I’m writing this in the hotel lobby on the third morning of my trip to Japan, but you’re reading this over a week later. There’s a heat wave here now, the hottest Japan has been in recorded history, and I’m already tanned, blissed-out, well-fed and in desperate need of non-sweaty clothes… which is fine.

Since I first visited Kyoto in 2015, I’ve often claimed that this was my favorite city I’ve ever been, even though I only spent two-and-a-half days here. It sunk into me deeply, though I sometimes wondered if the full swoon wasn’t premature. If it (or I) had changed.

Spoiler: NOPE. When you know, you know.

And I’ve never loved a place — any place — as deeply or deliriously as I love it here. My first two days I even started having “countdown stress” about how much time remained before I’d have to leave again, missing it desperately long before I’d even gone. Because it is perfect here. And I’ll have to leave, and I’ll come again, but for now — Right Now — I am utterly open and loving to you, Kyoto.

At some point I’ll write about this trip once I’ve reflected on things I haven’t even experienced yet. But right now I want to tell you a different story:
An Introduction:

The piece that follows was originally going to launch this Dang Old Man newsletter: an explanation/apology for why I’ve so quiet on social media for such a long time. Because it’s a weird story that’s 100% hand-to-God true.

But I sat on it at the last minute because it wasn’t really the vibe I wanted to start our journey together with. But now that we’re a few pieces in, it’s time has come.

So let’s have a dance, shall we?

From late 2018 until around the start of this newsletter, I’ve been 98% off of social media, and haven’t posted anything remotely personal about my location or loved ones, only about my work if I had a project coming out.

It was a necessary and quickly-delicious silence, but initially it started after something terrifying, stupid and random happened to me in the looming shadow of something terrifying, stupid and calculated that is still happening to the United States of America.

As the eldest grandson of Holocaust survivors, my antennae have always been calibrated to “Never Again” mode. And detecting the threats coming from the White House, how they’d been escalating, and what was still yet to come was almost a delivery of a horrible promise foretold. I remember sitting in my grandparents’ condo as a kid in a humid cloud of cigarette smoke and my Zeide telling me: “They’ll come for us again, they always do. Next time it will happen here, in America.”

After hidden-in-plain-sight white nationalist salutes and Charlottesville and all the things I’m still too soul-tired to name here started populating our minds in the present, I promised myself I would not exist in constant panic, but I would keep my ears to the train tracks, and watch the exits like my family before me had done.

By Fall 2018, I’d been living in Los Angeles for a few years “developing TV shows” — meaning I spent my days writing in cafes: spec scripts, series treatments and pitch decks — in rooms filled to capacity every day with other writers also “developing TV shows”. How I came to be out there is a whole other post, which is coming. Promise.

One October morning, I’m up early, writing furiously in a crowded East Hollywood café that bakes their own croissants. I’m building out season two of a (still brilliant!) TV series that doesn’t exist yet and probably never will. My hyper-caffeinated manic keystrokes are accompanied by accordian gurgles from my stomach: too much coffee, please feed body some actual food. Other screenwriters around me glare through their expensive eyewear, neighbors who I’d never meet, hating me for interrupting their flow states. I shut my laptop and walk outside towards home.

Where I use the toilet. Wash my hands. Drink a glass of slightly-funky water from the Britta pitcher and post up at my office desk.

When the phone rings. An unknown number; LA area code. Could this be Fortune, finally calling about one of my still-brilliant pilot scripts? My series pitch deck that was a guaranteed-success bolt of culture-moving lightning? Like a schmuck, my heart soars. And like a schmuck, I pick up:

MAN’S VOICE: Good morning. Is this Daniel Aaron Goldman residing at 1234 Whatever Street?

ME: Yes, it is.

MAN’S VOICE: Daniel Aaron Goldman whose Social Security number is XXX-XX-XXX?

ME: … [I do not answer him, I just listen]

He verifies that he knows my last two mailing addresses, my mother’s address, the license plate number the Mini I have parked out back.

ME: OK Mister, you got my attention. Identify yourself…

MAN’S VOICE: Sir, my name is Agent Something at the FBI’s Counter-Terrorism unit in Los Angeles.

[WTF? I swallow loudly.]

AGENT SOMETHING: Mister Goldman, have you received any unexpected packages at 1234 Whatever Street from unknown senders within the last two weeks?

ME: I… No I haven’t but— Sorry, what is this about?

He takes a pause, considering his words, choosing these:

AGENT SOMETHING: I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the recent case of an individual who mailed explosive devices to key members of the Democratic Party—

ME: —and Robert DeNiro. The fucktard from Florida with the stickers all over his van.

[He clears his throat, not appreciating my use of the word fucktard.]

[To jog your memory, dear reader, this was The Fucktard in Question’s van👇]

AGENT SOMETHING: We currently have that individual in custody, and are reviewing potential additional targets found in his laptop.

[He pauses here, like an actor.]

AGENT SOMETHING: Your name and address appeared on that list, Mr. Goldman.

He kept talking. Or at least voice-sounds kept coming out of the phone, I assumed it was him. Suddenly my office, glazed with that honey-colored L.A. light, grew very cold. All I could think about was: I mean, me? ME? Who the fuck was I to merit a slot on a MAGA BOMBER’S DEATH LIST?

I mean, yeah, I’d covered the 2008 election in comic form, but that was hardly partisan. We treated all candidates equally badly. I never even tried to be a Twitter pundit; my political opinions always stayed in the bar or family dinner, because they’re my own opinions. And I’d never had enough faith in the USA to trust its simplistic red-vs-blue political team sports. Deep down, we all know the real engine driving us all off the cliff is capitalism.

And yet: I was on his list?

Off in the distance, Agent Something’s mumbling started tapering off: he was tying all this up, promising me to be vigilant. I wrote down his direct line to get in touch in case any suspicious packages did arrive on my doorstep and NOT TO OPEN THEM.

He hung up. And I sat alone in my office in California silence. Palm trees swayed high overhead. Hummingbirds drank from jasmine flowers just outside my window. My eyes scanned my office walls bookshelves nervously while one of my cats snoozed upside-down in a sunbeam on the couch. None of this made sense, unless—

There was another “Dan Goldman” who was more of a political figure. An attorney in New York — whose full name includes both Goldman and Sachs — who was sometimes a pundit on MSNBC. He was considered a public enemy of Trump World and would later lead the first impeachment case against Trump.

A theory was beginning to form: I wasn’t even the Florida fucktard intended target. He’d likely half-assed his Google research and planned to mail a bomb to an unwitting cartoonist instead. Which, if successful, would have made my death a bonus kill. Insult to injury, but make it mortal.

I was livid now, on top of being scared and upset. This was the closest I’d ever come to the hatescape of social media entering my real-world life, my actual home. And that was close enough for me to (quickly) resolve to take a nice loooong break and reduce my online visibility to near-zero.

And the longer I stayed away, the better not being exposed to social media felt to me — even when I had a new and personal book launch in late 2019, which had the results you’d expect — until, well… I started to miss connecting with everyone in my little global circle and started this very newsletter.

Epilogue: The Other Dan Goldman

It’s 2021. I’m back in Brooklyn again, in the heady days of the Omicron variant, wandering around my old neighborhood of Park Slope. On Fifth Avenue, I find myself facing the election office for The Other Dan Goldman, now running for Congress.

I’d seen his placards all over the area for weeks — his/mu name big with the Brooklyn Bridge logo — and every time, all I could think about was my bomb call with FBI Agent Something. What a dumb fucking death that would’ve/could’ve been.

I had to go inside. Maybe we was there. I could tell him this story and we’d laugh and he’d sympathize and maybe offer me a bottled water and—

He wasn’t there. Of course he wasn’t there.

But the office was full of young bright-eyed interns. They stuffed pamphlets into my hands and suddenly the thought formed in my head of how to make this all worth it:

ME: Do y’all have any… promo baseball caps?

INTERN (glowing): We do! Would you like one?

ME: I would.

They handed me a cap and I slapped it onto my head, chuckling to myself as it feels like the perfect period at the end of this whole weird sentence. I thank them and turn to leave, but I stop because... I’ve got to say something, right?

ME: You know, I’m also a “Dan Goldman”.

INTERN (nonplussed): Haha, cool. Yeah, you’re like, the sixth one this week.



OK Children

Story time is over for this week; I’ve got to get back out into that Kyoto heat. I’ll be home soon with another post for you shortly. Until then 😘