We sat in the rented min-van hurtling through the Hollywood Hills, the two youngest on probation in the back seat, the oldest in the middle pretending she couldn’t hear any of us, the mother-in-law with nerves of steel next to her. He and I sat in the front, not speaking. Oh, we’d been speaking. We spoke through gritted teeth with words that cleverly hid everything unspoken behind them. We spoke with a false politeness that raised itself into something akin to yelling. Then we stopped speaking altogether because everything we wanted to say could not be said with other ears listening. My mother-in-law, she with the endless stream of words and the patience of a real-life saint, said absolutely nothing. I couldn’t tell if she was appalled or enjoying the show that was our family–hungry, disobedient, frustrated, turned around in a new city.
Before the Hollywood Hills, we had a great morning touring a television/movie studio. We walked under hundreds of lights and cameras on Conan’s sound stage, and sat on the sofa at Central Perk, and took photos of almost every single item of Harry Potter memorabilia. We all sat under the (real!) sorting hat. I am in Slytherin. This did not bode well for the rest of our journey. My daughter told me during the tour that she wants to be an actress. I prayed, please Jesus, no. Then I contemplated becoming an actress myself for a brief moment because I like to bring all the drama. If you knew me in real life, you would not believe this unless you put a ring on my finger or happen to be my sister.
Later, Hollywood had it’s way with us. We parked and walked around and my kids realized immediately that the glitz and glamour are an illusion. Something I knew already, but with the kids fighting incessantly behind me and the husband refusing to feed us lunch until we squeezed in ‘one more’ landmark, and the half-naked girls dressed like hookers/policemen (a bizarre combination if ever there was one) shaking their boobs at my son, and the sad desperation of artists lining the streets trying to shove their music or art or street performance at anyone who made eye contact–the curtain pulled back a little farther to expose the little man playing at a big one.
Once we escaped Hollywood itself, and drove through hills and hills of mansions, I couldn’t help but think of all the lost souls looking for work in that town. All the artists working as waiters, all the women afraid of aging, all the “aspirings” hoping for a big break and forgetting to live the life they have in the process. I am an artist (on my good/delusional days), I am an aspiring, but my life is so full. Full of people who love me in spite of my drama and my tendency to become hangry. Full of work and words. Full of life and love and anger and frustration and joy and hope. I fear that I will miss out on what I have sitting in the mini-van rental for the want of everything outside of it. The illusion of success. The mansion in the hills. The creative expression. It is a desire to be known, to be bigger than I really am, to be admired, to be talented, to be wanted. But, I already am all of these things to the people fighting in the seat behind me, and sitting silent in the seat beside me.
We ended the night laughing over a meal together at the Cheesecake Factory, but only after slamming car doors and real yelling and some people losing their electronic privileges. Most days this is the art I am making–no illusions, no hair and makeup, no fawning fans. Real life–I’m pulling back the curtain.