Why does a 49-year-old gay writer in Los Angeles pull up stakes and plan a big move to Buenos Aires next month? Is it a "midlife crisis" or does it cut deeper?
The writer is Trebor Healey. He's a novelist ("Through It Came Bright Colors"). He's a poet (Sweet Son of Pan"). He writes short stories ("A Perfect Scar and Other Stories"). Trebor has also worked with a non-profit organization that advocates for economic justice. Clearly, he is on a profound spiritual search.
I asked Trebor what motivates him.
"You wake up one day and you're still only speaking your native tongue and still living in the state where you were born," he replied. "You wonder where the time has gone and think of all the things you haven't done, and how it's all slipping away rather quickly, and you can't talk yourself out of adventure."
This isn't the era of Ernest Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald, although both famed authors made surreptitious and highly publicized appearances in the Woody Allen movie "Paris at Midnight." Do they, as well as newcomer Trebor, represent a never ending search for adventure and meaning by creative literati?
Trebor is seated in the livingroom of the home I share with Mark Thompson in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles. It's a chilly early winter evening. A fire burns gently in the grate. Trebor is animated. When his probing eyes come to rest and fix decidedly on yours, heavy energy is generated in the room. Although he consciously assumes a mantle of relaxation (an easygoing pose), he's thinking, thinking, thinking. There comes a moment when an attempt to complete a sentence in conversation seems anticlimactic. The restless scene has shifted. The moment has pushed forward and vanished.
"There have been a lot of dark times," Trebor says. "I'm a restless soul I suppose. A year ago I felt at the end of my rope in every way. I always wanted to be a novelist in a service-oriented profession, and that's where I ended up. The problem is what to do once you get there. Many people do more of the same. I know a guru who says 'the world's on fire, grab a bucket.' I actually want something else beyond it.
"I think we are growth-oriented, we just keep opening up. Often we get lost. We get depressed and discouraged. Or I do anyway. How I put a positive spin on depression is by seeing it as a sort of gauntlet. Ultimately, I think it's a kind of spiritual challenge. To me, it's always been Rilke's call: 'You must change your life -- go and do the heartwork.' Or like a shaman I know always says: 'It's about getting the energy moving again.'"
What makes Trebor's energy move?
"There's a public and a personal side to it. When people get together with a common goal to improve their lives and communities, it's the power of organizing. Leaders develop. People become positive and empowered. I like community organizing and coalition building and a policy goal. For example, increasing the wages of the lowest paid workers, many in hotels and restaurants. Or bringing grocery stores to 'food deserts' -- under-served areas where there are fewer choices for healthy shopping and more fast food."
Is there a more personal side to making Trebor's energy move? What about Buenos Aires?
"I found a walking café book culture. As a writer, spending so much time in isolation, I value the public street and café life. I found a wonderful man in Buenos Aires. He's a dancer, and more than anything, a kind of clown, always laughing, game for just about anything. I realized when I met him he was different. I rolled my eyes in jadedness. I tried to forget him. But he kept saying and doing things like an unfolding flower."
Chatting with Trebor was somehow like a reunion of writers. I've been one all my life. In middle school. High school. College. Working in communications. Writing books and articles and reviews. A task and vocation that never ended. Did Trebor have a similar background and experience?
"Since I was a kid. Always I loved books. A writer is a person touched in their deepest core by words. I seek silence and slow thoughtful conversation and consideration of a topic. All those things are under assault right now. I'm trying to help people understand the nature and naturalness of sexuality, the natural beauty of it. I don't have an ultimate goal per se. I think what is important is the journey and to keep writing."