This is it ladies and gentlemen, the final ‘Qatar Solo’. My time in Doha draws to a close this very evening (or at 2am tomorrow morning, depending on how you want to spin it…) and for this grand finale entry, we’re going to explore just what brought me to embark on this amazing experience.
I’m not the type of person who was big on ‘bucket lists’. Taking most of my queue’s from my Dudeist faith, I was happy allow life to simply bring me the events it warranted as fate saw fit. (Translation: I was kind of lazy) I kinda figured that if I didn’t make a big deal out of making sure a whole bunch of things got done, I would never be disappointed if I never followed through on them*.
*This is not an ideal way to live, I’ve discovered.
But on my rather dismal bucket list was one ‘easily achievable’ objective (relatively speaking). I wanted to witness, in person, a total solar eclipse. Being a big ‘space’ kid my whole life the concept of such a simple yet awe inspiring event fascinated me. I was interested in astronomy from a young age, and if I were to drive a Delorean back in time and bring a copy of the new ‘Cosmos’ with me (I supposed I’d have to bring a Blu-ray player too for this plan to work… dammit, already I’ve over complicated things) I would change the course of my young life to send on path to being an astronomer. In fact the only thing that ever really discouraged me from being an astronomer in the first place was math. Stupid, stupid math.
Being a ‘Trek fan from the start, science and space-stuff always intrigued me. I absorbed everything I could from NOVA on PBS, and I read my parents copy of National Geographic’s ‘Our Universe’ cover to cover many times.
Space was always a big deal. Yet as time went on I found myself much more interested in telling stories that happened IN space, rather than wanting to unravel its mysteries myself. Telling stories about space required considerably less math than actually researching in (to say nothing about going there. Maybe it was being young and formative when the space shuttle Challenger disaster struck, but I was never the ‘I want to be an astronaut’ type. What I really wanted to be was Han Solo, but I digress…)
So yeah, space and stuff. Being able to witness a solar eclipse first hand was a big deal to me, and when the opportunity to travel a few hours from my home to be in the path of totality came around this August, I jumped on it. You could tell I was serious about it because I seriously booked our motel almost a year in advance. Ask Marisa how often I actually book/plan things and you’ll realize this was a big deal.
So that weekend we packed up the car, said goodbye to Thom and smuggled Lenny across the border in Ol’ Gill. We drove down to Portland with the intent of hanging around for the weekend, absorbing some culture, buying some T-shirts and drinking from some breweries. As G Dub once said in a giant banner on the deck of an aircraft carrier: “Mission Accomplished!”
From there we would take another drive about an 90 minutes further south to the true path of totality and witness the incredible sight.
Now there was one hiccup in our plan, and that was my total boneheadedness in NOT getting eclipse glasses before we left. Long story short – I didn’t bother to look for them until just before we left, and sure enough, sold out all over Vancouver.
Also sold out all over every rest stop we hit on the way down to Portland. You’d think people really wanted them or something! Marisa was not impressed with my half-assed plan to watch through a pin-hole rig (to be fair, it was a pretty half-assed plan I will admit) so she was not super happy with me. All the way to United States of Trump and we wouldn’t even be able to look directly at the sun as Fenrir swallowed it for the end-times? Bullshit!
I knew the August issue of the magazine ‘Astronomy’ came with a set of approved eclipse glasses, so the plan changed to finding a copy of that magazine. Also: nearly impossible. But this is where the first tale of meaning in this story emerges. I wasn’t going to give up until I found this magazine SOMEWHERE. No chance every copy in Portland was sold out, right? So I persisted, I kept at it. And after asking every person at every grocery store we stopped at, I located a Co-op in Portland that had TWO copies of the magazine left. Sure enough $22 US later Marisa and I both had our own guides to the eclipse and a set of glasses each.
The lesson here was not only that I didn’t give up, but that I had a goal set in my head, and I pursued it until I achieved it. I’m not saying I bent the universe to generate two copies of a magazine at a random grocery store, I’m saying I MIGHT’VE bent the universe to generate two magazines at a random grocery store. (Lenny slept through the ultimate eclipse so her puppy glasses were a big waste of time)
“So where’s the interesting part of the story?” you ask. We’re nearly 1K words in and you haven’t even started to make sense.
But I will…
Our first night in Portland I received an email from a working director I had met almost exactly a year before. I pitched him ‘Tucker’ and he told me it was the best pitch he’d ever heard, bought me a beer for it. A great guy, truly. We stayed in touch over the year but only intermittently – turns out he spent most of that year working in the deserts of Qatar on a TV show.
He emailed me because the showrunner on that very program was looking for writers to join the room for the show’s second season, and for some bizarre reason he thought of me. He asked if I had anything Sci-Fi I could read, and I said I did.
You see, I brought my laptop with me on that trip. Normally I don’t do that, but I had been in such a writing habit for the past several months that I thought it couldn’t hurt to have it along in case there was any chance for me to keep up the routine. So glad I did because I think I spent about 8 hours over two days in our hotel room in Portland making sure that the Sci-Fi script I had written for JUST SUCH AN OCCURRENCE was ready to be viewed by people.
I sent the director ‘BRIDGEHEAD’, and hoped that it would be what he was looking for.
So the morning of the 21st arrives, we leave extra early to get stuck in serious eclipse traffic, take the most convenient ‘off’ ramp we can into an outdoor mall complex about twenty minutes outside of Salem, Oregon, and we wait.
Actually WATCHING a solar eclipse as it’s happening is both anti-climatic and amazing all at once. Anti-climatic because the sun is still essentially the sun until the last few moments. Watching through eclipse glasses you can see the cookie-bite the moon takes out of the sun grow bigger and bigger, but without the glasses the blazing day-star is still putting out the same incredible luminescence as it ever does, at least as far as our primitive ape-eyes can tell.
But then things actually start to get DARK. And cold. And suddenly there is no sun. Just a brilliant DONUT OF FIRE in the sky. For an instant you know exactly why ancient people’s thought the world was coming to an end when this happened because it is so UNLIKE any other occurrence one encounters in a typical day, year, life.
And then it’s over. The reality is totality occurs for typically less than 2 minutes wherever you are, so before a song is even done the day-star comes roaring back, and it’s a fight to get onto the highway again home.
So there we are, crawling along at 20 km/h (SLOW for the American’s reading this) when I get a call on my phone. It is the lovely director, telling me he’s passed my recommendation on to the producers of a show called ‘MEDINAH’ and in all reality they’ll be contacting me with an offer to write on the shows second season.
That’s the job I just finished out here.
Why does any of this mean anything? How did the eclipse change my life, exactly? I mean it’s totally plausible that I would’ve got the call from the director had we not driven down to Trump’s America and just stayed home.
But there’s so much more at play here than just that call. In the past year I’ve learned a great deal about making things happened for yourself. I’ve been writing almost constantly for the last two years, feeling like I was forever spinning my wheels, not gaining any traction. I never stopped though. Through the rejections, the passes and the plain old ‘getting ignored’ I kept writing. More than that, I kept letting people know I was writing. I held readings for my work, I kept at it even though it seemed like I wasn’t getting anywhere.
In fact I’m pretty sure it was my most recent reading of ‘Diesel Wars’ that provoked the attention of this director. We follow the same people on Twitter, and one of my friends who came to read, the lovely and talented Rhona Rees tweeted about my reading, and I feel that the director who recommended me picked up on that tweet, remembered me and my awesome pitch, and decided he’d contact me to see if I was interested.
What I’m saying is I was definitely ‘lucky’ that I decided to bring my laptop on the trip with me, and I was definitely ‘lucky’ that a director remembered me when the time was right, but I had a hand in MAKING that luck happen. I wasn’t quiet or silent in my ambitions and dreams. Just like the eclipse, I wanted to go and do something, be a real paid screenwriter, and I went after it. Even during all those long years I wasn’t being paid to do what I wanted, I kept shooting for that target. I persisted, believing nothing more than the fact that I knew what I wanted to do with myself, and there was no way I’d be stopped by reality. I wasn’t sure I’d make it, not at all. What I was sure of was that there was one thing in the world I wanted to do, and I was going to do it, no matter what. Sure, being PAID to do it would be nice, but just because it didn’t seem like that wasn’t happening wasn’t enough reason for me to stop.
And sooner or later, come hell, high-water or a planetary alignment, something happened. If I hadn’t been writing all of that time, if I hadn’t continued to show my work to people, if I hadn’t continued to seek it all out no matter what, it wouldn’tve come together.
Just like the careful alignment of sun, Earth and moon required to give us an eclipse, and the stunningly bizarre astronomical coincidence that in this age our moon is the exact same annual size in the sky as the sun, everything came together because I was in the right place for it to come together. But I wasn’t there by chance. I was there because I had made choices that brought me there. I was there because I had fostered an environment where luck could find me. You can’t force luck to happen, but it seems like you sure can do everything you can to set up the conditions just right for luck to take hold.
I am incredibly fortunate to be in the position I was to follow my dream. I don’t doubt that for a minute. But I was there because I put myself there. Waiting for luck to find me failed me for years. Somewhere along the line I decided I would make it easier for luck to find me, by waving my hands, jumping up and down, screaming ‘Here I am!!’ and doing all the work required to be ready to grab the chance if it ever came along.
I’m starting to think that’s the key. If you want something, really want something, go after it. It’ll never find you if it can’t see you, and if you’re not screaming and going after what you want tooth and nail, how is anyone, especially luck, supposed to know where you are?
Vancouver, I’m coming home. And I’m ready.