I just finished watching the documentary, “Mayor Of The Sunset Strip,” (2003) about Rodney Bingenheimer, AKA Rodney on the Rock, if you listened to KROQ in the 80’s. Rodney was, really, the linchpin of that time period’s alternative music scene and broke just about every band you know from then. Unfortunately, but maybe importantly, the film comes across as a sad little story about a sad little man. But while it might not have done service to Rodney, for me it was a coming home.
In 1985-ish, I threw myself off a cliff. I was 17 and I’d gotten a shit score on my SAT. In my mind, I’d thought I’d fucked up so badly that my life was ruined. And there was good cause for that belief.
There was a lot of academia in my family, but it spread out in various ways. We didn’t have that doctor through-line. There wasn’t a history of educators. But what we had was a high demand for some kind of success. It’s common in Jewish families. You’re expected to be a critical, independent thinker. Take whatever road you want, but be out front.
My older sister was like that: perfect grades, private school, skipped eleventh grade. I didn’t know what road I was on and I certainly wasn’t the smartest one on it. I was a B+ student. But I wasn’t really a B+ student, I was the delta between B+ and A+.
When the SAT score came in, it was low enough that I thought, well, that’s it. I won’t be able to get in college now, which means I’m ruined. I’ll be washing dishes my whole life, smell horrible and be all alone. I saw no future in the way that future was defined back then. And I thought, to hell with it, let’s fall down this steep cliff and see what happens.
When I finally picked myself up off the rocks at the bottom, I was remarkably well-off — a torn shirt, blood across my back, my shoulder hurt. It could have been a lot worse. I could have hit my head, broken some bones, been paralyzed. There were train tracks at the bottom of that cliff, I could have ended up unconscious on them, waiting to have my head severed. It was about as stupid a thing to do as I can now imagine, but it seemed like the right risk at the time. As though I needed fate or some other determining factor aside from my own ability to take…