Fade to Black
By Ched Rickman · August 13, 2010
Well let me first apologize for my extensive sabbatical I've taken from theScriptlab.com. I wish I had a good excuse, like I was off in Europe filming something, or I was crushed by a wall of boxes filled with residual cash and I just tunneled my way out recently, but alas, there have been no self-righteous, bitchy posts from me lately because there's not been much going on as far as the acting goes. Auditions dried up significantly in the summer months, and I was temporarily relieved of having to surround myself with other wannabes who are more self-righteous and bitchy than me. But I'm back now; I'm safe and well and not dead, and that's no small feat, because death has been on my mind lately.
Mainly because I know people who have died. Recently. Young people. People who left the world wondering what else could have been. People who shouldn't have gone when they did. I mean like, really, should NOT have gone under the circumstances they did. My first pal — I'm willing to admit we were no more than better than average acquaintances — had been living in L.A. for a few years, and was making some good strides regarding this little show business we distract ourselves with. He was on an award winning improv team and had recently founded a brand new arts and theater festival in L.A. Then one average Thursday night he had a few drinks at the local pub, went on home and shot up. Yeah, that kind of "shot up."
I literally JUST found out about another friend of mine. This homie was back home in Columbus. He had nothing to do with acting or anything like that. We were high school friends. Pretty good ones, although over the years, I managed to sever almost all high school ties of mine, and he was one of them. I can't even recall the last time I saw the dude, it was probably some random summer night on some random summer deck, all of us still spry collegiate sophomores who still got a kick out of drinking simply because it was still illegal. Homeboy went out on the town last Friday. I guess he was a tad overworked and had been buying adderall from various sources. Then he bought some coke on Friday and had a heart attack. Yeah, that kind of "coke."
This is not an anti-drug soapbox. I enjoy getting weird just as much as the next guy. But it is so unbelievably frustrating to consider these passings and know they were one hundred percent avoidable. In the case of my L.A. buddy, you can't really get too pissed because addiction is impossible to understand and there could have been any number of factors driving someone into such a self-destructive pattern. But with my friend from back home, Jesus, I've figured "why not?" and taken a bump here and there on a random night out. It could have been me, for God's sake. I used to wish it was.
As macabre as it may seem, when I was a kid and dreaming about being rich and famous, one of my frequent alternative outcomes was me being a nutball Jeff Portnoy party boy who violently O.D.'d and left everyone sobbing and cursing the heavens, going out at my absolute peak, leaving the world wondering, what else could he have done? I bet there's some people reading this who understand that. There's something romantic about a death like that. What do they say? Better to burn out than fade away or whatever? What's so compelling about Belushi or Farley or Cobain is that they were blessed far beyond what others were, and yet they still needed something else to compliment their seemingly bitchin' lives. There's something unobtainable and inexplicable about that personality trait, that seeks out drugs or other thrill rides just to attain a semblance (a substitute?) of normalcy. It's an element I had deluded myself into thinking I had, or wanted to have.
I remember very vividly when Farley passed away, walking to school that morning, meeting up with various enclaves of friends on the mile and a half trek, all of us nodding somberly, not saying much, heads held low not just to combat the bitter cold but the loss of the goon we had all grown up with and laughed first with. I remember thinking someday I wanted people a million miles away I had never met feeling that way about my loss. I remember wanting (as I do enjoy being an antagonist) people to bitterly think of me and wonder "why?"
Now I don't. Not only because I'm 13 years older, but because in a short span of time, I've found myself asking that. I've seen and found myself wondering about the families left behind. About how my own mother still wrings her fingers and can't get to sleep on nights that I leave the house "just for a few drinks" with the old neighborhood guys. I've thought about how much there is left for me to accomplish, how the dream of dying young is the only childish, over-the-top ambition I've left behind. I wonder why it takes this first hand connection to finally convince me the D.A.R.E. officer was right all along. I wonder why I've been lucky enough to wake up the morning after a horrifically destructive "party," and why I laughed it off and did it again the next night.
But mostly I think about what really matters. Of course my family and friends, thousands of miles away; my new family and friends, always close by. But also what really inspires me and thrills me and why I moved to this town where apparently, a heroin fix is not far off. I want to make motherfuckers laugh, not cry. And maybe I can take a night off here and there to write something, or jump up and do some improv without the aide of Pabst. Maybe, as the auditions are picking back up, I need to get my act together a bit; hit the gym and eat a little better, treat my mind and body a little more soundly. Because I want to die with a filmography a mile long, and maybe a statue or two on my mantle. I don't want to die with only a couple commercials and this shitty blog under my belt. And I don't want to die young. Not any more.
But what the fuck would I know, I'm just an actor.