L.A.Tte

latte

Late weekend morning and Jenny and I were on bench outside a local motorcycle shop/café, eating breakfast and perusing the Sunday Times (N.Y. — Like a proper NYSnob, I haven’t been here long enough to forgo proper journalism for the local paper). 

We had a croissant and a fresh and elaborately made latte apiece. I am not normally a latte person but when in Rome… (where, incidentally, I never saw anyone drink latte which is normally reserved for infants or the feeble). While reading the Book Review, I absent-mindedly chugged down the contents of my cup. It was warm, creamy, slightly sweet and, soon, disappointingly gone.

I immediately hopped up and went to order another. A young woman with multiple face-rings rang me up and a man with a waxed mustache and neck tats handed me another steaming cup full of ambrosia.

I plunked back down and resumed chomping on the NYTBR. Suddenly I started to feel, well, unwell — pulsing waves of liquid anxiety coursed up my arms, my bowels felt like quicksand, my heart thundered like Secretariat, beads of sweat dribbled down my pate.  It wasn’t a stroke;  it was the effects of far more caffeine than a normal, unsedated person should consume. And I had yet to touch my second cup of well-milked amphetamine.

My point is not to warn you again the evils of the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug. Life would be duller without it. Instead, this episode made me pause to think about my gluttony and impatience. My need to rush into things that seem vaguely interesting and to find immediate solutions to potential problems that have yet to crest the horizon.

When I came to LA, I had an urgent need to furnish my home and my studio as soon as possible. Within days, I had built truckloads full of furniture and knocked out dozens of drawings and watercolors to fill the walls. I had a shelf-full of guidebooks and had visited all of the decent museums. I had contact everyone I even vaguely knew in-town and planned get-togethers.

Something inside me felt imperiled if I didn’t get a move-on. If I hadn’t built a bulwark against the dimmest view of my future, I couldn’t feel safe.

This is an impulse I have wrestled with my whole life, a need to rush to results. Hurry up and wait. I handed in my thesis three months early — my advisor scowled at me and said he wouldn’t be even looking at it till Spring. I envy procrastinators. This isn’t false modesty. It’s the same impulse that had me ruining model airplanes when I was a gluey-fingered kid, that had me making wonky, ill-fitting covers in bookbinding class, that caused my journal to burst into flames in the microwave as I tried to hurry the drying of a watercolor. If I took my time, I might come up with more thoughtful, deeper, better crafted stuff. Instead, I splatter ink, drop glasses, and dash for second helpings.

My commitment to drawing has been an attempt to slow the hell down, despite my twitchy nature. I really do want to do things well and carefully, to stick to it, to focus on the process instead of obsessing the purpose and value of whatever I undertake. When I wrote  A Kiss Before You Go, I forced myself to go slowly, to carefully check each draft, to take my time with the watercolors, to make the best book I could. It was hard and I still managed to get the book out fairly quickly, more quickly that I sometimes think was altogether decent.

Maybe advertising was the right career path for me. Thirty seconds. And all that money at stake meant I was surrounded by people who made sure I slowed down and polish every detail. I was known for making really well crafted commercials, again, despite my nature.

I left my job three months ago and I have been in LA for seven weeks now and already I am impatient. I had committed to myself that I would take six months to a year to figure out where I was going next. To explore, to reconnect with myself, to have an adventure. But the anxious monkey in my head wants another latte, wants results, clarity and purpose. It’s not enough that I am painting and drawing and blogging and writing my next book. He wants the path all worked out, wants an answer, any answer, now.

Screw the monkey. I have to be careful. That’s why I haven’t blundered into going workshops or contacting galleries or shooting all of my online classes videos or writing the five other book proposals I’ve been kicking around. I worry that I am just sitting in this garage and that cobwebs will grow over me but I must sit still.

I am trying to grow a new me. And that takes something the old me has in short supply. Patience. Calm. A long view.

And less latte.

30 Comments

  1. Virginia Hanley

    If only we could truly learn to live in the NOW. Please keep sharing your insights, which inspire a host of admirers.

  2. Kate Burroughs

    Aloha Danny, I would recommend picking up the habit of meditation. I find it an effective way to get me to slow down, at least for the 30-70 minutes that I try to practice every day. I do the Zen Buddhist method called “just sitting.”

  3. joannetolkoff

    Danny,
    This hits home. I moved out to LA a year and a half ago with the goal of reinvention of my career and self. Like you, I would like this to be going faster but birthing a new soul is mysterious and has its own rhythm. Sometimes I want to go out there and make a lot of noise but that doesn’t seem to be what’s needed for this particular journey. LA is a VERY different from NYC where I lived most of my life. It doesn’t take place out in the open here. The car culture makes it difficult to connect in that vibrant way that NYC forces on you through walking and public transportation. I am sure you will thrive here but building a new community, new friends, new identity is uncertain but wonderfully exciting at times. Thank you for sharing your process – it is helping me understand a little of mine.

  4. kathy Kelly

    your openness astounds me. This struggle is so true. Kathy

  5. bohemianopus

    In LA, you won’t learn to slow down as much as if you moved to San Diego or points north. We are moving from San Diego to LA this month and I’m wondering how I will ever keep up with the pace.

    My suggestion to you is to simply breathe. Take in long, deep breaths. And, oh yes, lay off the multiple lattes.

    When you do have your workshops, I would LOVE to attend. I find your art (as well as your writing) freeing and inspiring!

  6. Matthias

    Danny, my experience since about one year is, that I often use to be very nervous, doubtful and anxious, in times when I’m not drawing or painting… because my mind is free and empty to become filled up with “horror-monkeys”, it’s like a nightmare –
    But when I sit down and start to draw or paint, I immediately calm down, I’m concentrated on the sketch and in this moment there’s nothing important, except the drawing, I guess, this is the wonderful feeling…to live HERE & NOW???
    - and when I later start with the watercolors, I enjoy the wonderful colors, which are flowing on the paper… and when I use “yellow… it’s seems to me, like the warm sun… and this is a very grateful feeling… ;-)

  7. Shelly

    I like this post a latte!

  8. saratashi

    Republicou isso em SONHOSINOCENTESSe comentado:
    latte

  9. donmcnDon McNulty

    Quentin Blake has said “use a civilized walking pace when you draw”. Could apply that to lots of things in life.

  10. Cecile

    Definitely less latte ;-)

  11. Sharon Gorberg

    First off if must get a second latte get a decafe for goodness sake! You don’t need to grow a new YOU. The current YOU is enough and is PLENTY. I’m sure Jenny would agree. Everything you need to “BE” is already inside you. You just need to fine tune your third eye to see it and feel it.
    After all you have lived how many years in the city that never stops? New Yorkers are nuts that way. And you’ve up ended your entire way of life and are living in a “foreign country”!

    If you want techniques to slow down there are many and I have no doubt you will find the one that will work best for you. And you know yourself well. You may laugh when I say that I learned a lot of living in the NOW from reading Cesar Millan the dog whisperer. He writes about how to have calm energy in order to build a relationship with one’s dog. I find it works with families, and also with myself.
    So hang in there big guy. Try a decafe soy latte. That is my addiction. :)

  12. Deb Hathaway

    I feel your anxiety!!! I ‘retired’ three years ago… shutting my business down and moved to the shore. I went ‘kicking and screaming’ all the way!!!
    “What do people DO all day?” I asked myself over and over.
    I was fearful of becoming my mother… sitting around watching day time TV… and thinking about what I would fix for dinner, even though it was only 3:00 in the afternoon.UGH!!
    It has taken the full three years for me to calm down from my TYPE A personality. I finally came to the realization there is no reason to rush… there are no deadlines to meet. I have become a more relaxed, complacent, ‘me’.
    Nope… I’m not anything like my mother. I fill my days with interesting things. I make time to grab lunch with a friend, paint a watercolor, sew a quilt, or just sit on my favorite bench at the beach… and wonder how in the world did I ever find the time to work???
    Enjoy your new found freedom!

    • lainer

      I agree. I retired from my state job in CT in 2009. I moved to AZ in 2011. I have been slowing down and doing each task or event in the moment. Not something that easy to do for someone like me who was always working and working out. Due to health issues, I had no choice. I had to slow down, take stock and enjoy each moment as is. I don’t know how I had the time to do all that other stuff. I no longer multi-task as it’s just not healthy. I take my time when I drive, constantly reminding myself that I am in nor rush for time. I am in the moment, which is really all there is. Once I do this, I enjoy each and every thing I encounter. Carpediem and namaste!

  13. lainer

    Oh yes. That Northeast rush mind. LOL! You have a great opportunity to slow things down to the speed of life here. It takes time to do this. You have been rushing around like a manic or a New Yorker for years. LOL! I agree with the person above who said to meditate. Buy a guided mediation CD, maybe Wayne Dyer’s, and every morning after you brush your teeth and take care of your dogs, (well, priorities!), do a 30 min meditation. Follow it up with a 7-8 min Qigong cleansing. I originally bought the DVD, but have subsequently bought the iTunes TV MP4 or MV4 to play on computer. It’s by Garri Garripoli. It’s $9.95 for that one TV show. You will be shown what to do in the beginning as they guide you. Then they do a Qigong cleansing without the instructions which lasts about 7-8 minutes. Between these two you will become much calmer. Here is the link for the QiGong. https://itunes.apple.com/us/tv-season/qigong-for-cleansing/id594825845

  14. lynn cohen

    Have you thought of taking a yoga class? It might be the very thing to teach you slowness/patience, as your body learns to bend and stretch into positions not meant for old ad art directors. It’s what I plan to do when I retire. But I keep procrastinating doing that!

  15. minerva

    Be gentle with yourself, Danny! :)

  16. Julie

    Yep, food and shelter is all we really need for survival. Those three words are what I say to myself when I start speeding up or become fearful or panic. ‘Food and shelter’. A baguette can offer both :)

  17. cnoxon

    I would happily trade some of your anxious creativity and accomplishment for the floundering, fitful, going-everywhere-in-every-direction state that I know so well… Your work is ridiculously inspiring – even this latte doodle makes me happy. Keep it up Danny – and welcome to LA! (BTW: Even lifelong natives read the NYTimes – the local paper is only good on Saturdays when they run Jonathan Gold)… Would you please do a local workshop? Pretty please? I want to draw with/near you!

  18. Amanda Williams

    Meh, it’s called “enthusiasm”. It’s not a sin. Ride it while it lasts, I say. Great work gets made in excitement like that. You can always use the extra time to edit. Or get on with the next thing. Does it help to know that some of us read your books in the same way: rushing at them, feasting, turning page after page, unable to put them down until the last page?

  19. stacey

    no words of wisdom because there is already so much of it here. i enjoy your writing and will continue to follow your blog and read your books because you make me look at life; good, bad, fast or slow and i thank you for that. and you inspire me to put pen to paper whether it be drawing or writing and i’m grateful for that too. oh and you crack me up!

  20. Nikita

    I am on my second cup now while reading your blog and because of the high caffeine content in my veins I have the gut to say how much I /we love you!!! Your writings describe moods that I/we went throw and never thought to share. I learn to hide less and less and to speak my mind more and more because of you.

    ” I worry that I am just sitting in this garage and that cobwebs will grow over me but I must sit still.

    I am trying to grow a new me. And that takes something the old me has in short supply. Patience. Calm. A long view.”….this sound so much lime me those days …

    Thank you very much for sharing all this !!!!!

  21. Matt

    TOo much coffee coffee coffee coffeee…..hmrfgh sdfkjlkjef!!! More more more moar!!!
    I have no problem with this story at all. Go Dan go go go go go , mmmm Sorry. Maybe I should cut back a little…

  22. Diana Powell

    Brilliant, love your writing it resonates a great deal with my own struggles. Laughed out loud at the microwave / water colour inferno episode! Good luck with your slow down.
    (I’m such a lightweight I can rarely drink even one cup of latte without almost hallucinatory side effects).

  23. mojobrody

    I love you Danny( this is not a stalker reply). I just love that you say the things I think and do the things I want to do with the same(flawed but beautiful) humanity I hope to find in myself each day. I wrote a long winded reply to your post about your hard working boy but since I lost it as I was logging in to wordpress I’ll just say that that post really summed up the pain and sublime pleasure of being a (sometimes hard-) working artist. I know this is the path I must be on simply because I am on it. That quote you ended with was the same one that spurred me on ( it was on a calendar at my acupuncturists) to start drawing 1 1/2 years ago( and doing a studio art certificate at PNCA with my special teacher Kurt Holloman and others) after being laid off. Thank you for your incredibly astute posts, your books are my friends, your story is my inspiration. Thanks again, and now I must go draw something, anything.

  24. Laise Mendes

    Wow, Danny. I always enjoy your thoughts, and those little scribbles that you do are so lovable. I’m really curious about what kind of paint do you use on your notebook, do you have to let it dry? Best wishes!

    • dannygregory

      Sometimes I use sumi ink, watercolor, gouache and crayon. Also grass, coffee, wine and blood.
      In this case, I used colored pencils.

  25. anne chung

    Deus ex machina at the corner of Venice and Lincoln.

  26. Nancy

    Sometimes changing habits (very hard) creates space for something new. I’ve been trying to slow down myself and let go of the habit of rushing around. These help me.

    Move and the way will open.

    When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. -Lao Tzu

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