When I was a 12 year old boy, my Dad brought me to see the rock opera Tommy in the movie theater in 1975. It was a great thing to hear some of my favorite music with some visual stimuli and also a great story line I thought to myself ,”Wouldn’t it be nice to see a lot of my music with some sort of visuals to it !” This was before the days of MTV and then I saw the movie Jesus Christ Superstar .
RENT later became one of my favorite musicals. It was written by Jonathan Larson who died at the age of 36 , the night before the Off-Broadway premiere. He never got to see how popular it became. Jonathan died of complications related to the HIV virus. I saw it perhaps 10 times on Broadway, performed by a College group, in Rhode Island, in Boston, and several times as a feature film. I loved this movie so much , that I have a poster of it, in my apartment, kept company only by four other pictures.
After a series of unfortunate and sad events in Massachusetts. I came to Los Angeles to be closer to my daughter in November of 2016. Two months after I moved my son-in-law got a promotion where he had to move to Dallas Texas. They relocated soon after. While I was sad, I love them and wanted nothing but happiness and success for them. I decided to stay in LA for the time being.
I took a job working in Drug Treatment as I found it difficult to obtain work with my background in working with Computers. I worked there for 8 months and I realized that I wasn’t as humble as I thought I was. I had just finished working for myself for the past 30 years and found myself answering to 22-year-old supervisors. money, property, and prestige I thought, were not that important to me until it was apparent that I didn’t have them.
I left that job and worked doing some web sites and general computer technologies independently which gave me some security financially,and then, I decided to sign on with Lyft as a driver.
After working for approximately one month as a driver and asking my passengers existential questions regarding the meaning of life and their general pursuits of happiness, successes, and failures; I stumbled upon an elderly gentleman with a cane one afternoon in Santa Monica.
He was headed downtown and apparently had just left the doctor’s office. We talked quite a bit. I told him about my daughter, he told me about his daughter, and he also told me he was 92 years old.
We talked for a good 10 minutes about life. I asked him what he felt the meaning of life was. He says “I’m 92 I’m just trying to stay alive” jokingly. I asked “Alright what’s the secret to happiness?” he replied, “I don’t know probably don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Then I said “if you had to reinvent yourself what would you do, because I’m out here in LA and I have got to figure out what I’m going to do. I’m too old now to program computers with the kids down at Silicon Beach and I’m not as humble as I thought I was because at at my last job in drug treatment I didn’t like people telling me what to do.”
He said, “I’d be a writer.”
Then he asked me “What would you like to do?”
I said “I’d like to write a rock musical about spiritual principles” He laughed.
I asked, “Why are you laughing?”
He remarked ” I only know two people who did that successfully …” (In my mind, I was thinking I know several people Andrew Lloyd Webber… Rodgers and Hammerstein…Elton John…. a few) So I asked who they were. He said the name Lin-Manuel Miranda and I thought to myself, Wow this man knows how to order a Lyft at 92 and he knows about Hamilton!
I then asked, “Who is the other person you know that was successful doing this?”
I look over at him while driving he said, “My Son”.
I said “Your son?” “What did he write.?”
He said “RENT.”
“Rent?” “RENT !!??” I said, “You’re Jonathan Larson’s father?”
He’s said …”Last time I checked .” At that time I thought about how this man lost his son so I didn’t press him and we were nearing his destination .. So I told him, “I love that musical, you have no idea, I’ve seen it like 16 times”
I bid him farewell and thanked him as he thanked me.
After leaving him I was a bit shocked but over the past 20 years of staying clean I have not learned to believe in coincidence and miracles …. I have come to depend on them.
I took this huge chance meeting of one of my hero’s father, as a sign that I should do this Musical. If for nothing else but the cathartic experience of writing a Musical through my lens of experience and gratitude.
At first my love of music and carrying a message of recovery in a musical seemed to me to reek of delusions of grandeur and perhaps the Hollywood Elixir had gotten to me. I believe I need to do this now regardless of success or failure.