on all things Roots associated. Simply because he knew that meant everything to me. May his family find peace at this sad time. I will miss Robin Williams. #RIP.

Two things struck me about this story. First was Questlove’s open insecurity about the Roots’ achievements, which tells me he’s a self-aware celebrity himself. He very accurately understood that, for all the critical acclaim the Roots received, they’d never get the public or commercial recognition of some of his lesser-deserving peers (my words, not his, but it’s fucking true).

Second was how it wasn’t enough for Williams to acknowledge the Roots the first time. Every time afterwards, he would try to top what they already thought he knew about them. Do you know how difficult that is? By the second time I meet somebody, I’ve usually already run out of things to say to that person. Robin Williams went out of his way to make sure the Roots never thought that, and it meant everything to them that he did.

2. Robin Williams does inexplicably Robin Williams things to some rookie comic named Norm MacDonald.

Norm MacDonald relayed a long anecdote of his first encounter with Williams over Twitter, which technically I think is a horrible misuse of the medium, but the story is on point. Here it is transcribed below. Go here or just imagine #RIPRobinWilliams after each sentence to see the original.

It was my first stand-up appearance on Letterman and I had to follow the funniest man in the world. I was a punk kid from rural Ontario and I was in my dressing room, terrified. I was on the phone to a friend back home when the funniest man in the world ambled by. There was no one else on the floor. In shock, I told my friend who just walked by. Only the funniest man in the world. I guess he heard me say his name, cause in an instant he was at my side. He was a jewish tailor, taking my measurements. He went down on his knees, asked which way I dressed. I told my friend on the phone that the funniest man in the world was on his knees before me, measuring my inseam. My friend didn’t believe me so I said, “Could you talk to my friend, sir.” The funniest man in the world took the phone and for ten minutes took my friend’s chinese food order. I laughed and laughed and it was like I was in a dream because no one else was there. No one. The place was out of Moo Shoo Pork, and there was nothing he could do about it. He angrily hung up on my friend and I was about to thank him when he said I hadn’t even tried the jacket on. Then the funniest man on earth dressed me, a complete stranger, and i remember he ended with a windsor knot. He spoke mostly yiddish, but when he finished he was happy with his job and turned me to a mirror to present myself to me. No one witnessed any of this. No one. The funniest man alive was in my dressing room a good half-hour and was far funnier than the set I had to do soon. All of a sudden it was, had to. When he left my dressing room, I felt alone. As alone as I ever remember feeling. Until today. Unacceptable. #RIPRobinWilliams


No, he wasn’t saving any lives or solving world issues in these stories, although Robin Williams did devote a lot of energy to charity. He just exhibited a depth of empathy that few people possess and far fewer care to act on. He knew who he was to everyone else, and I wonder if the weight of that knowledge was what crushed him in the end. I wonder if he just didn’t believe he could be free as long as he was Robin Williams.

I always knew Williams had suffered from drug and alcohol addiction, and in a misguided way that always made him seem cooler to me than his reputation as Mrs. Doubtfire or the Genie should have. I’d always tell people to check out Death to Smoochy, claiming it was Williams’s best performance. “This is coked up Robin Williams right here!” I’d tell them. “This is all-out, no-holding-back Robin Williams!” I meant that as a compliment.

Williams was actually 19 years sober when this film was released. This was right after Bicentennial Man, and he actually made a number of unconventional choices around then, appearing in One Hour Photo and Insomnia the same year as Smoochy. The manic Rainbow Randolph was by far the closest to a traditional Robin Williams character, however, and in retrospect the character’s fall from grace feels haunting if not entirely foreshadowing.

In the end though, I prefer to come back to those two posthumous stories. For all his own immense personal suffering and the suffering that those closest to his internal battles must’ve felt, he certainly made a heroic effort to practice his eccentric brand of selfless benevolence as much as he could. One man’s life should never be judged on the words of acquaintances and strangers alone, but I’d be overwhelmingly honored if people came out of the woodworks to tell stories of my selflessness after I died (well, I’d be honored if I weren’t dead).

I don’t know how to tie a fitting bow onto this obituary, so I’m going to steal Williams’s one appearance on Louie as my conclusion (Louis CK is another comedian whose internal struggles I worry about). In this skit, Robin and Louis are the only two people who attend the funeral of a club owner they both knew, despite and, at the same time, because of the fact that the guy was “a prick and an asshole.” It’s my favorite skit out of all Louie episodes, and it’s never felt more poignant than it does now.

Farewell, Robin. Thanks for all the laughs.

Desperately clinging on to a life most friends my own age stopped trying to live years ago

Los_Angeles-Hollywood_boulevard_from_kodak_theatre-1500x600

The last ride I had as a passenger of a ridesharing service before becoming an Uber driver was in a Lyft. I had applied to be a Lyft driver, but they were on a hiring freeze, so my driver encouraged me to try UberX instead. I needed the money but still wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it. I asked him a bunch of questions, concluding with the most important one: have you ever picked up any chicks on the job?

“Oh hell yeah, man. I got a blowjob from this chick I drove home last week.” The next day I applied to Uber.

Since then, in over 400 fares over the course of three months, I have never once even come close to being fellated for my services. Two hugs. A few handshakes. Maybe a high-five here or there. I saw a couple give each other in-the-pants handjobs in my backseat (FYI — I clean my car religiously now), but certainly nothing’s gone on in the driver’s seat other than some discreet farting.

Still, it’s been a fascinating human experience. I’ve met many interesting people and heard so many interesting stories. I usually work Friday and Saturday nights taking drunk people home, often until 6:00 or 7:00 the next morning. In a city where most bars stop serving alcohol at 1:30am (WORST LAW EVER), the people you encounter at 4:00 or 5:00am oftentimes just finished one of the most epic nights of their lives. They always want to talk about it, and I always want to hear about it.

Naturally, I’ve wanted to keep in touch with several passengers, and several passengers have asked to keep in touch with me. What I’ve learned over three months, though, is that the car is a bubble. What happens inside my car is a contained experience. No matter how intimate a conversation you have with someone or how deep a connection you feel you’ve made, once your passengers exit your vehicle, they’ve left the bubble.

They may tell you to come visit them at the bar where they work. They won’t remember who you are when you show up. They may ask for your business card. They won’t email you (to be fair, I rarely email either when they give me their card). They may tell you to follow them on Instagram or give you their number. They won’t reply when you get in touch. The car is a bubble, and when your new friends leave the bubble, you go right back to being driver and customer.

This rambling introduction to my Uber experience is a convoluted way of saying I was bored last Saturday night as I was driving. What started as an interesting experience had become a mundane job. One of the reasons that my passengers often give for liking Uber and Lyft is that taxi drivers are often curt and surly. I don’t like that reason, because I know that, if I worked this job for that many years, I’d also be curt and surly. Doing this job for even three months has only confirmed that suspicion.

So last Saturday I was in Hollywood when I got a request for a fare that was “three minutes” away. When I arrived at the address that the app gave me, I got a call from the girl who told me a completely different address. This wasn’t unsual; the Uber app frequently gets the address wrong. Here are the three most common reasons why:

  1. You’re physically close to the center of a block, and Uber can’t tell which side of that block is the address to send me. It guesses. Sometimes it’s right, but not always. That’s just a GPS limitation.
  2. You requested an Uber as you’re moving and then kept moving. Don’t do that. Uber will send me to where you were when you requested the ride.
  3. You are actually miles and miles away. Uber customer support will try to tell me that you manually misplaced the pin indicating where you are, but really I think their app just fucks up sometimes.

This fare was a no. 3 fuckup. The girl was over 20 miles away in El Monte, a city I’d never even heard of, at an AMPM with a ton of other people who’d just gotten out of a concert. I gave her my usual nice guy line: I can come pick you up, but I’m very far away. If you want, I can cancel this fare, and you can request someone closer.

She was the first person who’d ever still wanted me to go pick her up, which was odd. To up the difficulty, her phone—and the phones of every friend she was with—was about to die. So all I had to go on was to drive to an AMPM 20 miles away and look for a girl dressed like an Indian (I assumed feather and not red dot version). Begrudgingly, I agreed.

However, as I was heading over there—i.e. as I was in a Denny’s taking a shit because it was going to be a longass drive—she canceled the request. This was strange. She sounded pretty desperate for me to go pick her and friends up. When someone cancels a request, I can no longer contact that person, so I couldn’t call to check what happened. Did she change her mind? Did her phone die and automatically cancel the request?

Of course not, she canceled the request herself. Even though we had a long instruction-filled conversation about how to reach her, she just assumed that canceling was a clear enough sign that she no longer wanted a ride. And it should’ve been. Except it wasn’t. In my mind, I imagined some forlorn girl in an Indian Princess costume with a stupid feather in a headband sitting on the curb at an AMPM staring at a dead phone and just hoping this kind gentleman was still on his way to pick her up. And yeah, I’ll admit it, I was probably thinking about getting fellated by some Pocahontas-looking chick.

I wanted to make sure. I called up the AMPM and stupidly asked if there was a girl there dressed like an Indian. A guy with the other type of Indian accent replied.

“There’s no one in here dressed like an Indian. She must be outside, but there are a lot of people here. I got a huge line waiting; I can’t just go outside and look for somebody.”

That should’ve been the end of it. There was no reason to drive 20 miles to a city I’d never heard of and not make any money along the way on the busiest Uber night of the week. Even if I did, the request was cancelled, so she couldn’t legitimately pay me. I would have been driving her and her friends home for free, and that’s on the unlikely assumption that they were even still there and hadn’t already gotten another ride.

Going there would not have been smart … but it would’ve been epic. So what kind of decision did I want to make? A smart decision, or an epic decision?

It took me an hour to get to El Monte. The traffic getting off the exit was awful, and I saw why when I got off the highway. The cops had blocked off so many lanes and intersections that traffic was at a standstill. This girl better have been grateful as fuck to see me (and have soft, supple lips — yeah, I’m a creep, whatever).

Hard Summer had let out hours earlier, and the streets were still flooded with ravers looking for a ride home. A group of them saw the Uber tag on my car, and one of the guys waved at me to roll down my window.

“Is the Uber surcharge still 10?” he asked.

WHAT?

For those unfamiliar with Uber, when demand for rides outstrips supply of cars in an area, a surcharge goes into place and passengers have to pay a premium on their fare. On a typical weekend in L.A., it’s common to see fares increase by 1.50, 2.00 or even 3.00 times the normal rate. A $10 ride home could suddenly become $20 or $30. Passengers become less likely to request rides, drivers flock to those zones, and the balance organically returns. Where Uber receives a lot of criticism is that it often puts artificially high surcharges in places when it knows there will be significant demand. This was the case all day on July 4, and I made an absolute killing working that entire day. Even then, however, the highest surcharge I’d seen was 5.00x.

And the surcharge now was 10.00x? My Uber app was off, since I’d driven to El Monte to pick up Pocahontas and her tribe for free, so I had no idea what was happening. I turned the app on to check. The surcharge for the zone I was in was 12.50x. Ho. Lee. Shit.

Now I had a new decision to make. This girl definitely canceled her Uber request. I knew I’d come out here for nothing, but I’d stumbled into a gold mine. I could actually see the AMPM in the distance, but the road was completely blocked off. I would have to go around and find another way. On top of that, there were like five girls dressed as Indians walking up the highway exit alone. Her costume was not nearly as unique as Pocahontas wanted me to believe.

Smart decision: forget about this chick, turn on the app, and make some serious bank. Epic decision: keep going. What was it going to be: smart or epic?

It took me another 20 minutes to go all the way around. I was now literally across the street from the AMPM, but even this path was blocked off. I asked a cop how to get there. Three of the four directions there were blocked. I would have to backtrack through the traffic I’d just navigated and then go even further down and make an almost complete square to get to that gas station.

I turned on my Uber app. The surcharge was now down to 11.50x. It was getting late. People were finding ways to get home. And I finally decided to stop being stupid.

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I only managed to do three hyper-surcharged rides at 11.00x, 8.00x and 6.00x. However, in that one hour doing those three rides, I made as much money as I normally do in two nights working 6-10 hours each. I even finally made it to that AMPM, where I found nobody dressed like an Indian (but I found two Indians dressed as AMPM employees — heyooooo…that’s actually racist, I doubt they were Indians).

That should’ve been the end of the night, except I picked up one more fare as I was trying to leave El Monte, and this guy took me even further east to San Dimas. I had never been to a Californian city this far east of L.A. before, but, as a child of the late 80’s, I immediately recognized San Dimas as the home of none other than Ted “Theodore” Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esq. Since I was in San Dimas, I had to go visit San Dimas High School, because:

Unfortunately, San Dimas High School was undergoing major construction, and not only was the parking lot closed but the driveway was also guarded by a security guard in a patrol car. I asked him if there was a sign or something that said “San Dimas High School” of which I could take a picture.

“No. Nope. There’s no way.”

Foiled. It was almost 4:00am. I was more than 30 miles from home at this point. It would be a long drive back, but maybe I could pick up a few fares along the way. I started driving west.

Then I thought, “When is the next time I’ll be out in San Dimas?” The answer, of course, was never. I would never go out to San Dimas again. I would never have a chance to take a picture at San Dimas High School again. As trivial and insignificant as that was, I’d still never get another chance to do it. So there it was again. Smart or epic?

I actually saw the security guard pulling into the school driveway earlier, so I knew he didn’t just park there all night. He must’ve made rounds to other places. I decided to wait it out at an empty parking lot down the street. Maybe give him 30 minutes, then head back and see if he was gone. I knew I’d have to run in, take the picture, and run out quickly. Being the nerd that I was, I decided to research where I’d have to go by checking out photos of the school on Foursquare.

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Hmm, funny. The pictures of the school buildings looked exactly like the building at this parking lot where I was sitting. There were no signs, but it turned out this was San Dimas High School. I was just at a side entrance. I didn’t have to wait for this dude to leave, I could just hop the fence, sneak up to the front where the sign was, take a picture, and then sneak out without the guy ever noticing. Perfect!

I found a trash can next to the fence, and used it to hop over. It made a huge, loud clanging sound. Signs posted all over the walls warned that I was being watched on closed-circuit television, and I walked right in front of basically every security camera. Clearly, I sucked at being stealthy, so I was going to have to be fast. This school was much larger than I thought it’d be, though, and I couldn’t find anything that said “San Dimas High School.”

Eventually I realized that there wouldn’t be any signs inside the grounds. I’d have to hop the fence at the front of the school, where I’d find the main sign. That was also directly in the security guard’s line of sight. No big deal. I’d just stay low to the ground, take the picture quickly, and he won’t even notice. I even found a door that would stay open, so I wouldn’t have to hop the fence. I exited, crouched down, slunk over to the front, pulled out my phone to take a picture, and immediately saw the guard start his car and drive towards the school. Fuck!

I took three photos and bolted back into the school, slammed the door behind me, and sprinted towards the side parking lot. Please don’t get to my car before I do! Please don’t get to my car before I do! I got to a building where I could poke my head around the corner and see the parking lot. There was his patrol car. Fuck again!

Was I going to get fined? Was he going to have my car towed? Was I going to get arrested for trespassing? I’d never snuck into a high school before, and at my age I was way too old to go to jail for that kind of shit.

I poked my head around the corner again. His car was gone. He probably parked it and was now going to come into the school to find me. Perfect. I’ll just stay hidden, wait for him to pass by me, and then run to my car. I just had to find a place to hide, so I walked out from behind my corner and ran right into him. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!

Well, I’d have to do this the old-fashioned way. Beg for forgiveness.

“I’m sorry, I know I shouldn’t be in here,” I started. “I live in L.A. I never get out to San Dimas. I just wanted to take a picture of the high school sign. Have you ever seen Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure?”

No, he had not. I explained how it took place in San Dimas and how this high school was semi-famous. He wasn’t impressed, but once he realized that I was just an idiot and not a menace, he waved me off.

“Okay, I get it. I get it,” he said and directed me to the door.

I continued apologizing profusely as I walked out of the school, then I jumped into my car and flew out of that parking lot as quickly as I could. I pumped my fist, cranked up the music, rolled down all the windows and screamed out to the world, “ALWAYS MAKE THE EPIC CHOOOOIIIIICE!”

If I were 17 or 20, that’d be the end of the story. But I’m 31, and that euphoria lasted literally less than 10 seconds before the crushing weight of my own life flooded in. I would still get up tomorrow and not have a full-time job. I still didn’t know how to solve the marketing issues our startup was facing. I was going to get home so late; there was no way I’d make it to the gym tomorrow. What did it matter that I snuck into a high school and took a shitty picture of an 80’s pop culture reference that maybe 1.5% of my Instagram followers would understand? Should I even post this up? I didn’t want to get that security guard in trouble.

That’s the real problem with getting older. That’s why adults can’t go to Neverland. They’ve seen too much. They know too much. They just don’t have it in them to fly anymore. Life demands us now to live smartly, not epically. Yet, it would seem, that doesn’t mean life will never reward you for making the epic decision.

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