He prays for others.
We talk some more about Cash, and Mr. Phoenix says the singer had a lot of psychic pain; once, Mr. Cash looked in the mirror and said, ďLetís kill us both.Ē
I say to Mr. Phoenix, ďCanít you understand that?Ē
Freakishly, he says he canít. Heís kind of a fawn, a naif, with a mythological simplicity about him. (Thereís the story about his mom having a pain while he was in her womb and thatís when he got the scar on his lip, already in the realm of Myth.) We talk about Cesar Millan, the man they call the Dog Whisperer, how he keeps 50 rehabilitated pit bulls over on 61st Street. When I went to visit him, I had to walk right through the pack, ring of dog fire, none of them on leashes, and youíre not to touch them or make eye contact. Mr. Millan says dogs donít live in the past or the future, they live in the Now. Mr. Phoenix says thatís how he wants to live, he wants to be one of those dogs, loves that thereís still passion and fire in QA and that heís learning to become the man he thought he needed to take a drink to be, but without the drink. Drinking wasnít the thing anyhow, he says, itís the thinking. A man can think himself to death. He got to QA because a friend around his age had kids and all these other heavy responsibilities and still seemed able to cope with all kinds of stress.
Mr. Phoenix told his friend, I want what you have.
He spoke to incarcerated kids up north, 12-year-olds being prosecuted as adults. The horror. He never suffered much as a child. He says, ďEven when we had no money, we still had a car to sleep in and a friend whose driveway we could park in and a dad who said ĎIím going to take care of you.í Ē
We donít talk about if heís with a woman right now; what itís like to fuck, fight, or fly without drinking. Project what you want. (Weíre descending now. I see Hollywood and its million sequined swimming pools.) He wants to do right by others—let the turbulence come. He wants to just let go, knowing he has no control. He isnít worrying much anymore; he used to be good at worrying. He wants to be like Millanís dogs, enjoy the Now, enjoy this life, not plan too much. He wants to be of service, do service, be gracious. Grateful.
We land. We leave the tarmac, or should I say the dog yard, strolling through the pack of rehabíd pit bulls to get to our cars at journeyís end. Not a hostile one among them.
Iím fond of Mr. Phoenix for not seeing his own movies. Like looking in the mirror after the wrap and saying ďLetís kill us both." Thatís when the real living begins, with or without amends.