Friday, February 02, 2007
Something to write for: The Coppola Theory
There’s a theory about art and artists.
Kids get in the way.
They take up time. They take up energy. They take up money. They change your life focus.
Then there’s another theory. I’ll call it the Coppola Theory because he’s the first one I ever heard make it.
And that’s that kids make you better. Faster. More urgent.
When my wife and I got married a year ago, we knew we wanted to have kids. However, we were both still working and, because our jobs had us separated on a temporary basis, we weren’t in a hurry to get going (plus, you try getting pregnant with 3,000 miles between you).
Naturally, as we planned to move to LA, we hoped that by finally living in the same place we’d be able to start the family we’d always talked about – but even then, we were cautious.
We were both going to need jobs. And a place to live. And cars. And… well, you get the point.
Plus, I really wanted to take a stab at film and TV, which meant breaking into a new field from my bread and butter career: advertising.
But I was certain I’d find work. And all the rest would follow quickly.
Then I moved. And work was not easy to find. And it was more expensive than I thought. And then there was the housing problem – which I’ve already blogged about.
Things came to a head the weekend in November when Heather came down from Ashland to look for a place with me. It was a tough couple of days for us. I was particularly down since my worst employment fears were being recognized. And she was upset by the lack of livable housing that we seemed to be confronting.
The subject of kids and starting a family came up when one potential landlord (who is now our landlord) asked us if we were planning to have a baby anytime soon.
I didn’t hesitate.
“Oh, god, no,” I said flippantly. “We have other things to do first. Like a find jobs, a place to live. Stuff like that.”
Heather brought up my response later that evening. Apparently she was worried that we were not on the same page.
“What I meant, was, uh, that right now, in the immediate moment, while I don’t have a job and it doesn’t look like I’m going to sell a screenplay or get a staff job on a TV show anytime soon, and well, the ad agencies don’t seem like they need help, well, I don’t think it would be a great time to have kids, cuz, you know, well, uh, do you think it would be good?”
A very very very long conversation ensued.
And, of course, we, uh, well, you know what we did.
About a week and a half later, I got the call that landed us the address at Sunset. And the same morning, an invitation from Clubbed Thumb to go to New York and work on my play, Beyond the Owing – about two people struggling as artists under huge grad school debt.
All this made me happy and so I went up to Ashland to celebrate Thanksgiving and then to NYC to workshop my play.
And, boy, was the workshop intense. In fact, I was quite worried that I was going to embarrass myself if I didn’t write better faster when I got call one night from Heather that started: “I have to tell you something…”
Now, I don’t know what it has felt like for others when they were told they were going to be a parent, but me, well, there was a little thing that started at the top of my head and shot down through me like a field of soothing electricity and there I was born all over again myself right there in a studio apartment overlooking West 43rd Street between 8th and 9th Avenues.
I mean, I was like, Shit. Happy happy happy shit, but Shit.
I don’t know how long it took me to stop smiling (though my wife claims that I went back to my dramaturgical issues within 10 minutes), but I do know I felt there could be no greater event, no more positive a thing than being told I was going to be a dad.
Until my first sonogram, that is. (The above is the second, most recent sonogram.) I watched in disbelief as a doctor pushed and poked my wife’s flat belly looking for something that could, potentially, some day be a child but for now would look like a grey pea. It was a miracle perhaps that the doctor could find it – but when she did, well, the look on my wife’s face was maybe the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
Part wonder, part fear, part joy, part love, part true amazement.
On arriving in LA, two friends who’d had a child only a few weeks before recommended a doctor in Beverly Hills and I got another look at that expression.
Only this time, it came with a heartbeat.
(There was also some prodding and poking required that I had to turn my head from since, if I was looking, I’d have had to have kicked the doctor’s ass but good. After all, here’s only so much a man will let another man do to his wife before such displays of macho-ness are required, regardless of the medical degree from Stanford.)
I’m pretty sure the doctor turned the volume up real high, but even without that, I think the Notre Dame marching band drummers couldn’t compete.
We’re due in August.
And despite all I’ve written here, it still hasn’t quite sunk in. (I told my wife this weekend something like, “When the baby arrives in 9 months we’ll – “ and she interrupted me to point out that it would only be 6 months. Doh!) But I’m reading books, er, well, a book and asking about prenatal vitamins and thinking about my job search in a totally different way.
But I’m still a writer.
And now, to all the other changes in my life over the last few months, I have another thing to prove with words.
That I can be good enough with them to make a good life for someone I’ve never met yet, but who I’m completely and totally responsible for.
Which makes me a Coppola Theory acolyte.
This photo was taken 24 hours after H told me I would be a father.