by Stacey Jones
LB’s NOTE: Stacey Jones was the winner of the second running of TVWriter™’s late, lamented PEOPLE’S PILOT competition back at the dawn of time. Most recently, he’s done a series of reviews of various Marvel TV series for us.
Today he starts his latest series of reviews, this time about – his own life.
Yep, you heard me.
Now it’s time to hear the Staceman.
I’ve started writing this a few dozen times.
It’s easy to spout off a bunch of bullshit about the fictional lives of TV people, and whether or not their stories are impacting our lives and reality in a meaningful way. I’ve done it a lot recently for my friend and mentor Larry Brody, right here on this site.
LB’s a very generous editor, even as he sticks me on points that always make me a better writer upon the rewrite. The work comes first, and both of us want it to be the best it can be (his tolerance for my word count creep not withstanding). This has always been so, for every student Larry’s ever had, and continues to have.
The assignment this time is really busting my chops, because … in short, he gave me a writing prompt that I wasn’t expecting.
My friend of half my life now and teacher during that same stretch, asked me if he had done me wrong when I won his long running and legendary writing contest. The pertinent sentence in his email to me reads: “I’ve been feeling guilty for years, wondering if the People’s Pilot ruined your life, more than benefitted it.”
To frame this correctly, we need to go back to the mystical year 2000. Follow me to the TARDIS …
My first post-college career as a rock and roll superstar was over by the time I was 26. I had gone to college to take a few years to really learn the mechanics of wrestling with the English language as a writer, but while I was there, I also ended up in a band.
Not a ‘play covers in the bar on weekends for beer’ kind of band, but a group of hungry, ferocious lads doing heavy, original, and somewhat experimental music, looking to break through to the major label music scene as it existed, pre-Napster.
By the time I graduated, the band had signed to BMG/RCA, and we got the 15 minutes Warhol promised. We managed to impress our peers in Canada enough to win a Juno (the Canadian Grammy, eh!) award in a category we loosely fit into, toured three hundred days a year, played thousands of shows, had music videos in regular rotation on MuchMusic (Canadian MTV) … you know, the full deal.
(For the morbidly curious, you can toss Monster Voodoo Machine into your favorite search engine but save your ears, and turn it down a little)
Too much, too soon, too fast, too close, for the six of us in the band. Little things become big things, trivialities fracture trust. I left the band and moved to Vancouver, to live with a girlfriend that I later married and had a son with.
In Vancouver, I was trying to find writing or music gigs, without much luck at either. I had some opportunities, but I couldn’t make it work. In the condition I was in, I was never going to make anything work.
I didn’t know why then. I do now, of course, which facilitates this unflinching navel gazing. I was raised to be completely codependent to narcissistic abuse and manipulation. As a result, I found myself in a series of disastrous and misguided relationships that never worked and could never work.
Back to Larry’s question to me, and my initial reaction to it.
When I met him, my life had already been ruined and I didn’t even have the sense to know it.
It’s been a couple weeks since I finished that last sentence. In my head, I’ve gone over all the ways I could write the next bit about a million times.
It’s important to note that this may be a trigger for some readers, regarding childhood abuses.
This is one of my earliest memories, fragmented and mercifully short:
I am lying in my bed. It’s my first big boy bed, and I’m around two years old, plus or minus. The hall light is on, and my bedroom door is opened a crack.
My father has already instilled a fear of the dark. He is the monster that shouts and crashes through my house in the night. He is the one who hurts my mother.
This night, there are guests. My father’s best friend is an alcoholic. In my head, he is Uncle Dave, the red faced and smiling guy who makes me laugh.
There’s a shadow in the doorway, now, tall and still, blocking much of the hallway light. It comes in, and creeps close to my bed. I close my eyes, and pretend I’m asleep.
The smell of cigarettes and whiskey fill my nose as the shadow leans close to my face. There is a hand smoothing my hair.
“I love you kids,” says Uncle Dave.
Then, it all goes dark.
My brain is protecting me from the rest, and I’m gonna let it. I don’t need to know.
I’m sorry. That was a lot, I know. But I’m okay. It’s important to say that.
I’m still okay.
Jesus, two pages ago I was talking about Marvel superheroes. What the fuck …
My life is no different than many of you reading. Sure, specific incidents may differ, and our traumas may come from different places but, don’t we all get broken a million times in our lives? And somehow, we build ourselves back a million and one times.
When we are broken, we are at a moment of opportunity. We can build ourselves again, and build protections against that which we know broke us before.
The moment I won the People’s Pilot contest came at a moment of opportunity for me, as my marriage was crumbling around me. I was breaking.
The problems in my life made it impossible for me to act on that opportunity BUT – the gift, the healing … that was in the win itself.
The friendship I had built with Larry and some of the people I’d met through him were a gift. The doors that were open to me, even though I couldn’t step through them at that moment, saved my life.
MORE TO COME
As has been pointed out above, Stacey Jones is an award winning writer, composer, musician, and rebel philosopher who was, in fact, the overall winner of the 2nd running of TVWriter™’s now gone but not forgotten contest, The People’s Pilot. TVWriter™ is happy to welcome him back to the fold.