And that was just the lead. It was a terrific behind-the-screen tell-all, a Northwest grunge gothic 8½. But not a good career move. Afterward Cogswell tried to get work running campaigns in Seattle, but everyone remembered the coke and pills and a blow job from a production assistant he’d mentioned in The Stranger. “I can’t get a job in the career I made in this town. People don’t trust me not to say crazy shit.”
Cogswell vows not to produce more films, but he still writes them, feverishly. Next stop for him and Gildark: Sevastopol, “a romantic comedy about Ukranian Internet brides.” A rock musical about John Keats. “A film about the illegitimate children of a doo-wop star, based on Aeschylus’s Oresteia.” And, of course, the last days of Marion Zioncheck. If they can get the money.
Cogswell went to LA seeking screenwriting work just as the economy busted. He wound up sharing a room in a flophouse and staying with the mother he hadn’t seen since he was four. Two years ago he hit bottom, “pushing the last of my saleable possessions—some books and camping gear—four miles in a shopping cart to sell them for $7.”
And then he bounced back—and conceived a new civic passion. Cogswell had first visited Mexico City in 2005, to get away from the monorail and Cthulhu madness. Last year he went to stay. He found he could live cheaply and find work, writing guidebooks and teaching English.
Sure enough, he got a big idea: Start what would be the only English-language bookstore in the world’s second-largest city and launch Mexico Review, a cross-cultural Paris Review for the coming Latin American Century. Seattle may have broken his heart, she didn’t steal it forever.
“What I was trying to create was already there in Mexico City,” exults Cogswell. He raves about its great transit, deep history, rich street life, and cosmopolitanism, how its 20 million people manage to get along in an area the size of metropolitan Seattle.
“I was hoping to see Seattle become a great and real city in my lifetime. But these things don’t happen in a single lifetime. They happen over centuries.”