Smells Like Old Meat

Here’s what you need to bear in mind, for this particular story to pay off. First, I like to cook, and I have a refrigerator and freezer in my garage filled with obscure cuts of pork — pork belly, pigs feet, that sort of thing. Second, in a few months I turn…well, I won’t say the number. Let’s just say that in a month or two I’ll be old.

Which isn’t really freaking me out — I’m the kind of person who sort of drifts through the years behind everybody else, so on my schedule, a mid-life crisis isn’t due for another 10 or so years. That’s the good part about being a late bloomer.

On the other hand, a part of me realizes that turning old is sort of like slipping off of a steep cliff. Everything seems fine — you’re in your 30's, after all, or late 30's or forty-ish — sauntering along the trail’s edge, and then, suddenly, whoops…you’re sliding and sliding and trying to hold on…

It’s the initial jolt of fear and doom that hurts the most, the sudden loss of footing, feeling the dirt and rock under your feet give way and crumble, then the last desperate grasp at the cliff’s edge, or a tree branch, and, suddenly, the free fall, eyes wide with terror, mouth open in a silent scream, the people on the side of the cliff getting smaller and smaller…

And then, when you finally hit the ground, there must be a split-second of actual relief before the lights go out.

I’ve been a television writer and producer for 25 years. And I’ve been successful at, and remain successful at it. Still, when you hit certain milestones, the question naturally comes up: maybe it’s time to do something else. Maybe it’s time to change careers. Maybe it’s time to think about my options.

The trouble is, I don’t really have any. I’ve been a television writer for a long time — it’s really the only job I ever had — and I’m not much of a catch, employee-wise. I mean, where, exactly, are they hiring guys who need two assistants, a free lunch, unlimited tiny bottles of Evian water, and who respond to all suggestions and all criticisms with a cranky, defensive, and uncooperative attitude? Oh, and I’m going to need a lot of money.

Nowhere, is where.

On the other hand, we in the entertainment business have a tendency to peer at the world through a very very narrow 310 area code lens, and the truth is, there’s lots of interesting things to do in this world that don’t involve conversations with talent managers and sun-baked studio parking lots. These are the kinds of things you think about when you turn old— or when you’re about to turn old— and you’re considering changing careers.

That, and why did I buy this expensive car again?

“Look,” a friend said to me once, when I was complaining about something, “life is just something that’s happening, and then it stops happening.”

Which is about as deep as it gets in land of sun-baked studio parking lots.

In the end, of course, I’m not about to quit show business. And besides, as everyone knows, old is the new middle-aged.

Oh, wait, I forgot to tell you about the pork in the garage, right? Okay, well, see, when I was out of town, something shorted out the outlet in the garage, where I keep all of that pork. The refrigerator and freezer went dead, and the meat just started to rot. I was away for a few weeks, and came back to a garage that smelled of…well, of rotting meat.

And my expensive car, which I parked in the garage with the top down, sort of soaked up the smell. So now I’m an and old Hollywood writer who drives around LA to various meetings in an expensive car that reeks of death.

And if you can’t figure that metaphor out, then, I’m sorry, our time here has been wasted.

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