we don’t look; we overlook


Let me be brutally honest. It’s my birthday in a few days, which always brings on big-picture musings. Maybe if I just say it out loud, the solar disinfectant will do the rest.

I’m not particularly happy in California, and I realize most of this has been my fault – I haven’t gone out of my way to make friends, and despite constant meetings in the Biz, I’m a bit of a shut-in. Sure, you can always decide to be happy with a place, but then again, anyone who knows me knows I enjoy being pissed off much more than showing magnanimous restraint.

As Tessa calls it, New York is my oxygen. Being at the farm, seeing my family, cavorting with old friends and just being back on the East Coast provides constant joy, but I can’t be a whale, spending my life underwater only to rise to the surface to inhale great gulps of air. I need to be able to breathe where I live.

Besides, leaving California is an impossibility right now. Lucy just got into the kindergarten/grade school of her (well, our) dreams, Tessa is thriving, and we live in a great spot on the ocean. And coming back to NY now, as much as I don’t want to think like an un-evolved twit, would feel like a massive failure on my part.

As writers go, we’ve been super blessed. We’ve gotten a great script deal almost every year since 2004, which meant food on the table, bigger meetings, and still being a player in the game. Twice we’ve come close to shooting our own pilot. Lots of people in our avocation would consider us living the dream, but for Tessa and I, we never cared about the Hollywood thing, the incidentals, the starfuckery… we only wanted to be working on great shows.

And so I live in the liminal between two places: a dreamland I can’t let go of, and a homeland that won’t let go of me. I spent 25 years making my friends, I just don’t know if I have the energy to make any more. Your people are your people, your tribe is the only one that can make you laugh.

I sat on the deck I made today, staring out over the expanse of the Taconics and the Catskills, and tried to breathe, but it’s hard to relax when you feel like your time is on loan from another place. Like all long-distance relationships, there’s too much pressure on the fleeting weekends, and too much imparted during the longing looks at airports. I want the same thing as the Buddha, Confucius and Buckaroo Banzai: to know that wherever you go, there you are.


I think Lucy snapped this pic with my camera

0 thoughts on “we don’t look; we overlook

  1. jp

    My brother-in-law has finally thrown in the towel, I think, though I’m sure he’s still writing. But he just took a full-time marketing gig rather than trying to make it freelancing and writing anymore. He sold a pilot to a major network (along with other similar successes), but they didn’t pick it up.
    Anyway, here’s my question: he felt like, in his mid- to late-30s, he was getting too old for tv. Not because he felt old, but because it seemed the networks wanted young writers, meaning people in their 20s.
    Has that been your experience at all?

  2. killian

    Beautiful post, Ian. Seems to sum up everything I am feeling these days, but with oh-so-much-more eloquence. I love my tribe, am in a 6-year long distance relationship, and am diving in to an art project I can ill afford but cannot do without. I’ve got enough SENSE to take yoga almost everyday, but being where I am?? Very. Tough. Stuff. Happy Birthday and blessings for fighting the good fight.

  3. Kathy

    Great post! I have just hit the friends wall this year – unable to keep up with all of the old ones, not really interested in new ones. It’s a strange thing.
    I can tell you, as a mother of a kindergarten girl this year, that school will make it easier to meet other adults. The bond is your kids but it works. We have met some great people in town through school, t-ball and other kid activities.
    It’s not the same as old friends but they are just a phone call and a laughing fit away, very therapeutic.
    I think it’s harder for guys to meet other guys – my husband has made one new really good friend and met others through him so it’s possible, you just have to hit upon the right person. It seems more like work too, it’s not like sitting in the dorms shootin the shit all day long.
    I don’t know you personally but I think it’s wonderful to have so many people and places you love so much. It would be nice if your living place was one of them but if it’s half as good, maybe that’s enough.
    Enjoy your tribe!

  4. CM

    Well, that’s the problem with showbiz, for us East Coast types – it’s in California. I guess you just have to keep working on your little slice of the farm out west, and come back here when you can. I hope to watch a TV show with both of your names on it someday, too!!

  5. Julie

    A poignant reflection and so true for me. We moved house eight years ago from the east coast to the midwest–a Clan of the Cave Bear situation. And I was the Neanderthal. It blew the lid off my confidence and security in my sense of belonging in the world, but that’s turned out to be very freeing in the end.
    My mom left her beloved Philadelphia for about 15 years against all her instincts for happiness to preserve her shaky marriage and make a better life for her kids…a move that worked for everyone in the family but her. She returned to Philadelphia once kids were gone and the divorce was done and it always serves my life as a reminder that it’s not weird and never too late in a mobile society to actually choose to pick up and return to the familiar if that’s your calling. “You can’t go home again” is just a saying. But sometimes just being practical, we might have to wait a little bit to raise kids or whatever.
    It’s what keeps me happy now where I am, knowing that the places that really have my heart can at any time become my new home or home again.
    Happy Birthday.

  6. Anne

    I agree with Kathy: Your child’s school and related activities (sports, art, dance, whatever) will become a convenient well at which you can choose to refresh and restock your pool of friends. (Block that metaphor! LOL)
    We are still close to families whose children were in a co-op preschool with ours in the early 1990s. The preschool was located amidst the campus of the university where some of us worked, so there was a simpatico factor built in that led to easy friend-making. Play dates with the kids, Little League, soccer, and even church reinforced some of these family friendships. I very much enjoyed meeting interesting adults via our children. I continue to value some of those close friendships, and in many cases, the kids keep in touch (as young adults) via Facebook.
    That being said: the bicoastal thing would get old fast for me, at least. I applaud you guys for managing it with as much aplomb as you do. Lucy is benefiting from a fascinating, stimulating early childhood; as an adult she will be comfortable with all manner of travel and new situations. Count your blessings and keep up the good work.

  7. kent

    It’s conventional wisdom that you can be ‘too old to write’ in Hollywood, but I know T&I wouldn’t be in the game if you had to be in your 20s. And their incremental successes prove that. No doubt if they sell a pilot and it gets picked up there will be a writer’s room full of people who can still write 18 hrs a day and still hit the clubs, i.e. youngsters. But while young people can be clever, and have inexhaustible energy, it’s rare that they have any sort of perspective on life they didn’t pick up from watching TV.
    That’s why the same situations and catch phrases are endemic on TV shows — people writing from what they saw on TV and not what happened to them over the course of a lifetime.
    It’s why Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber are, while entertaining and talented, ultimately vapid. And why so much TV you see is entertaining, well crafted, and vapid.
    I’d rather see a comedy written by someone who has had peers die, or gone through a divorce, or any of the other awful and mostly inevitable life experiences. Sure, hire some kids for wisecracks, but have someone with a little humanity be the ultimate arbiter.
    That’s why the West Wing and Studio 60 were always so well written — there was a POV provided by Sorkin that had a little humility and awareness of human frailty. You don’t get that from someone who can still get away with pounding Mojitos until 2 and still be at the gym at 7.
    As Grandma Klea used to say “I’ve just about had it with these enriching, growing experiences!”

  8. kazoo

    ah, ian. firstly, many happy returns, and i hope to join you all on the farm for one of the next celebrations…sad to miss this one, as i understand the magic of the place from just that one visit a couple of years past (where is time going????)…
    secondly, i completely understand these sentiments. i, too, was pulled to LA for storytelling reasons. and, while i can’t abide the harsh winters of the east, i start to itch around this time, for maine lakes, and the river flowing through cambridge, and the occasional jaunt through soho in the sticky asphalt air of a summer night.
    here’s to hoping one day you become big and fancy enough that you and tessa can write from the farm and visit family as you please!

  9. GFWD

    If you’ve done a script every year since 2004, how come you can’t share with us what they’ve been about? Are they still secret? Is this blog just a dream inside of a snow globe of some little kid’s mind?

  10. xuxe

    happy birthday, blogmaestro!!!
    here’s the 2 word solution for all that ails you in this post:
    bay. area.
    the east coast of the west coast!
    if san francisco is boston,
    across the bay/charles is berkeley/cambridge.
    or some folks say sf/nyc, brooklyn/oaklyn.
    oakland is one of the most diverse cities in the US with one of the largest artist populations.
    and san francisco is just, well, san francisco. i mean, seriously. it’s like living in a postcard. i could totally see you doing home improvement projects on some old victorian like a maniac.
    and LA is just like, right over there – take a meeting, commuter plane, $40, presto.
    i’m just sayin, it works for other writers i know.

  11. janet....oh !

    ……………….and “there” you “were”……………happy birthday……….from all of us here in scarborough…………the kids still talk about you and tess and lucy as if you are folklore xxx

  12. Caitlin

    Happy Birthday Ian!
    I so understand this feeling of being no-place, of having to be somewhere but belonging elsewhere. I’m in LA not for my career but for my husband’s. I spent the first five years here actively hating it, missing all the places I loved more. Chapel Hill. Both Cambridges. San Francisco. Even Baltimore. If the job market in string theory weren’t so dismal we’d have left long ago.
    And yet. I was running this morning on the beach and I suddenly felt suspended between earth and heaven, here at the edge of the continent. On Sunday I inhaled a noseful of honeysuckle overflowing a fence that filled me with inexplicable joy. I met a photographer whose work I’ve admired for years at the Art Walk last weekend. We had impromptu meals with two different neighbors this week.
    Seems like happiness snuck up on me when I forgot to be pissed off.


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