Five Questions: Sonny Dyon
Sonny Dyon and I met one evening at Birds and Bees in Downtown Los Angeles where he was bartending. We chatted about break-ups, nurturing an appetite for life, and connecting with strangers through the human experience. During our chat, we noticed an unopened and neglected bottle of Pimm’s sitting dustily behind the bar, so we invented (and tasted) a slew of drinks. Good thing I was recording. Meet Sonny.
How do you define being “in love”?
I think about that question a lot. I had a friend the other day say something like, “Love is a portal to a different self.” And I was like, “What the fuck does that even mean?” So I started thinking about it. It’s a weird situation. Animals don’t experience it as far as we know. It’s a pretty singularly human experience. You throw instinct out the window because you do a lot of things that you wouldn’t do otherwise. You’re late to meet people, you eat things you would never eat just because you want to be around this person. You have all these weird speeds where you’re single and there’s a lot of self-growth and you find out a lot about yourself and what you want to be, and then you’re in love with someone and it’s like, “How can I be better than that?” Because I want to be better for another person. And it’s the best thing ever, I love it. I love love. It’s so lame to say, but I love it.
Me: Have you been in love?
Sonny: Yeah, totally. I broke up with this girl—we were dating for six years, we were living together for about four of them—and immediately what I thought was: While you’re in love it seems like a miracle, and when you get out of love, it seems like it happens every single day. And of course that’s not true love, but when the real thing comes along again, it’s like no one else you’ve ever been with can hold a candle to it. It’s the fucking best thing ever. Believing in love—I’m not religious at all—but believing in love is the closest thing I have to someone who believes in God. You can’t even try to understand the mystery of it, it just works on you, and it’s better to give yourself over to it than trying to figure out what it means, or to try to define it, or to say, “Oh, I’m broken, I have nothing to offer.” People do that all the time and they keep themselves out of relationships and it seems so goofy to me.
Me: That applies to me very much. When I transcribe it, I’m going to remember that. I’ll forget it today, but when I go back to it, I’ll feel it.
Sonny: Have you been with people like that?
Me: I’ve been that way myself.
Sonny: You’ve been that way? You go, “Oh no, I have nothing to offer.”
Me: Yeah, “I’m fucked up” or something like that and it’s crazy.
Sonny: Sometimes it’s not so much love you believe in as much as believing you are worthy of being loved.
What's your greatest accomplishment?
I’m in a weird phase of reinvention right now, so I don’t know if I’ve accomplished too much. Though having extreme self-interest, doing things for you, figuring out what you want, what you need, and how to make yourself happy, independent of another person—because I have problems with co-dependency—is a huge accomplishment. I signed a lease yesterday, I just moved to town four months ago, I feel like I’m finally doing things. It’s the happiest I’ve been since being carried to term. The greatest accomplishment then, is having an appetite for life. As many fucked up things that happened to me, things that set me back, as long as I wake up every day and try to figure out what I can get out of a day, which I generally feel like I succeed in doing, maybe not always, I get a little blue. But if can succeed in trying to have an appetite for life, I’d say that’s a pretty big accomplishment. Not be so upset with everyday life brings to you.
What’s your greatest fear?
That actually feeds into the other one. My greatest fear is doing something that you think you should do even though you know it’s going to make you happy. And losing your appetite for life. There’s always that phrase, “Your parents know what’s best for you.” But does anyone know what’s best for them? I don’t think so. You need to have an appetite for life. You have to say yes to a lot of things and try a lot of things out. And my greatest fear is that I will shut down because I’m afraid of failure and not continue enjoying every day. That sounds scary to me. Struggling with bouts of depression. We have so many things that make us happy—the fear would be the situation where the things that make you happy don’t make you happy any more because you chose something else.
How do you define failure?
I feel failure when I let other people down. I’m a people-pleaser in a lot of ways. So I feel like I can let myself down all day long and it doesn’t matter. I can get back into it. But if a lot of people are invested in me and I let them down one way or another, that seems like a pretty big failure. I’ll say this, up until about six weeks ago, I said, “I’m going to move back to Chicago. Can’t do it. Can’t deal with L.A.” I was in a long distance relationship, she lived in Chicago. And I was like, “I can’t beat it. I want to go home. I want to be with my friends, my city, my job, I want all those things back.” I was afraid to do anything that I was afraid of. But you can’t go back and try to approximate your life to the way it was before you took a big risk. Motivated by my fear of not letting other people down, in turn, became I didn't want to let myself down. So my brother’s in acting, he’s really into filmmaking, so our thing was when I move out here, he lives here, we’re gonna be doing the filmmaking thing. I’m going to make a movie, you’re going to be an actor, it’s going to be great. We’re in Hollywood, let’s make films. And I was like, “Maybe I’m going to move back to Chicago” and he said, “Sit back and talk to yourself for five seconds. You’re in the place where they make movies, you say you want to make movies, are you going puss out on that? Or are you going to double down on it?” And I was like, “Oh, that’s such an L.A. thing that if you leave L.A. you’re giving up on filmmaking.” But it kind of is in certain ways. My dad always says this thing: “Trying to do any creative pursuit is like playing The Powerball. But if you’re in L.A. it’s like having three of the numbers already figured out.” And you meet people all the time, I met you! You’re a creative person. I meet people all the time that are in it. Other cities, people are just carrying on, but Los Angeles is the city of dreamers and it’s equal parts grotesque and extremely charming. So I need to surround myself with those sorts of things to keep myself motivated. So I don’t want to let down my brother because I’d think I was truly a shithead if I left and I gave up on filmmaking.
Me: I agree with him! Especially if you have that partner in there with you. Because you’ll be able to motivate each other. It’s not like you have to do it solo.
Sonny: And of course he’s right! But when you’re in your own head…
Me: All you want to do is cower away.
Sonny: Of course!
What will you miss the most when you’re gone?
I do like to entertain these ideas of reincarnation and some sort of spiritual idea that maybe you’re conscious when you’re dead, even though I’m not religious. In the last year, I’ve gotten really into the human experience. Connecting with people and meeting people. It’s a great thing working in a bar, meeting people who have experiences that are completely different from my own—and I keep talking about the appetite for life thing, but totally is true. I’d be upset when I’m dead if I don’t have everything that life has to offer. In a lot of ways, when I’m in a good mood, everything about life has something to offer to me. I love the way this food tastes, I love the way this music sounds, I love the way this person loves me. If I were dead, I’d be upset to not have the experiences of life anymore. Seems really big, but I would miss everything about being alive.