Sunday, July 31, 2005

More Cowbell

Whenever it gets over 90 in Seattle, I'm reminded of that stupid Foreigner song:

I'm hot blooded
Check it and see
I've got a fever of
A hundred and three

...which makes me think of that sketch on Saturday Night Live with Christopher Walken:

"I've got a fever. And the only prescription... is MORE COWBELL."

Friday afternoon, Caleb and Kayleigh and I were in Target getting a new dog collar for Wiley, and we saw they had a bunch of those Best of [Whoever] SNL DVDs. So I picked up the Will Ferrell, and Caleb got the Walken. Turns out that sketch is so bloody popular, it's on both discs.

Saturday was crammed full. At 8:30AM, my friend Sharon Stone (her real name) came over and helped me attack the pig sty I've been calling a house. We made huge progress, and I can probably get the rest handled before we leave on Friday. Sharon's awesome - even took my old health glider to Goodwill.

Directly afterward, the kids and I went over to Brian Chase's place. The kids played slip 'n' slide and Brian and I went into the studio to lay down some preliminary tracks for Sam's tribute CD. It was baking in there, but I pretty much did everything in one take each, so it wasn't too bad. It was two tracks of my guitar playing to a click track, and then he had me lay down a track of vocals as a placeholder. Considering it was the first time I'd done any singing for recording purposes in over a decade, I don't think I did too badly. Brian has a good engineering technique and a damn fine vocal mic. So I left with a CD of the acoustic songs for Muriel to listen to, as she will be covering the vocal duties. Even though these particular mixes won't ever be put on the album, they're cool to have. I might just put together a disc of these acoustic prelims with my vocals - kind of an unplugged And Tears Fell compilation. Give it to friends.

Today I have to do some badly needed pruning in the front yard. It's no good having Andrew come to stay with us if he has to hack his way in with a machete. Then rehearsal tonight. And on we go.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Oxygen's Gone

I was hunting up an old videotape of our high school production of The Dining Room to show Caleb, and I ran across another tape... a two-hour document of June Crown 1990, a Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) event. Sam & I ran a pirate household in the Kingdom of the West for a few years (from about 1988-1991). This event happened to have rather large attendance for our crowd, as it included two birthdays and two crew initiations. We would set up our encampment in the rough outline of a ship, and by the time the sun set we would have doubled our normal crew compliment of 20+ and not one of them sober. It was shocking to see all our old friends from the college years, just a few months before Sam & I were married. Even more shocking to see Sam, looking gorgeous, playing guitar and singing. Wish I'd found this before I mastered her DVD. Maybe I need to just do a Best of Sam's Videos DVD.

Damn I miss her.

So that conjures up the following lyric from the appropriately named band Die Trying. Posted it on WidowNet awhile back, but it really belongs here too.

Closer to closure
So take this out on me
Take anything you want
'Cause I still bleed, I still breathe

It’s fading, thinner
But still it's haunting me
I can't find the words to say to the angels
That took you from me
But three words, three words:

My oxygen's gone

I can't sleep, I can't eat
I cry out to God just to hear me
It's another day I’m still the same,
With all my pain
Not yet, not yet,
Break me from these visions
Not yet, not yet,
It's too soon for you

I’m choking from knowing
The love you've given me
It's hard to believe what I see is no dream,
Is no dream

I'm drinking and sinking,
Still it's haunting me
I medicate my fears with more beers
And more tears

My oxygen's gone

I can't sleep, I can't eat
I cry out to God just to hear me
It's another day I’m still the same,
With all my pain
Not yet, not yet,
Break me from these visions
Not yet, not yet,
It's too soon for you

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A Comedy Tonight

We had a little memorial time for Samantha last night at rehearsal. I got to show the theater group Sam's DVD, which was valuable because most people had only known her for the past 7 or 8 years, if that. But several of the younger castmembers were in their early teens (or even younger) when Sam started working with Pandemonium, so that's a huge chunk of time where they are concerned. The older college kids and twentysomethings I knew as much younger kids when I helped run a hobby store at the Junction in West Seattle. It kind of drives home the fact that we've established ourselves in this community.

It's been 13 years since we arrived in West Seattle from Renton. We originally moved here because our housemate-to-be really loved the neighborhood. We just wanted to be in Seattle - Sam & I knew nothing about the different neighborhoods. Now, I'd never want to live anywhere else in the city. We're on bedrock, we have some of the largest lots in the city and often the highest property appreciation. We have a great mix of national branding and local mom & pops. We have a beach. We have parks. We have a ferry to Vashon Island and a water taxi to downtown. We have great pubs and awesome food. We were among the first in the country to get broadband. We have some of the best schools in the state. We have our own newspaper, and summer festivals that draw people from all over Puget Sound. We have a real sense of community. What we don't have is a first-run movie theater or a really first-rate theater culture. We do have ArtsWest, which is a nice facility, but their season is pretty uninteresting and many feel it is poorly administered. To see real vibrant, dynamic, original or just interesting theater, you usually have to go downtown. 5th Ave, Theater Schmeater, ACT, Empty Space, etc. So I'm psyched that Twelfth Night will be an anchor tenant at the new Cooper Arts Center and we can really crank things up a bit in West Seattle.

After seeing 21 Grams, I felt I needed a change in scenery. Saw the following:

50 First Dates: very charming Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore romcom. Has all the hallmarks of the charming Sandler romcom. Nothing of substance, but very cute and good date fare.

Team America - World Police: While I wouldn't call myself a huge South Park fan, I do sometimes enjoy the comedy stylings of Matt Stone and Trey Parker. And this was a riot to watch. It was like every over-the-top ultra-patriotic Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer piece of shit action movie ever, and played totally seriously... only with marionettes. It goes places I didn't think even Parker and Stone would ever go. Oh, but they went there. I laughed aloud several times.

Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle: I found this film to be remarkable because of its unremarkable-ness. It's a totally harmless misadventure a la After Hours, or Dude Where's My Car, but with ethnic actors in the lead roles... and aside from some cursory exploration and debunking of cultural stereotypes, the film is not about The Korean Guy and His Indian Roomie. It's about two friends who get stoned, get the munchies and decide to drive to a White Castle for sliders and fries. So in that regard, I saw it as a huge step forward. The fact that you could have cast anyone of any ethnicity in either role speaks volumes.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Water, Water, Everywhere...

For a guy with such a full social calendar, why do I feel so fuggin lonely? Plenty of family activities, plenty of platonic female company, plenty of projects on my plate. But the person I always shared it with... gone. I guess that's the real crux of it. I feel inspired to be creative and do all of these great things - but the results feel totally empty without that look of approval on Sam's face. And not just approval... Sam was my biggest fan and my second-harshest critic. I couldn't bullshit her because she knew all my little tricks. She got me. So by running my projects through the Sam filter, I knew I'd always be kept artistically honest. I think I'm doing good work now, but it's missing the Sam filter, so I feel deep down it's somehow inferior. It probably isn't, but I'm missing my muse, so everything feels that much... less.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Can't sleep. Oh I was sleeping, but then the kids decided to have a complete moo. So now they're snoozing away and I'm sitting in bed with the laptop, pondering shit that no one should be pondering at 4AM.

Here's a lyric from Delerium. The first track is Touched, the second is Fallen,and they're on the Chimera album.

You are my angel and I believe that you were sent from above
Showing me guidance with unconditional love
And I know that its true

You are my best friend, I can't believe that you came into my life
Giving me strength and I feel so safe in your arms
I will come to no harm

Every time you go away, I will follow
When you're running scared
And you hide away
I'm right beside you
I am there

I have never been touched like this by another
Or moved or kissed or loved by my lover
Like you love me

You are my angel and I thank God that you came into my life
You are one thing I see when I close my eyes
In the dark of the night

* * *

Do you remember me?
I'm just a shadow now.
This is where I used to be,
Right here beside you.

Sometimes I call your name,
High on a summer breeze.
What I would give,
To feel the sunlight on my face.
What I would give,
To be lost in your embrace.

I've fallen from a distant star,
Came back, compelled because I love.
I'm caught between two different worlds,
I long for one more night on Earth.

Do you believe in dreams,
That's how I found you.
But I can't be witrevealedh you,
'Til you take a leap of faith.

What I would give,
To feel the sunlight on my face.
What I would give,
To be lost in your embrace.

I've fallen from a distant star,
Came back, compelled because I love.
I'm caught between two different worlds,
I long for one more night on Earth.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Impetus of Loss

Going through another sleepless phase, which is also the time when I'm at my creative peak. Began writing dialogue to the Ordinary Angels script. Months of inability to write any new material, then - boom - pages and pages. It all just comes pouring out. Thanks to JD for the concept of making Afriel our lead character. It just made total sense. How do you NOT feel sympathy for the Protector of Children? That, and he gets to speak all of my frustration and angst against the universe for the seeming inadequacies of mortal existence. JD and Caleb are collaborating on the comic page breakdowns, going mostly from the treatment. When the film script is done, they can use that for dialogue.

The pic above is a Draper. It depicts the temptation of Ulysses by the sirens.

Had the briefest dream about Samantha as I was waking up this morning. I felt her kiss me on the forehead and whisper "you know I love you" before flying away. I definitely get the sense that she's a busy bee. Came upstairs and watched 21 Grams before the kids awoke. Wow. I really didn't know what the film was about. Sat there with tears running down my face as I watched Naomi Watts' character react to the news that her husband and daughters had been killed. Great script, great performances, amazing direction. Usually I'm not a huge fan of temporally disjointed continuity - too Tarantino-esque. But when it's done really well, like in Memento and 21 Grams, it becomes a scintillating gift to unwrap a piece at a time.

Rehearsals for Fiddler are running along. I still don't know half the music, which will probably make me the least prepared for any show I've ever done. But I still have 3+ weeks.

Andrew will be here 2 weeks from today. Whew. Lots to do. And Ron just now called to meet for coffee. Feels good when friends call me for social visits. Rehearsal tonight, too. Now to hit the Visene and get some more laundry done before 2PM.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Dark New Day

Thought I'd add these Dark New Day lyrics for your perusal...

Once upon a time I knew everything
When I stop to think back on everything
It all runs away like a memory
Once there was a picture of a happy place
But I always keep thinking
What a great place to leave

I'd trade it all
To have you all here with me

Father when you coming back?
Mother leave the light on again.
Sister with someone somewhere somewhere
Brother Brother Brother


Like a postcard picture fading out to desert winter,
Once an ocean now it leaves me dry
Clouds are separating. Tear apart this life I'm living
I'm gravitated to this brand new light

Is it in me? Am I still in control?
Did it leave me? I look around for a soul
What's come over me? Always waiting for the next wave to wash over,
And Fill Me Again

Will it carry me far enough from all I've suffered?
Will it bridge the gap from there to here?
I wonder if I had it all would I feel there's something missing?
In tomorrow's light it seems so clear

The wind is keeping me from falling forward
Just another crutch to get me through
The wave is coming and it's rising upward
It's going to lift me to meet the blue

The Meaning of Life

Tuesday night was my final family group at Gilda's. I showed Samantha's memorial DVD. There were tears and laughs and hugs. I'm remaining in contact with folks via email, so it's not like we can't associate in the future.

Wednesday was one of those days where it seems like you're super busy, running around like mad, and yet nothing seems to get done. I finally got wise where the laundry is concerned, and mandated that the kids have to start putting loads of their own laundry together if they want their clothes to be washed. And instead of me folding everything and then putting it away in the kids' rooms, they get their own clean, unfolded laundry on their beds. They've also been given real chores to do.

JD had a brilliant idea: to do one of my short film projects, Ordinary Angels, as a one-shot comic for Emerald City next year. Which of course means it will need a script. Yikes.

Had a big Fiddler rehearsal Wednesday night. Caleb's pal Jonas is visiting from Germany, and both of them got stuck into scenes and dance numbers without any warning. Ah, the theater! Afterwards, Caleb, Jonas and Alyssa came over and we watched Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (mostly for Caleb's benefit - he'd never seen it, poor shlub).

Today is more cleaning and prep to do the taxes from last year. Maybe it'll seem more like stuff got done. Pissed that Samantha's not here to help out - I never took her contribution to our household for granted, but now I'm really feeling her absence in that regard.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


On the tangent of metaphysics, I caught the following lyric from Dark New Day, one of my favorite new bands. Makes me think of Sam - but there's precious little media that doesn't make me think of Sam.

Can you fly without your wings on board?
It seems pretty unfair to end up on the floor.
Paying for a crime you weren't charged for,
Alive in a world that always wants more.
Is it any wonder that you're falling back inside the pattern that defines all you lack?
Don't you want to get into your car and get out of this town?

Free? Now are you? Is it life that holds us down?
Free? How are you? When I'm stuck here on the ground.


I just looked at my schedule for August, and almost crapped a rusty metal can full of rabid muskrats. Being a Taurus, I thrive on spontaneous gatherings and events, especially at my place. But when the list of pre-scheduled events gets crammed full of social obligations, I get a little tense. So when I saw that my August Outlook schedule was three-quarters covered with bold numbers (signifying You Have Something Going On This Day), and clicked through them to see that in fact I have Two Or Three Important Somethings Going On Most Days, I panicked.

So the week after we close Fiddler, I'm not scheduling a damn thing. The kids will be done with swimming lessons, Kayleigh and I won't have rehearsal, we won't be performing or taking road trips or hosting friends from different countries. It will be breathing time.

I put in Gosford Park this morning, thinking I'd missed it in the theater (which I had), but about 10 minutes in, I realized I'd seen it. I think Sam and I rented it shortly after it came out on DVD. Stupid widder-brain.

I must say I really enjoyed reading about my pal LL Cool P's quest for religion and her experience at the Unitarian church in Hollywood. I wish her well on her walkabout. My own journey took a lifetime, and is still evolving - although I've found my ideal master theology in the 18th Century tradition of deism. For those who are unfamiliar with the deist philosophy, it is a practice of humble observance of the divine through reasoned thought. Essentially, the proof of the Creator is in the Creation, and anything else is a limitation of God. It asserts that whenever you get into whose martyr/messiah/spokesman is more worthy, that's where you get into trouble. It is a theology of faith through reason, not blind recitation and dogma. Many of the founding fathers of this country were deists: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Ethan Allen, and Thomas Paine who wrote, "The Word of God is in the Creation we behold: And it is in this word, which no human invention can counterfeit or alter, that God speaketh universally to man."

Although I'm really considering a conversion to Pastafarianism (worship of the Flying Spaghetti Monster). Sorry. Couldn't resist another link to that site.

Monday, July 18, 2005


This is the Best Idea EVAR. Thanks to L.L. Cool P. for the link she posted on her blog.

I personally could convert in an instant. What's not to love? We get to wear pirate costumes and eat Italian food! Sweeet- er, I mean, "ARRR!"

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Tim Burton is a Sick, Sick Man...

...and I love him.

Took the kids to see Charlie & the Chocolate Factory today. Awesome. Burton is mad. Danny Elfman is mad. Production designer Alex McDowell (The Crow, Fight Club, Minority Report) is MAD with a capital "AAAAA!" The film is not a remake of the 1971 classic with Gene Wilder, although I'm sure comparisons are flying. It is a back-to-square-one new interpretation of the Roald Dahl novel. Sweet jeebus, it's a visual spectacle (but then, what Burton film isn't?), but more importantly, we really care for these poor, wacky, dysfunctional characters. Nicely done.

All the way through, I kept thinking of Samantha, and wishing she were here to see this - the book was one of her faves, and she loved the Gene Wilder movie. In fact, when she saw the teaser poster for the Burton version, she was skeptical - but soon imagined what Tim Burton and Johnny Depp could do with Dahl's characters. She was really looking forward to going to see it as a family. I think she really would have liked it.

We got home and Tyler immediately hauled out the lawnmower to work on the front lawn. I asked who he was and what he'd done with my son. I held the cord for him, and he did over half of the entire lawn before tiring and leaving the rest for me. What a kid!

I feel good. Had a nice coffee break with my neighbor. Got to see a good movie with my kids and got the lawn mowed. Life is good.

Slacker Attack!

Well multiple posts for days, and then crickets for two days straight. One is tempted to think I've been slacking...

It just means I've been busy. Kids are taking much of my attention (as they should), and I've been dealing with a serious working over from the muse. Got the company website up, finished another two new Impetus tracks (looking at a new CD in a couple months), and got a concept for a short film buzzing around in my brainbox. Finished up the poster for Fiddler (as well as some flyers in time for the West Seattle Street Fair), T-shirts for Fiddler, and Kayleigh and I will go to rehearsal tonight. Yours truly is to be Nachum the Beggar. I'm wondering if I should go with a carboard sign that says NINJAS KILLED MY FAMILY - NEED MONEY FOR KUNG FU LESSONS. Best. Panhandler. Sign. Ever. (thanks, Conor) And I was a big fan of WHY LIE? I NEED A BEER.

Ron came by last night. We had Thai food, and listened to music, watched Justice League with the kids, and I showed him Sam's memorial DVD which he had not seen previously. It was a good visit - I really have missed his company in the past couple years. This is one of those friendships that survive tempers, tempests and multiple businesses and always bounce back. I've known him for 12 years. He was one of my first friends in West Seattle after we moved here from Renton, and it was through him I was introduced to several people I now call friends.

Finally got the back yard mowed - problem is, now the front looks like... well, it's pretty bad anyway. The grass union has hired the dandelion mob to make my life (or at least my driveway) a living hell. And I need to do some serious pruning on the trees. Also went through all the get well cards that Samantha received during the last few weeks of her life. That was tough. I find I'm measuring time in Things-That-Happened-Before-Sam-Died and Things-That-Happened-After-Sam-Died. I guess that's a natural state of affairs. I probably would do the same thing if it had been just my dad, but as it turned out, that was a Thing-That-Happened-After-Sam-Died. So there you go.

This coming Tuesday will be my last session with the family group at Gilda's. It's been several months of intensity, but I find that when I talk about Sam or my dad in group, it sucks all the energy out of the room. Others in the group have living spouses, parents or children to think about, and they need a modicum of hope and optimism. And that is something I don't have and can't give. I'll be showing the DVD in group on Tuesday, and attending the bereavement group at the end of this month.

I think I will join my neighbor for coffee this morning, find out how her film audition in Bremerton went...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Fire Inside

(And Tears Fell, 1991 - sung by Samantha)

I never thought you’d run away like that
I always thought we’d be together
I never dreamed that it could hurt so much
I always thought I’d take it better

You always seemed to be on top of the world
I never guessed that you were lying
But now you’re gone and living in the city,
While I sit here crying

And the light from your eyes
Makes a circle in my mind
And the thoughts run rampant
Make me lose control every time

Baby I know you can give me a smile
Although it’s been such a long, long time
Come back and hold me, just for a while
You’re playing with fire inside

I never thought I’d see you here again
I never thought I’d be here either
I’ll bet you want me to apologize
But I’m still waiting for the same from you

And the light from your eyes
Makes a circle in my mind
And the thoughts run rampant
Make me lose control every time

Baby I know you can give me a smile
Although it’s been such a long, long time
Come back and hold me, just for a while
You’re playing with fire inside


Sheesh, another sleepless night. Getting into another "project mode", which often means some screwed up hours. Need to get caught up with the housework. Things are in disarray, and I really just need to deal with it sooner rather than later.

Tyler had a marathon World of Warcraft session yesterday, and wonders why he has a headache this morning. As painful as it is to see your kid suffer, sometimes you just need to let them have these little learning experiences. Rest assured, there will be no WOW happening today. It's actually good timing - I need some help in the yard. :)

It's weird. Some days I feel like I can move forward in life without Samantha. Some days I feel like I can't budge from my bed. The rest of the time, I just feel numb. Today is a combo platter of "move forward" with a side of "numb".

And as sad as I feel without my dad, there's still a certain continuity there - your parents are supposed to predecease you. That's how life is supposed to work. Not that it was his time - far from it! But at least it doesn't feel like something on a quantum level in the universe is out of whack. Now that's just my perspective as his offspring. Rest assured my stepmom is in a whole different space. Losing your spouse is completely different than any other kind of loss. That's why I just smile graciously when people tell me they know exactly what I'm going through, and proceed to tell me about their grandfather or aunt minnie. It ain't the same, folks. It ain't the same. The way I feel the loss of my father is worlds away from the way I feel the loss of my wife. I say that having also lost a sibling. It's not even in the same ballpark. Unless you've suffered that specific kind of loss - and heaven forbid you ever have to until you're both 112 and ready to go - there's just no explaining it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Stupid Knee...

Okay, so for the last three months or so of Sam's life, there was a lot of lifting. Lifting to help her into and out of bed, lifting to get her into and out of the car, lifting to get her onto and off the toilet, etc. Just lots of lifting. Lots of kneeling and squatting too. And of course, everyone tells you to "lift with the knees". The net result was that I blew out my left knee really badly, and the right only moderately badly. When I went in for the massage yesterday, I had Michelle give some extra attention to the left, since it's usually the rebel. Well last night I was putting Kayleigh to bed, and suddenly... snap-crackle-pop. Right knee out of alignment. Usually between acupuncture and my chiropractor, my knees are well cared for and never go out. But recently I have been lax in getting to either, so that will have to change. Need to get walking again too.

Picked up my sister at the airport - she and my niece had a blast in CA. Went to dinner and out for Husky ice cream. Just put them on the road home. This pic is from Christmas 1990, the year Sam & I were married. I love it because my brother, sister and I are all goofing off, and Sam is the only one who really looks good. Also, our clothes are so very 1980s.

Hey! I received a care package of tunes from Andrew in England - thanks matey!

If Caleb hangs out tonight I think I will show him The Quick and the Dead - classic Raimi, way underrated and mostly misunderstood (as more than a few of his films are).

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I Arrr a Pirate, Matey!

So the results of the Cowboy-Ninja-Pirate-Knight Test are in, and (whopping surprise) I am a pirate. In fact I am so full of piratical bent I hardly register any ninjinuity.

Here's my score:

Those of you who know me may not find that strange at all. I personally was a bit shocked I didn't have a bit more knightlyness. Ah well. Guess I'll sign off for today with the following rant from pirate captain Charles Bellamy. It has a nice raised-middle-finger sound to it.

"I am a free prince and have as much authority to make war on the whole world as he who has a hundred sail of ships and an army of a hundred thousand men in the field. And this my conscience tells me; that there is no arguing with such sniveling puppies who allow superiors to kick them about the deck at pleasure, and pin their faith upon the pimp of a parson, a squab who neither practices nor believes what he puts upon the chuckle-headed fools he preaches to."

Be Kind to Self Day

Well, two days maybe. After the overnight debacle yesterday, the kids were pretty sedate (and careful not to earn any more of my wrath). I mean, let's face it - I'm really a pussycat, but at 6'4" and a deuce and a half, I can get pretty intimidating when I'm pissed off. So they were on best behavior all day, even cleaning their rooms!

Later in the afternoon, I realized I was about due for the Scottish Depilatory, ran down to a local spa that Sam frequented (so they all know my situation and take good care of me), and had a complete stranger rip all the hair off my back. I am, after all, of the Highland Scots persuasion. Our ancestors were Vikings who swept in, impregnated the local Picts, started weaving plaid and playing inflated sheep's bladders that the Irish brought us (and we still haven't got the joke). The males of the species are ginger-colored, and tend to be covered in a soft coat of fur - and while I'm sure that evolutionary adaptation was priceless when we were running around in nothing but a wool skirt in the frozen tundra of the North Atlantic, nothing pisses me off more in the summer than an itchy back. So there - the secret is out. I wax the big real estate. Sam used to shave me back there (which was much less painful), but now I must pay strangers. How very pathetic.

So today I booked a massage with an awesome LMP up at Maya Studio in Fremont. She's amazing - deep tissue work that doesn't leave you feeling like you've been worked over by a mob enforcer. Next week I'm back at Maya for acupuncture with Johanna, who used to be in my last Gilda's group (supporting her mother's cancer fight). Tonight the kids will come to Gilda's Club with me. Their revamped kids' area is impressive. Tyler especially likes the widescreen TV and Gamecube. I'm transitioning into the bereavement group in a couple weeks, so I want to have some farewell time with my current group. It's been quite a rollercoaster. Sam and I used to go to group together; the wellness (patients) group in one room, their spouses/family members in another. Sam's group closed shortly after she died.

Had a wild dream about Sam last night. She was alive, and we were going through old stage costumes, sorting out the stuff she wanted to keep, or give to the theater. I think that will be an upcoming project for me in the real world. I'll go through her clothes, save the stuff Kayleigh will want when she's older, and give a bunch to the Pandemonium Players. The cool thing about the dream is that the tone was happy, and that hasn't been the case in these last months.

Looking forward to our friend Andrew's visit from England. He's one of the talented writers behind our Red Dwarf RPG.

Monday, July 11, 2005

There is Truth... the old adage that two can live as cheaply as one, and in some cases, more cheaply. Case in point, I just called to update Geico on Samantha's demise, because they were supposed to have taken her off back in April, but she's still showing up on the policy. I guess it's handy if she ever wants to take a ghostly spin in the old Sable.

So apparently, because we were married, had a safe record with no accidents or tickets, we were given a special "married" rate. Apparently, I'm now much more likely to drive unsafely with my kids in the car because I'm single.

Excuse me, but how does that make ANY sense?? You know, I didn't want to stop being married. I didn't ask to suddenly be single. But a spouse's death doesn't always work into your long-term plans when it's convenient. Why should I be paying a higher rate because my wife is suddenly gone (and she wasn't even driving most of the time for the past 2 years)? Why am I at a higher risk when I have the same safe driving record I've always had? Why is it more expensive to cover half as many drivers on the policy? And furthermore, why should I be penalized even more for losing my wife?? I thought that was the fucking penalty.

Bah. Thanks, Geico (and your chirpy telephone customer service lady). Nice one.

Words to Live By

When you have anything at all to give
You have everything to live for
Give all you've got to give
After you've given all you can,
Give again - give again
- Missing Persons

I was here, and you were here,
and together we made a world.
- David Whyte

I dare not weep: I can but bless
The Love that pitied my distress,
And lent me, in Life’s wilderness,
So sweet and true a friend.
But if there be - O if there be
A truth in what they say,
That angel-forms we cannot see
Go with us on our way;
Then surely she is with me here,
I dimly feel her spirit near
The morning-mists grow thin and clear,
And Death brings in the Day.
- Lewis Carroll


Well, the kids and I finally trotted off to bed at midnight last night, and they proceeded to march into my room every twenty minutes with some issue or other to be addressed. I finally sent Kayleigh upstars to the sofa, which usually calms her down. Tyler followed her about ten minutes later, and all bets were off. Apparently, two children and a dog can emit a level of noise approximating the circus being in town. Finally got up at 5:AM and gave them a rather irate and sleep deprived lecture on courtesy and the noise level, and how the two are inversely proportionate. I was placated for the moment and tried to go back to bed. And that's when the TV came on at full volume.

Ah, parental folly!

Came upstairs to find that Tyler had lit a candle without permission or adult supervision, so he's on restriction today. If Kayleigh gives me any attitude, she will join him. Yes, I have a short fuse today. Daddy needs his sleep. And if they aren't going to let me have any, then they get to deal with surly daddy. It's early to bed for everyone tonight.

In other news, Caleb came over last night and we watched Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal, which was a big hit with Caleb and my first viewing since film class in college. Just as beautiful as I remembered. I can really identify with Antonius Block, the crusader knight played so effectively by Max Von Sydow. After serving an ideal for so long, he returns to find his homeland in disarray and questions the meaning of it all. Wish I'd thought of bluffing Death by knocking over the chess pieces. Maybe Sam and my dad, like the young family in the wagon, could have made a sly getaway and avoided the scythe.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Will Power

Amen, amen! but come what sorrow can,
It cannot countervail the exchange of joy
That one short minute gives me in her sight:
Do thou but close our hands with holy words,
Then love-devouring death do what he dare;
It is enough I may but call her mine.

- William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

Watching Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 film adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, in my opinion the definitive version. Having lots of memories of working the Palo Alto Children's Theater production. Later, Palo Alto High School did a racial version (black Romeo, white Juliet) that toured the then Soviet Union in 1985. I went up for Mercutio, but didn't have any command (or appreciation) of Iambic pentameter. My audition failed miserably. I'd already had a starring role in The Real Inspector Hound, so my head was a bit big. I didn't take my failure well. Sam tried out for the touring show too and didn't make it (but not for performance reasons). We did end up doing the fight choreography though. I guess it was for the better, since we really had the opportunity to grow our relationship while our friends were off in Russia.

R&J held a lot of symbolism in our relationship. Moreso than anyone outside of it will ever know. Granted, our families were not at war, but they were as different as could be. There was a level of disapproval from her folks, although they were civil and courteous and eventually got the picture I was going to be there for the long haul. I think my folks clued in a lot more quickly - but she was spending more time at our place. We snuck into each other's houses during school nights to engage in shocking teenage debauchery, sometimes calling in absent to school the following morning (portraying each other's parents). I only got caught ditching once, and the Saturday detention (hello, Breakfast Club?) was totally worth the time spent with Sam. We adopted an us-against-the-world posture, and fell totally in love.

At times the intensity scared the hell out of me. I was 16, fer cripes sake. She was my first real girlfriend (with all due apologies to Kristin Halverson in 8th grade). But I can look back now and really appreciate it for what it was. And that is why, as corny and archaic and overplayed as much of R&J has become, I still cry when I watch it. Because teenage love is corny and archaic and overplayed... and intense. And I so vividly remember those emotions.

So she didn't kill herself with my dagger, and we didn't take half of fair Verona with us to the otherworld. But the result is the same. She's gone, my light has dimmed. I am changed. Eventually I hope I become stronger for the experience, but right now I feel like I've taken the poison. Still, I wouldn't trade the time we had together.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Clever Title

We saw the naturopath yesterday, and he started Tyler on some mineral therapies to start balancing his brain chemistry so we can lighten up the dose of Adderall. Eventually, he won't need the drug at all. This is the same doctor we took Samantha to see just before she died. I wish we'd gone sooner. Like two years sooner.

Friday night around here is Pizza/Movie Night. We either get a take & bake from Papa Murphy's or the Safeway deli, or order from one of about forty-seven different local delivery joints. It's safe to say Seattle's got its pizza needs covered. The kids and I decide on a DVD that everyone wants to watch, and as the title of the event suggests, watch it while eating pizza. Still with me? There will be a quiz.

Last night we'd gone through a couple episodes from Futurama's third season when Tyler got bored and went back to his room for some console game entertainment. Kayleigh actually went with him and they played without major drama or injury for a good three hours before I finally put them to bed. It was one of those miraculous nights that makes me think "I can do this!" Experience also dictates that either today or tomorrow they'll be at each other's throats.

So while the kids were playing, I put in a borrowed DVD I'd been meaning to watch for a long time (sorry Jordan). Kukushka (The Cuckoo), a Russian film. The IMDB synopsis pretty much sums it up, so I won't go into detail. I will say I thought it was really well done. Recommended.

I've vacillated so often on the whole Fantastic 4 thing, I'm getting dizzy. First it looked like ass. Then the later trailer looked like it might actually be cool. Now the reviews are coming in and it's looking like ass again. I should just wait for DVD. Now Serenity, on the other hand, looks like all the brilliance of Firefly on the big screen - I will be there. It sucks my dad will not be here to go see this with me. He really liked the series I loaned him on DVD. Sam did too (it reminded her of a lot of our college RPG sessions). And after the huge collective sigh of relief at the end of the Star Wars thing*, it'll be nice to have some actual science fiction - well-written science fiction - to see. As the T-shirt says, Joss Whedon is my master now.

Dreamed about something last night, but can't remember it. Stupid water trick. I need to just mellow out and let the dreams come.

*Any negative Star Wars commentary should be taken as the ramblings of a jaded fan who grew up watching the original trilogy and thinks nothing could top The Empire Strikes Back.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Other Pieces

I met with Mary Springer yesterday, a good friend of the family and artistic director of Twelfth Night Productions, the West Seattle theater group with which Sam was affiliated. Great meeting - very encouraging re: opportunities to work with the organization in Sam's memory and on new material. I dropped by rehearsal last night to snap a few pics of their eponymous fiddler to trace in Flash and add to the poster design. It's not finished, but this is the basic beastie. I'm trying something different with use of negative space as the focus - it reminds me a lot of the poster art of the Nouveau period with a bit of Alice Woodward building German expressionist sets. Uhhhh.... okay.

I'm taking my sister and niece to the airport this morning. Then Tyler has his appointment with the naturopath. Gonna try to get him off the Adderall. The doc has a boy Tyler's age with ADHD and they got him off Adderall too - so my hopes are high. He went without his meds one day last week, and reminded me exactly why he's on them. Holy Jeebus.

Katherine got us tickets for the Seattle Symphony's music of Bugs Bunny concert tomorrow. Looking forward to it. Also have The Seventh Seal and The Prophecy to show Caleb. Then Sunday we have lunch with my mom, stepdad, and some old family friends from California before they jet home. After that, I'm meeting with Sally Dagna, one of the producers on Duo. Looks like a full weekend, and I didn't have to much of the actual planning.

Missing That Spot

Damn. Woke up at 3AM again. Water trick only gave me a nightmare about some homicidal hillbilly chasing me down a dirt road. I was an FBI agent investigating a disappearance, and I was checking over this old pickup truck for clues. Found the skin-imprint of the side of someone's face in the passenger side window. Like the person had leaned against it for a week. But instead of taking notes or anything, I whipped out a bottle of 409 and started cleaning the window. The hillbilly started shouting at me and chasing me away.

I wonder if my inner-hillbilly (i.e. basic, simple, gut-reaction) is hesitant to move on. Maybe the FBI persona is my more analytical mind - trying to purge the memories of the past, but this simple beast doesn't want the truck clean. I know vehicles can symbolize our direction in life. Perhaps part of me wants to move ahead without "imprints". Or maybe part of me wants to be rid of the survivor's guilt - the question of whether I did enough for Sam in the final days of her life - while the primal needs to hang onto it.

The amateur dream interpreter in me says, "internal struggle." Big surprise.

I do often examine the whole guilt issue. Did I do the right thing by letting her go? I could have called 911 that night and had her shipped off to the hospital. They probably could have kept her breathing for awhile longer. But then what? And what for? Her wish was to go peacefully at home. She waited until we were alone together, and might have even gone while I was sleeping, had it not been for the final breathing (aka the death rattle - terrible name, but very apt), which is pretty singular in its qualities, and I was already on edge. Her liver had shut down, poisoning her brain with ammonia. Her heart was still strong, her lungs still clear - which is likely why it took her more than 3 hours of active shut-down. Unfair for a body to fail piecemeal like that. It was torture. As her husband, her best friend, every fiber of my being was pushing for intervention. Save her. Do something to save her. What kind of bastard sits there and lets the woman he loves most in the world die?

Even then, part of me was reminding those primal instincts that this was what she wanted. There was no cure, and three years of medical intervention had made no dent in it. Don't get me wrong - I don't think she wanted to die. She always thought she'd have about six months before it would claim her. Ordinarily, she'd be right. But the constant chemo had worn her out. She had nothing left to fight with. I had to remind myself that she didn't want to die in a hospital with tubes and sensors in her, beeping machines, doctors prodding her, nurses taking her blood. I guess I wouldn't either. I contrast that with my dad going out in a blaze of glory, several medics working him over, intubated and the whole nine yards (to use a nautical phrase). My gut instinct is that it wasn't his preference, and that makes me sad. It's one of the reasons I chose not to go see his body in the hospital. I wanted to remember him the way he was when I last hugged him, caressed his face and wiped a tear from his cheek. He was warm - he was alive.

Sam's situation couldn't have been more different. The last time I touched her face, she'd been dead for 2 hours and the folks had come to take her body to the UW. I kissed her forehead, and it felt like clay. Cold and lifeless. When they'd taken her away, I went back into the family room where the hospice bed was, and absentmindedly picked up my neck pillow I'd given her to use the previous night. It was still warm, and it smelled like her. I carried that pillow around all day, so that every time I felt like I was missing her, I could bury my nose in the pillow and get her scent. It's amazing how primal that sense is.

Now, what I miss most is touch. I miss holding her hand. She had beautiful hands. Just like with the pillow, I used to bury my nose in the crook of her neck where it met her collarbone. That was my favorite spot. Her scent was strong there. Her skin was soft. She liked it a lot when I added that to a random hug, and she often did the same thing to me. The act was so tender, and wasn't anything we'd get in trouble for in public. I miss that spot. That spot, to me, was home.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Strangely Normal

How's that for an oxymoron? The water trick has worked for the past 5 nights now, but the dreams are not very clear. There's usually a sense of urgency or a somber tone attached. I haven't seen her smile in a dream since the one that occurred on my birthday back in May. I think I'll try talking to my dad tonight.

What is different is that I have a sense of Samantha's presence again. It is a feeling that has come and gone over the past 3 months. Tends to get rather frustrating when it's not there. Crazy. "I hear old widder Todd talks to his dead wife all the time..." That's me: the guy with the menagerie of pets and an overgrown lawn, talking to his dead wife. Not that I particularly give a rat's ass what other people think. But it is kind of a pathetic image.

Steve came over yesterday and I showed him Sam's memorial DVD. It's some powerful stuff, and the good news is I'm still moved by it. No emotional callouses here. We lightened the mood with some classic Looney Tunes, for which Caleb joined us.

The guinea pig is fine, the fish are fine. Punky hates us for bringing that large dog-thing into her house, but she'll have to adjust. Just like the rest of us adjust to situations outside our control. Speaking of giant dog-things, Wiley came home from his overnight at the vet. He's a bit sore in his happy place, but that's to be expected. He has a daily pain med which I give him with butter - he gulps it right down. The stitches come out next week.

Beginning the process of regaining momentum on the Duo film project. Not an easy task. Our lead female is in England for the summer, our main supporting male is leaving for L.A. in September, and our main con chick is in France until January. Impossible, you say? Well it's looking like we will go back to preproduction in the fall, get everything ironed out logistically. It's an administrative feat anyway. One of the producers is a jetabout anyway, always on the road pimping his juggling skills, or his award-winning documentary, Flight From Death. This extra time will give us some breathing room in which to get out schedule tight and raise more funds for production. We'll aim for spring again, and fly our L.A. back for weekend shoots.

I need to talk to David Choi about what's going on with the GRAV project. In the meantime, I have finished a 10-page treatment for another little film project. The only other person I've shown is JD Green, since he is pitching in some great concepts for it.

Time to hit the showers. Have a 10AM meeting with the artistic director from Twelfth Night Productions, and the kids have their hospice grief counselor coming after lunch.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

This Woman's Work

My brother Gavin actually posted this song to his blog shortly after Sam died. I thought I'd repost it here as well. It's a powerful ballad that I mostly associate with the final sequence in John Hughes' She's Having a Baby, and also with Tyler's difficult birth (which was eerily similar to the scene in the film). Samantha tore and hemorrhaged. Blood was all over the floor and she passed out. Tyler had too much fluid in his lungs and had to be siphoned and stomach-pumped. They bundled him up and handed him to me, and I held him while I watched our doctor, Mark Beard, go to work on her. I remember sitting there feeling totally helpless, that I could lose one or both of the two dearest people to me. Mark saved her life, and she returned to have another child - I am in awe of the female (and of Mark's skill as a physician). My highest honors in life have been being present at the births of my children, and holding Samantha as she passed away.

Needless to say, the song has a totally new meaning for me now.

Pray God you can cope.
I stand outside this woman's work,
This woman's world.
Ooh, it's hard on the man,
Now his part is over.
Now starts the craft of the father.

I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.
I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.

I should be crying, but I just can't let it show.
I should be hoping, but I can't stop thinking
Of all the things I should've said,
That I never said.
All the things we should've done,
That we never did.
All the things I should've given,
But I didn't.

Oh, darling, make it go,
Make it go away.

Give me these moments back.
Give them back to me.
Give me that little kiss.
Give me your hand.
(I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.
I know you have a little life in you yet.
I know you have a lot of strength left.)

I should be crying, but I just can't let it show.
I should be hoping, but I can't stop thinking
Of all the things we should've said,
That were never said.
All the things we should've done,
That we never did.
All the things that you needed from me.
All the things that you wanted for me.
All the things that I should've given,
But I didn't.

Oh, darling, make it go away.
Just make it go away now.

- Kate Bush

Ungodly Hour

So here it is, 4:30-ish in the ante-meridian. Been awake since 3. Did the water trick again and dreamed about Sam, but not a really coherent dream, rather flashes and images. She's trying to show me something, trying to get a message across, but I don't know if I can grasp it with my conscious mind. Need to do some more dreaming. I haven't really dreamed industriously since my teens, so it's gonna take some work.

Had dinner and pints at the Celtic Swell on Alki last night with Ron. Both had shepherd's pie, which rocks heartily. When it came time to contemplate dessert, the Guinness ice cream on a fresh, warm brownie just looked too awesome. Yeah, Guinness ice cream. We probably should have split one, but after having ordered the same thing for dinner, we decided that we should retain some small amount of hetero male cred and each get our own (as opposed to getting one dessert with two spoons - "and did you want two straws with that black & tan, sir?"). Speaking of hetero male cred, the hostess was very cute. It kind of shocks me out of my grief stupor when I notice an attractive woman. I mean, I noticed attractive women all the time when I was with Sam. I'm a male of the species, wired to respond to what I perceive to be attractive. Sam never got bent out of shape when I did - quite the opposite. She and I both found it valuable to know what the other found attractive. In any case, it's normal to notice - not that I'm prepared to do anything but look. And that's just fine for now.

Ron is a great counselor/friend to have. He lost his mom as a preteen, and knows all about those issues. Fortunately never lost a spouse, but has been divorced (which includes its own unique sense of loss). Anyway, he had some good thoughts to share on my situation. I appreciate having the opportunity to go have a good meal and a couple pints with some great ambiance while looking out a huge open window at the ferries and sailboats criss-crossing the island sunset. It helps to remind me how wonderful it is to be alive. Not much else really inspires that kind of enthusiasm anymore.

Came home to a puppet show from Kayleigh. She's so talented it makes me all weepy. My kids remind me that it was a good call not to take the remainder of Sam's pain meds in the wee hours of April 12th, which would have left a very dramatically-appropriate Romeo & Juliet scene for the cops and hospice folks. I did consider it for a brief moment of grief-induced haze. She had stopped breathing and I was clutching her to me, not wanting to let her go. I flashed back to working on Romeo & Juliet at the Palo Alto Children's Theater, when I was on a ladder, helping hang a parachute awning for an outdoor show. This girl was assigned to hold my ladder, but I never got a good look at her. She'd disappeared by the time I'd come down. I found out after we were dating that the girl was her. She'd remembered my shoes. Talk about "star cross'd lovers". We both knew the show inside out - it was the Shakespeare we dissected most often, and in many ways was an analog for our life together. The immediate horror of losing my Juliet did a number on me. I'm not normally suicidal, but after having cared for Sam for almost 3 years of debilitating chemo and radiation (especially the last month of her fight), a good long sleep was looking pretty good. But then I thought of my kids. Our kids. And the desire to joining her in some grand, dramatic middle finger to the world gradually subsided as my sense of self-preservation took over and the shock set in.

Although I can't say I'm in a place where I can truly profess a love of life, I am glad I stayed. Not just because my kids need their daddy. There is much more for me to do. I need to keep going, keep fighting the good fight. Sam wanted that. She wanted me to be here, and be happy, and live on. She said as much. One of the things about cancer is it gives you time to ponder your future (or lack thereof). We talked about a lot of eventualities. I guess despite the outcome, I'm lucky to have had the time to talk to her about these important issues and get a really valuable take on mortality from my soulmate.

My stepmom Katherine had some numbers for private grief counselors in the area. Gonna do some phone calling today after the sun comes up. Wiley is recovering from his snippage yesterday and will be retrieved from the vet this morning. My non-related bro Steve is coming over this afternoon - first visit in weeks. It'll be good to see him. Caleb might come by as well. I'm blessed to have great friends.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

What Dreams May Come

I have dreamed of Sam for the past three nights. It's always great to see her in them, because she's usually healthy and smiling. Only once did she appear as her post-chemo self. But last night was kind of odd. The two of us were walking outside at night - very late at night. At least I assume we were outside because there were no topographical features to the landscape. It was just... dark. I think it was supposed to be winter. I remember being very cold and Sam was wearing her long brown coat from around the time we were married. She was leading me somewhere, and there was this sense of urgency. We came to a little house in the middle of nowhere. I looked in through the window and saw my mom's parents (who currently live in Bellingham) inside. My grandfather was watching images of Samantha on the TV, while my grandmother bustled around setting up Christmas decorations and place settings.

It was like we were going to be late for Christmas, but we were showing up at, like, 2AM. We went in through the front door and announced our presence - something that would usually get a big welcome and some hugs and kisses all round. But my grandfather just sat there transfixed on the TV images, and my grandmother continued her busy work with a sad look on her face.

Then my alarm went off.

I don't even know if I want to get into the meaning of this stuff, despite the fact that Sigmund Freud and I share a birthday. I'm not surprised that my grandparents showed up with Sam in a dream. They were very close to her - she loved them as her own, and they her. It was their arrival at our home on Easter this year that prompted Sam's rebound just before she died. They sat on her hospice bed with her and she held them and cried for a long time. Later I asked her what had prompted her surge of energy. She explained, "I thought I'd never see Omi & Opa again." They were devastated by her death. I mean, we all were. But I think they really got hit hard - moreso than typical, I think. I'll say no more on that.

Speaking of dreams, Sam and I watched What Dreams May Come a few years ago, before she was diagnosed. I don't know what she took away from it, but I so identify with the Robin Williams character right now. I'd give up a lot to have Samantha back. I'd be willing to take the Orpheus voyage if there was a chance of retrieving her. I admit it. It's a selfish, selfish thing to want, but I want it.

Goddamnit, I want my wife back.

Independence Day...

...has a new meaning for me. There was no wife with which to share the joy of watching the displays from Alki beach, or have dinner outdoors at Pegasus. No Sam to watch smile at the colorful shells going off over Elliott Bay, or encourage Kayleigh's sandcastle construction (a very sensible Celtic hill-fort). It was down to me to do all of the above.

Tyler decided to stay home with Wiley and play World of Warcraft, so Kayleigh and I got some nice father/daughter time. Dinner at Pegasus (as mentioned), fun on the beach. My friend Ron joined us and we watched the main fireworks display as well as a dozen others at various points around Bainbridge Island and the peninsula. After that was done, we met up with the family of one of Kayleigh's school frineds, and helped them set off their personal collection of fireworks. It's now almost 2AM, so I'm going to put this post to bed (followed by my own sorry ass).

You know, I really hate to admit this, because it makes me sound petty and bitter. But I bristled every time I saw a young couple walking hand in hand down the beachfront. Yeah, it is petty and bitter... And I don't want to feel like that... but I can't help it. That was taken away from me, and I don't know how to not have it. :(

Monday, July 04, 2005

Don't Fade Away

Don't fade away
My brown-eyed girl
Come walk with me
I'll fill your heart with joy

And we'll dance through our isolation
Seeking solace in the wisdom we bestow
Turning thoughts to the here and everafter
Consuming fears in our fiery halos

Say what you mean
Mean what you say
I've heard that innocence
Has led us all astray

But don't let them make you and break you
The world is filled with their broken empty dreams
Silence is their only virtue
Locked away inside their silent screams

But for now
Let us dance away
This starry night
Filled with the glow of fiery stars
And with the dawn
Our sun will rise
Bringing a symphony of bird cries

Don't bring me down now
Let me stay here for awhile
You know life's too short
Let me bathe here in your smile
I'm transcending
The fall from the garden


- Dead Can Dance

How Far to Gotham?

So here's an interesting geek site, for anyone who has ever been curious as to the distance between Metropolis and Gotham City, or any other DC location.

Apparently, Gotham City is in New Jersey, and Metropolis is in Delaware.

I did not know that. Do I need to hand in my neon G?

In other news, Batman Begins is the best film adaptation of the character thus far. And I was quite the fan of the first two Tim Burton movies. To those who are critical of the quick-cut, confusing fight scenes: that's whe whole point. He's a freakin' ninja. He jumps into a mob of thugs, there's screaming and limbs flailing, and dudes go down. To those who complain that there are no decent full-body shots of the batsuit: see my first comment - he's a freakin' ninja. You shouldn't see him any more than you should have seen the xenomorph in the first Alien film. And to those who are critical of the husky, affected batman voice: this is Bruce Wayne first starting out in his campaign against crime. He's trying to be dramatic and frightening, and he's still trying stuff out. The hollywood machine butchered the franchise. Let's hope the execs at Warner Bros see that a faithful and innovative adaptation with an indie film director and an indie film actor is the way to go. Looking forward to seeing where they take it.


Bah. After spending all morning composing the most entertaining blog entry about pets, I lost the whole damn thing when I previewed.

So here goes another try.

Sam & I almost always had dogs growing up. When we moved out together, however, our pet selection was really limited to cats (and even that was pushing it sometimes), and the occasional pet rat (that was more Sam's bag than mine). Fortunately, our two boys, Ace & Gryphon, were excellent specimens of the feline. Ace, Samantha's black American shorthair (with Siamese markings when he lay in the sun) - the crime lord. Gryphon, my 22-lb Maine Coon tabby - the muscle. The two of them were our constant companions through college, early married life, all through our exodus to Seattle and early child-rearing.

Shortly after we bought our home in West Seattle, Samantha rescued an Aussie shepherd pup from a trip to death row. She often talked of starting a wildlife or pet rescue operation on our eventual retirement property, and her passion for animals always shone through. Unfortunately, Fergus (the Aussie) was too aggressive around our son Tyler, just a toddler at the time. His herding instincts were strong - a definite plus in the breed - but he was too much for Sam to handle as a stay-at-home mom. We found him a nice family with acreage who had just lost their old Aussie. It was a good match.

We agreed that we wouldn't get another dog until Tyler was older and less vulnerable. In the following years, we had an assortment of mice, a rat and a goldfish named Scully who lived for over 6 years in a little tank on our kitchen counter. Then our daughter arrived, and we agreed that we wouldn't get a dog until Kayleigh was older and less vulnerable. Sense a pattern yet? Besides, Ace & Gryphon were getting up there in years, and probably wouldn't take well to yet another new dog in the house.

The next animal Samantha rescued was a tiny female kitten, not more than 6 weeks old, found tangled in the blackberry bushes on the corner of our street. No mama cat to be found, and this little one was distressed. Turned out she also had distemper. Cute little white shorthair with black punctuation markings on her tail, flank and head. I just rolled my eyes. It was actually funny to see Sam put on the attitude of a small child, promising to take care of the animal, clean her room, even eat her veggies. At least that's what it sounded like. So Sam nursed little Punctuation Blackberry (aka Punky) through distemper, hand feeding her and staying up all night several nights in a row. She pulled through and promptly became Queen Bitch of the Universe. She was obnoxious, skittish and aggressive toward the kids, and trimming claws was a two-person job (and usually included wrapping her in a towel to avoid getting Cuisinarted). We agreed that we would get a dog as soon as Ace & Gryphon were gone, and that Punky could just deal with it.

Then Sam got sick. Punky began to change her attitude a lot. She became extremely clingy around Sam, and even mellowed around the kids and me. In fact, she became quite the flirt. Nonetheless, we agreed that we wouldn't get a dog until this cancer thing had run its course, or stabilized, or our life was something other than the chaotic healthcare nightmare it was. It's always something.

We lost Gryphon in 2003, at age 16, to a feline sarcoma that ate away half his jaw. Ace followed in 2004, also at 16, from renal failure. They were the advance guard - they demonstrated concepts of loss and mortality to the kids, and kind of cleared the decks for the final fight. Of course Kayleigh wanted to get a guinea pig for her birthday in 2004, and of course I said, "fine, as long as I don't have to feed him or clean his cage." Ha. (In Kayleigh's defense, she has done a pretty good job monitoring James Brown the guinea pig, however cleaning the cage is a bit out of her sphere of ability - guess who does that.) Tyler got a 2.5 gallon aquarium for Christmas in 2004. 4 months later, Sam died. There we were, with fish, a hussy of a cat and a guinea pig who thought he was the godfather of soul. But there was a very powerful vacuum where Sam's vitality and energy had been. It finally occurred to me: DOG TIME. And this time, *I* would choose the animal I knew I'd be caring for ultimately.

I hit our local craigslist and found a young couple in our neighborhood with a coyote/shepherd mix, who had to get rid of him due to a move. I took the kids to meet him on Memorial Day, and the bond was instant. He was perfect. A bit larger than Sam would have wanted, but this was MY call now (she would've loved this pup anyway). He moved into the house immediately, came housebroken and with a love of people. I called my dad in the hospital to tell him about Wiley Coyote Super Genius (aka Wiley), and all he could do was weep. He knew how long we'd waited to get a dog, and knew from my description that we were protected.

My dad died that night.

Wiley gives us an immediate focus. He gives us total affection, gives us "whuffs" of warning when someone approaches the house, loves meeting people and loves riding in the car. He gives the kids a target for their affection as well - he's something that can be loved and nurtured, something they can share responsibility in. He's a member of the family.

In the weeks since my father's death, Tyler's 2.5 gal tank became a 5 gal tank, and there has been talk of converting the old 2.5 gal into a dry terrarium for a couple chameleons or something. Tyler is now campaigning for Chinese hamsters and Kayleigh has been eyeing ferrets (don't worry - we're not going there)! Then yesterday I got a call from a friend who was moving out of his house, and would I like a fully-furnished 20 gal tank??? And, go figure, I said, "Sure!"

Ah. I remembered the point to this entry. Since I was a little kid, I've always been a caretaker for others. When my little brother died, I took care of my fragile parents. When they divorced, I took care of my siblings as we were shuttled back and forth between households. My relationship with Samantha was the closest thing to equitable I think I've ever had. But then came kids, and Sam's illness... Caretaker, back into the fray. Now that Sam's gone, I think I must subconsciously look for things to take care of. Otherwise, what the hell is up with saying yes to a 20-gallon fish tank??

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Not Three Months Out...

Well, here I am, after years of avoiding the whole blogging thing on the premise that no one wanted to read about my boring life. After all, what was there to tell? I was a thirtysomething writer & artist publishing adventure game books with my wife Samantha. We had a home in a quiet corner of Seattle, two beautiful and superintelligent kids, and a good marriage born of 20 years together (since high school). Still have the house, kids and business (what's left of it), but in 2002, my wife was diagnosed with metastatic Adenocarcinoma of unknown primary. It's a big name for a rare and aggressive caner that usually appears in males age 60+. What it was doing in a 35 year-old woman, we may never know - she didn't smoke, drink to excess or eat poorly, and it's not a typically hereditary cancer. Nonetheless, the end result was that after almost 3 years of fighting with everything she and the medical profession could throw at it, the cancer won.

She breathed her last breath on April 12, 2005... at home, in my arms.

Our relationship started with a clumsy teenage kiss in my dad's driveway in Palo Alto, CA, in November 1984. It saw its share of drama, trauma and a hell of a lot of love and happiness. It saw a major relocation from the San Francisco Bay Area to Seattle, school, careers, children. It continually evolved, changed and blossomed. Life had its challenges, but it was good. And we shared it together.

Samantha was very close to my family. She was like an older sister to my siblings - especially since my brother had just turned 8 when we started going out. So she was shocked to find out my dad had been diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma (LMS), an even more rare but equally aggressive cancer. My dad was diagnosed about 3 months after Sam was. Over the next 2 years, we lost our two 16 year-old cats (one to cancer, one to kidney disease). I think in some small way, they were the advance guard. They demonstrated the circle of life to our children, helped prepare them for the hard times to come. Sam engaged in 2 years of hardcore chemotherapy and radiation, acupuncture and herbal supplements. My dad had surgeries to remove tumors in his leg, in his lungs, on his skin. After two and a half years of fighting, Sam was finally told that nothing had worked. The cancer had spread to her pelvic bones and lower spine. She was given a year to live. But her body was so trashed by the constant chemo and radiation that she slid fast - she was dead six weeks later.

Shortly after Samantha passed away, my father found that his cancer had spread to the brain. He underwent two surgeries to remove the tumors, then he developed a bacterial infection and blood clot in the brain, and had to undergo a third emergency surgery to correct it. He fought hard for a week in the ICU, trying to regain speech and motor function, and he seemed to be recovering. The doctors had just given him a year to live. He was moved to the regular ward and had an embolism late Memorial Day, about 7 weeks after Samantha.

So where does this leave my family? Where does it leave me? It's an odd place, to be sure. Never thought I'd be raising my kids alone at 36 (now 37). Never thought I'd lose my vibrant, adventurous father just into his 60s. I miss them both terribly.

I have an army of friends and relatives who have come to our aid, emotionally, financially and logistically. I have Gilda's Club (, the national cancer support group founded by Gilda Radner & Gene Wilder, which Sam & I both joined 2 years ago. I have a community at WidowNet (, which has provided me with moment-by-moment support from folks all over the world in similar (and not-so-similar) circumstances. I have my kids - the best gift Samantha & I ever gave each other. She and my father both live on in them.

This blog will serve as a depository for my thoughts and experiences as I go through the grief process. The process is not linear, nor is this blog. It's a tangental, circular beast. Coupled with the phenomenon known as "widderbrain", I'd say you're in for a ride.