I long ago gave up New Years resolutions, mainly because I came upon this major epiphany while sucking up potato chips and downloading internet porn: promises are meant to be broken. Embedded in their very structure lurks the fact of failure. New Years resolutions, then, do not furnish hope but self-sabotage.
How many of you have promised yourself to show up at the gym and lose a good 30 pounds? How many will really quit those cancer sticks? How many are going to start writing that novel?
So, I won’t be making resolutions for myself. I have decided that I’m basically perfect. To improve myself further only would mean to commit the sin of pride. Satan, you know, was once a mighty angel who suffered from this deadly sin. He tried to exceed his place in Heaven. Now, cast out, he spends eternity in a lake of fire. Me: I’m too smart to make that mistake.
But I will make New Years Resolutions for my main character—Robert, the detective—who’s kind of stuck in a rut. I mean, come on: the guy has an Ivy-League degree but he’s an alcoholic who can’t get over his sister’s brutal murder, which happened over five years ago. He works as a deliveryman for his college sweetheart, Emma, who has become an incredibly successful designer. His goals are pretty pitiful: to save up money, so he can go on little binges in the shadier cantinas of Ensenada. Robert lives in a rooming house in East LA—“community housing” is the polite term—along with the borderline homeless and the beaten wives who have sought temporary refuge there. The only quality that endears him is his sex appeal. Robert’s kinda hot. But, no doubt, his wanton sexcapades can only lead to a fire in the loins. That fool is going to get a serious case of the clap.
New Years Resolutions, then, are a good exercise in character development. Like the Christmas gift exercise discussed in my previous blog, the Resolution exercise allows you to think about the hopes, aspirations and fears of the character. It makes you understand the frailty that links us as humans. New Years resolutions are about semi-secret desires that are, paradoxically, semi-public: you put them in an envelope, file them away; you share them only with the tightest circle of friends.
These are Robert’s resolutions. He will share them only with Emma but she will never think to ask. His best friend, Cesar, would only razz him. Robert will keep the Resolutions in one of those fancy cartons they sell Scotch in at the Duty Free:
1) Get a new used car: maybe a Honda this time.
2) Save money by recycling my empties. Remember Suze Ohrman: Latte Factor.
3) Take LSAT. It’s not selling out your soul to corporate America. It’s just figuring out if your soul can fetch a good price.
4) Write film script about really good looking deliveryman in LA. It will be like Taxi Driver.
5) Use my friend’s success as spur, not as thorn. Also, try to be more sociable and make contacts.
6) Stop wasting time at AA, where everybody is a loser; “water finds its level.”
7) Grooming: find a new and interesting way to part hair.
8) Only one cup of coffee a day!!!!!
9) Don’t laugh when people talk about yoga. Wait until later.
10) Try to get to know a girl first: at least one date!
So, these are Robert’s resolutions. And I have learned so much, already, about him in the process. Of course, all characters are simply projections of your own fantasies. They are you and not-you: your mirror and distortion. Oh Jeez, I feel so exposed.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!