Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Moody and Me

I’m trying to figure out exactly why I love Californication so much, and why the final episode of the season was so difficult to watch and so moving. I guess it comes down to David Duchovny’s character, Hank Moody. He’s not me, obviously, but I’ve rarely seen a character on television who so perfectly corresponds to the person I wanted to be, the person I thought I was once, the person I still want to be. Hank is a writer. He published a piece of literary fiction that crossed the border of popular taste and became a huge hit. My piece of literary fiction that might make the same journey has never been published. I couldn’t even get my own agent to read it (During the brief period when I had one); no other agent has even requested a partial, and if they even guessed the word count – a quarter of a million words or so – they’d chuck it into the trash, sight unseen.

Hank is still madly in love with his ex, Karen. She's not his ex-wife – they never got married, though they have a daughter together. I was madly in love with my ex for years … but she never ran out of a wedding, jumped in my car with my daughter and let me drive her away into the giddy prospect of a new future together. That’s fine – I’ve recovered from my post-marital infatuation and we remain good friends. Still, for years that was what I wanted most and I can't help the resonance Hank’s improbable victory sets up inside me. An hour after the show ended, I’m still swinging on my strings like a gong, hit with a big fuzzy mallet.

Hank is a father; he loves his daughter in much the same way that I love mine – absolute but casual, limitless but leisurely, dazzled but dogged, improvisational but improving. There is no treacle, no false sentiment in their relationship. She sees him whole and loves him anyway. But here I have Hank beaten. I have a son, too. And he has my sense of humor and my love of books, and the same heedless, passionate, faithful response to the opposite sex, the same willingness to be leveled by love.

That’s the only score on my side of the board. Hank does all the things I want to do: he takes on the jerk talking on the cell phone in the movie, hits on the homely counter girl in the all-night supermarket because he actually does love all women; he buys his daughter a 13,000 dollar guitar with his bonus money. Hank wrote the script for his book and when it was turned into a giant hit movie and a piece of crap, he got into a fist fight with the director. He squared things with his difficult father before the old man died.

I think we can call that one a draw.

When he slept with Mia, a sixteen year old sociopath who happened to be the daughter of the man Karen was about to marry; when he wrote a book about it and Mia stole it, he took it all like a man. He didn’t know a thing about her when she seduced him in that bookstore – including her age -- but he knows that’s no excuse, and his refusal to let the crazy affair go any further has fuelled all her schemes of adolescent revenge. Hank’s fucked up, but he has a good heart. He makes the people in his life laugh, and that includes me.

Things seem to be working out for Hank now, and though the next season will surely complicate his life, I can’t help rooting for my fictional alter-ego. He’d probably never watch a show about my life, the nightmare alternate universe where the book didn’t sell and love faded and cell phone shouters have their way. A different turn of the dice Hank, and you could have been the one painting houses, still waiting for that first big break as retirement age closes in.

But it didn’t work out that way.
You broke the bank, Hank, and I’m glad. It’s good to be able to celebrate someone else’s success, to live it vicariously without shame, because that’s the whole point. I’d probably envy and despise a real Hank Moody.But the fictional one is my brother.

And tonight I’m happy for both of us.

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