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Pretty Good Year

2003-12-31 - 8:10 a.m.

Ladies and gentlemen and the transgender of all ages, today is the last day of the first year in the life of the Notorious RRZ that he did not have planned out, and what a year it’s been.

I remember January, the feeling of resignation and foreboding when I decided to leave Washington DC and return to Texas to take a job at my father’s office, something I had once sworn I would never do. I felt so defeated when I made that choice, but I didn’t know what else I could do. There were no jobs to be found for a theatre kid in DC, and the city was driving me crazy. So I packed up my car one night and drove off the next morning, after having had to join AAA so I could have them jump start my car, which had succumbed to the freezing DC weather and given up the ghost that morning. I only made it as far as Chattanooga, Tennessee that night, but I was on my way back to Texas.

Texas, for me, had always been a cage. It was a big cage, mind you, and often a very beautiful one, but it was always a place where I couldn’t fully be myself, a place where there was always a pick up truck around the corner with a Confederate flag and a Jesus fish, and I felt afraid because I knew that there were people who would rather my hands be cut off than see them in another man’s hands. Perhaps, more than that, it was a place where I could easily become a big fish in a little pond, someone who spends their days at bookstores and their nights at bars, someone who takes a job and forgets about the big dreams that grew so well in the big city. I was scared that I would become someone who never went anywhere and never did anything, someone who would look back in 20 years and realize that he had settled, because he was afraid.

It was only by coming home, though, that I found out that I couldn’t live like that. I had to see that path laid out before me to know that I wouldn’t take it, that somehow I would keep running after my dreams. I got a lot of hints. The biggest one came from one of the friends I made here in Austin, a gorgeous, delicious lady named Susana, who, when I told her I was contented to live in Austin, asked, “Okay, so you’re contented, but are you fulfilled?”

The answer came clearly and quickly: “No.”

I felt bad about giving that answer later that evening. It seemed a betrayal to those whom I had worked with in Austin, the activists and artists whom I was able to help in the process of bringing out their creativity, and who in turn kept banging the idea into my head that I was a good artist with potential to do amazing things until part of it actually managed to leak into my brain. Together, we had made such incredible art, accessed such important parts of ourselves. I could call it satisfying, but not fulfilling. Why was that? It finally took an Ani DiFranco lyric to help me out. In her album that was released this year (one of her best) she asks, “I know you need your instrument, but does your instrument need to be miked?” For the longest time, I understood that line as a criticism of those who need attention, who need the spotlight. Then I realized that this was an honest question, where a “yes” was not a negative answer. My instrument needs to be miked, because as loud as I can be, I need to be loud enough to reach the whole planet.

Ambitious, aren’t I? I’m a Capricorn. And yes, that does mean my birthday is coming up.

This year may not have been fulfilling, but it was gratifying, interesting, educational, and extremely fun. In fact, it’s been one of the best years of my life. As horrifying as the war has been, it has led me to like-minded people, people who believe that dropping a bomb isn’t a solution to terrorism, but a cause. Granted, I’ve found more differences between me and many of these like-minded people than I can count, but it has sharpened my focus and helped me understand that it takes all kinds to make a revolution. I have met the people that I always wanted to meet, the dread-locked punks and the flannel clad protesters that I always wanted to talk to but was too intimidated by. I have made beautiful friends among them, whom I will keep forever. They made me more liberal than ever, which many thought was impossible, and a vegetarian, which, had you known me before, would be clear evidence that anyone can change.

I have enjoyed the living daylights out of this city. Austin’s tagline of “The Live Music Capitol of the World” may be a bit suspect, but it certainly tries the hardest. I have seen almost all of my favorite musicians: Erykah Badu, Pearl Jam, Dar Williams, The Flaming Lips, The White Stripes, The Polyphonic Spree, Patty Griffin, and Tori Amos not once, not twice, but three times. She took my hands and thanked me for being a peace activist. Talk about moments to remember forever, More importantly, though, I met Ginger and Hedda and all sorts of other Austin musicians, people trying to make it in the one world tougher than theatre. They have inspired me, entertained me, and given me a ton of places to spend my weekends and Tuesday nights. I feel cooler having known them, and I intend to feel even cooler when they’re all on the cover of Rolling Stone. A Capricorn’s ambitions extend to the lives of his friends, after all.

Speaking of friends, I got to reconnect with a lot of people whom I had only seen occasionally during college, my best friends from before I had even thought of acting or directing, and even some college friends that also found Austin to be the next stop along the road. One was actually an old crush of mine, and one of the best parts of this year was looking at him and saying to myself, “Wow . . . I am so over this guy it’s not even funny. I wonder if he has hot friends.”

Besides all of this, I started this diary, and people actually like it. They seem to read it not out of obligation, but out of a genuine interest. This is, of course, a huge compliment coming from my many friends, but the biggest one, of course, had to come from a stranger. You see, there’s this diarist named LadeeLeroy, whose writing was introduced to me by my sister, Lola, who runs Dolo’s Den. I got hooked on LadeeLeroy, and was intrigued to find out that she lived in Austin. Well, I went to go see a show that she was in, actually a one woman show that she wrote (that I never got to see, because I left before it started and when I came back I found it was for JournalCon members only, DAMN YOU JOURNALCON!!!), and I met her outside before the show began. I was very nervous, because I had no idea how to react to someone whose life I knew so much about, but I told her that I loved her diary and that I had one of my own.

“Yeah?” she said. “What’s your diary’s name?”

“NotoriousRRZ,” I replied

“Hey, yeah, you’ve posted to my guestbook. I’ve read some of your entries . . . You’re a good writer.”

I tried to play it cool, but it’s hard to do that when you’re vibrating with the sweet, sweet sensation of approval, particularly from someone you respect who has absolutely no obligation to tell you anything good about your work.

I do think this is a pretty good diary, at least for me. Some entries are a bit useless, but a couple have actually worked really well, and I’ve even inspired some people to do great things, like vote for gay marriage and masturbate. I’ve learned, through this, that my writing can be enjoyed, and have an effect on people. Through my work with Austin activists, I’ve learned that my directing brings out the best in my actors, and makes them feel confident. This, in turn, makes me feel like I can handle a miked instrument with the best of them. Maybe. I hope.

The pessimist in me, knowing full well that I am not the type to get two great years in a row, is nervous about 2004. But no matter how rough it gets, I’ll keep writing in this diary and creating crazy theatre. I might even write a book if the mood takes me. Hopefully, by the end of next year, I’ll even have written a few graduate papers. And that, at least, will make for another pretty good year.

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The End - 2005-02-11
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