Friday, November 26, 2010

My cigar needs a light. Anyone got a blowtorch?

Immediately after the whole Matthew Morrison shenanigans, Robert, Jay, and I head over to Priscilla's in Burbank to chat about our lives and creative endeavors. Toward the end of our conversation, we see a guy sitting behind us doing the most peculiar thing: lighting a cigar with a blowtorch. And we're not talking dainty, crème brûlée-decorating tool here. You see the picture. You get the picture. "Oh my goodness, that's totally AWESOME!" I say to him on our way out. "Can I please get a picture of that?" "Sure," he says. So I snap the photo at the top of this page. I tell him I'd like to write about him in my blog and hand him a Buffy flyer. He, in turn, writes his info in my notebook. "What do you do?" I ask him, almost as an afterthought. "I'm a record producer," he tells me. Lots of people in this town say they do lots of things, and they could be triple-platinum, Academy award-winning, Emmies-and-Grammys-up-the-wazoo industry executives or they could be blowing smoke up your ying-yang. Granted, this guy is blowing literal smoke, but -- as I later discover when I look at his website,-- he actually is a record producer/engineer/mixer/songwriter whose credits include Alice in Chains, Queen, The Offspring, Social Distortion, and Billy Idol to name a few. My first thought is, "How crazy is it that the character lighting his cigar with a blowtorch happens to be this mega-successful music guy?" And then I think to myself, "Maybe the cigar-blowtorch thing is the reason for his success."

I know it sounds kooky, but hear me out. Lighting a cigar with a blowtorch is extravagant and illogical. Why would one carry around such an unwieldy object when all one needs is a lighter or a match? Why would one waste money and fuel on such a frivolous pursuit? And who in the world would think to do such a thing in the first place? You have to admit, though, it adds a certain effect. It gives the message: "Any old schmo would think to use a match. But not me, no sirree. I may be doing what everybody and their mother already does, but I'm gonna do it with pizzazz like you wouldn't believe. And you can bet your britches I'm gonna flaunt it."

I think if we approached our projects with this much bravado and panache, we would all be multi-platinum. Think about it. We all have this feeling of trepidation about our creative projects; our entrepreneurial business plans; our big life goals. We want to be discreet about them because what if someone else doesn't think they are as great as we do? At least we didn't break out our big guns. Or worse, what if we go in full force with our fanciest flourish of flame and “they”-- the all-encompassing "they" -- snuff it out? Okay, that could happen, but I'm too idealistic to buy into that school of thought. How about we bring out our biggest blowtorch for even our tiniest stuff?

The day before the blowtorch encounter, I had driven down from Berkeley with the future president of Nigeria. Craigslist can attract some potentially sketchy people, but I happened to get lucky. Bisi Obateru is a Nigerian-born, like-minded, visionary creative soul who is currently an urban planning major at SF State University. Over the course of our long ride, we got to talking about many things, including his big plan to re-imagine the urban infrastructure of Nigeria. (This guy is 20 years old, and he has a plan to restructure a freaking country!) I said to him, "So do you want to be the president of Nigeria?" to which he responded, "Everybody always asks me that, and it isn't my goal, but in a way I almost have to be in order to do what I want to do." I've met a lot of people with visions of false grandeur, but when he said that to me, I honestly believed it was true. "Wow," I thought. "I am sharing the car with the future president of Nigeria. What an honor and delight!" We totally took a picture together at one of the rest stops doing the cheesy celebrity shaking-hands thing. This could be worth something someday, you never know. I kept thinking about that picture of young Bill Clinton shaking hands with JFK.

I will forever think of Bisi as the future president of Nigeria, just as I call The Page of Possibility my attempt at world domination. Maybe they will come true, maybe they won't. And even if they don't, what's the worst that could happen? People find me incredibly silly for saying so? Furthermore, maybe they will come true precisely because I think and talk about them in this way. Sometimes, people need to see the blowtorch, even if it is really all just for show. And it may make them see an elaborate, multi-mouthpieced hookah even if all you've got is a Marlboro mini.

Here's another hypothesis about the blowtorch theory. Say the scope of even our smallest pet projects is bigger than we could ever imagine. We need a huge, honking blowtorch to account for that possibility. In fact, this is not just a possibility; it is a definite truth. If you are an artist or an entrepreneur of any kind, the fact is it wasn't a choice. All of the people who had that choice became stockbrokers and insurance salespeople and desk clerks. As for the rest of us crazies, we are not acting entirely of our own accord. We are bitten by the bug; called by the muse; possessed by something outside of ourselves. We may think we only contain half an ounce of lighter fluid, but in order for us to endure all that we have to in order to make our art and live the lives that we live, something much greater than we can possibly fathom is fueling our fire. So let's give that flame its proper due.

Now, I give the floor to you. Describe one of your projects or artistic/life goals, but 10 times more spectacular than you're comfortable doing. Believe it or not, that's at LEAST equal to the credit it deserves.


  1. Karuna! you're a blowtorch and I'm humbled to have shared a ride with you. Keep shinning your light I'm always sending my love and energy!

    "Bring your fantasies to life, believe in your dreams" Peace and Love

  2. That's my Everyday Divinities Project in a nutshell. I could have stopped at the one book and said "Sure, it could be a series, if there's interest." But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made to develop it as a trilogy, then a pair of trilogies, then a trilogy of trilogies with however many short stories/graphic novels/movies/etc. spawn from them. I could have settled for using the lighter. Instead, I'm firing up the blowtorch.