I’ll be honest. I have been incredibly busy for the last nine months or so. Good busy, but crazy. So one day recently, I was plugging along through my hectic daily ritual when — BOOM! A blast from the past flat out whacked me upside the head and stopped me dead in my proverbial tracks. It was this:
For whatever reason, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, which recently held its 41st annual weekend event, uploaded a bunch of videos from years past. And the selection above? That is the band Crossroads performing at the Festival in June, 1980. Members of the band: Pat Flynn (lead guitar, mandolin, vocals), Jerry Fletcher (drums, vocals), Dan Wilson (bass, mandolin, guitar, vocals), and me (rhythm guitar, bass, vocals).
That’s right. Me. The dude with the moustache and the platform sandals (?!?!?!)
My good friend Pat Flynn sent me the link out of nowhere. I watched us performing “Sarah and the Summer,” a song written by our musical compatriot Jimmy Ibbotson of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and my brain melted into a puddle of fragmented memories.
It got me thinking. Hard. How did I get from there, playing on stage at Telluride in front of several thousand music fans, to here — husband, father, screenwriter, teacher, blogger?
So I traced my life’s journey and it hit me in a powerful way: I have gone down so many paths, each one of them could have become The Story Of My Life.
Here is a list of some of those possibilities:
I could have majored in political science in college, my original intent, and gone on to become a political consultant.
I could have accepted my boss’s offer (my summer job for 4 years) to become a full-time salesman, then eventual owner of a rug and carpet business in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
I could have followed up my Masters degree at Yale with a Ph.D. and become an academic focusing on primitive Christianity (this was my primary goal from the third year of college through grad school).
I could have become a professional musician (which is what led me to take a break from academics). Indeed pretty much supported myself for 7 years playing music, averaging over 200 gigs annually.
I could have become a full-time minister in Aspen, Colorado.
I could have built on my ‘success’ as a salesman at the Guitar Center in San Francisco and become a manager at new store opening in San Jose, California, then worked my way up the corporate ladder under the tutelage of this guy.
I could have become a stand-up comedian, something I did for 2 years after my stint as a musician.
I could have followed any number of friends, girlfriends and opportunities down dozens of paths, but what I did was this.
I got married and became the father of two sons.
I became a screenwriter and worked in Los Angeles for 15 years.
I became a television producer for Trailblazer Studios for 8 years.
On a whim, I started teaching screenwriting as a hobby through UCLA Extension’s Writers Program.
On another whim, I began teaching screenwriting at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in the Writing for the Screen & Stage program.
On yet another whim, I started blogging at Go Into The Story.
Then Franklin Leonard reached out to me and this became the official screenwriting blog of the Black List.
Then Tom Benedek, the very first screenwriter I met in Los Angeles, and I launched Screenwriting Master Class.
And now I am more well-connected in Hollywood than I ever have been, plus I’ve got more work writing and consulting than I can handle.
I look back on all of this and if I consider it logically, virtually none of it makes any sense whatsoever. But in my gut, it all somehow fits together.
Through it all, there is a thread: I have always followed my creative interests.
Those aspirations took me away from several safe, secure life-paths, but they led me into and through my own tiny, but interesting dot of time on this Earth, hopefully with a few more decades left to explore whatever else lies in store.
Which brings me back to the jolt of seeing me on stage at Telluride in 1980 and my recent reflections on the past.
I realized something. As meandering and bizarre as my personal adventure has been, this is not the story of my life… these are the stories of my life.
Each a fork-in-the-road. Just like a Protagonist. Go this way. Go that. Sometimes I made good, authentic decisions. Sometimes I didn’t. But it’s all led me to this place, this time.
A wife of 29 years. Two sons. Two cats (Cassidy and the Sundance Kid).
A lifelong love affair with movies.
An endless fascination with screenwriting and storytelling.
And the community of people at Screenwriting Master Class and Go Into The Story.
So, you may ask, what happened to the other members of Crossroads?
Dan Wilson is also still playing music with a band called Solimar. Lives in Oak View, California. Here is his Facebook page.
And Pat Flynn? He went on to play with perhaps the most innovative acoustic band ever: The New Grass Revival featuring Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, John Cowan and Pat. Here they are performing a version of “Middle of the Night,” a song Pat wrote, which he and I worked up in 1978 when we first started playing as a duo in Aspen as Myers & O’Flynn:
After Pat moved to Nashville, he became an in-demand studio musician, songwriter, record producer and performer. In my estimation, he is the greatest flat-picking guitarist alive today, a member of the Frets magazine Hall of Fame.
Here is Pat’s Facebook page.
Pat has released 3 CDs, his latest “reNew” just dropped last week. You can buy Pat’s music on iTunes here. If you like Americana acoustic music, you’ll love Pat’s stuff.
As for me? I’ve moved from songwriting to screenwriting. Still have my Martin acoustic. ’62 Fender Strat. Fender P bass. And two sons who are musicians, one classical, the other a rock and roller. In fact to round out this post, tonight Luke and I are going to a rock concert: Paramore and Fall Out Boy.
I guess it’s true: The more things change, the more they stay the same…
So those are the stories of my life.
How about you? What are the stories of your life? If you feel up to it, take a few minutes to reflect on all of the paths you’ve traveled, and how they’ve led you here, this place, this time, following the contours of your creative adventure.
Life really is an amazing journey, isn’t it?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go back and watch Crossroads in performance one more time, at least to try to figure out the whole platform sandals thing.
What the hell was I thinking…