The temperature outside hovers around 100 degrees, and the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling (GLOW) are overacting on my TV screen. It is July 21, 2018, or it is July 21, 1988. Those two dates are separated by 30 years and 2,700 miles, but on both it’s hot and ladies in neon leotards are wrasslin’. I can’t cop to being much of a wrestling fan, but the GLOW of three decades ago was a fascinating train wreck, and the GLOW of today is a brilliant comedy-drama about said fascinating train wreck. It’s about other things, too.
I was 21 years old and living in Savannah, Georgia 30 years ago. My bedroom’s bay window overlooked Forsyth Park, so pretty during the day, so dangerous at night. Hardwood floors and thirteen foot ceilings with creaking fans that churned the thick air, all for $385 per month. That was a fortune after our previous apartment, a Victorian attic that only cost $250.
“Us” was my girlfriend and me. We were two years into this thing–two years of trying to learn how to be grown-ups and overcome the damage of our respective childhoods. We didn’t know that’s what we were doing, though. We just knew that we were fighting or crying or laughing or dreaming or making love or fighting some more.
We fought so much that I can’t even remember what this particular fight was about. All I remember is her storming out of the apartment with the high ceilings and the big bay window, her tiny feet Godzilla stomping down the stairs, every echoing footstep a punctuation mark meant either to end or extend our argument. I wasn’t falling for it. If she wanted to storm out, let her storm out. I wasn’t going to play the heel to her face, the wrasslin’ terms for bad guys and good guys.
Who knows how much time passed, probably seconds but it felt like minutes. Maybe I loved her, or maybe my fear of being abandoned was the biggest monkey on my back. My father left once when I was a kid, stayed gone for a year. After he came back, my mother was known to run to the car when they fought. She’d sit behind the wheel, hands shaking and eyes wild, engine idling. I don’t remember her ever driving away, but each time the scene repeated I was certain that this would be my last image of my mother.
I caught up with my girlfriend in the middle of Forsyth Park and tried to smooth over whatever caused the argument. Her hands shook and her eyes were wild. I can still hear her voice: “I don’t care what you do, but I’m moving to Los Angeles,” she said, and she walked away, the face defeating the heel with a full body slam. It was a “Road Not Taken” moment filtered through a Faulknerian lens of white trash satire, a pair of southern kids facing two paths diverging in a verdant park. I took the one most traveled by, and that made all the difference: I chose to follow the girl.
Everything that’s happened to me over the last 30 years has as its point of origin my decision that afternoon in Forsyth Park. I quit art school in order to save money for Los Angeles. I quit my job managing a record store, too. There was more money to be made waiting tables for the tourists who crowded Savannah’s squares than there was selling Eagles records. That fall we headed west, no more to our names than the cash in our pockets and whatever fit into the trunk of her car.
How different might my life have been if I stayed in Savannah and finished art school? I wouldn’t have spent time in the film industry, though I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad. I probably wouldn’t have gone back to school to study writing, but maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, either.
Would my kids exist? Would I have wasted so many years working soulless jobs just to support both them and me? Would I have ended up 2,700 miles away regardless of what road I took? Would I have come to grips with my childhood fear of abandonment sooner if I’d just faced up to it that afternoon?
This is where my mind went in 2018 while I binge watched Netflix’s GLOW, a television series that superficially is about the awful show that blared from my Forsyth Park apartment in 1988, but at a deeper level is about those snap decisions that alter the trajectories of our lives. No matter what choice we make, the consequences will be a blend of both good and bad. A lot of that has to do with how we’re wired as people, too. “That accident changed my life for the worse” says one person while another says, “Thank God for that accident, else I never would’ve sobered up.” I fear I’m a “for the worse” kind of guy.
I don’t regret the consequences of that snap decision in Forsyth Park, though I regret all of the time I’ve wasted since that day–time pissed away on things other than art, love, and sanity. At least I didn’t waste it watching wrestling, though, so I guess I’ve got that going for me.