Saturday, December 31, 2005

Flappy Gnu Ears!

Well, after having an empty house for most of the week, with the kids off at various friends' places, we were all back under the same roof last night. Tyler's on a camping air mattress in my office, Kayleigh's on another in front of the coffee table, and I'm on the sofa - and it's killing my back.

I deleted the link to Lisa's blog, by personal request. She has killed the old blog (and assures me she's doing well). I have added a link to my friend Lynnae's blog in its place.

The last 5 days have been spent sorting through contaminated possessions with latex gloves on, itemizing damages and losses. I have over 120 listings in my Excel spreadsheet so far, and the process has only just begun. It ain't pretty. Some stuff can be cleaned, but some is a total loss. The wicker bassinet both kids slept in, some of Sam's old stuffed animals (thank heavens we saved Perlo the little horse). Some of my original artwork, some original music master tapes, a rare Frank Miller print from the ''80s... it goes on and on. The sheepskin rug Samantha got in Greece. All three mattress sets, and tons of winter bedding. Tyler lost 22 (that's TWENTY-TWO) Playstation 2 games. I didn't even realize he HAD 22 PS2 games! Of course, we've been acquiring them since I worked in the videogame biz and was working on Playstation titles.

I lost pretty much all my clothes, and have to start over from scratch. The city will owe me a new pair of work boots when this is over, too. Made a Target run in the interim, and am doing laundry at Darlene's down the street. The tearout continues, despite the mitigation company stretched to its limit what with all the flooding in King County. I got interviewed by the West Seattle Herald on Tuesday. Hopefully that will help solidify our position with the city - not that I would ever expect the city of Seattle to try to get out of clear liability (careful not to slip in the dripping sarcasm). An open claim has been filed. A bunch of city officials and contractors are descending on the street bright and early Tuesday morning, bids will come in and decisions will be rendered. I miss my own bed and want to get back in it within a month, dammit.

Forgive me if the next few posts are a bit cranky. I've got two kids with cabin fever, and a dog and cat who don't get along all in close proximity, and I'm not sleeping well to boot. In fact, having Wiley's excessive energy around has actually increased the stress level instead of alleviating it, and seeing at how poorly Punky has adapted to the dog, I am tempted to find another home for him. Tyler protests and gets very good at taking responsibility for the dog for about five minutes, then his nose is back in some project or videogame, and I'm dealing with the bored animal while the poor cat tries to hide. When my dad was alive and our family was facing a real void of energy in the house without Sam and the other cats around, the dog seemed like a fantastic idea - and really, he has softened the blows of loss we've suffered this year. But the big guy needs more attention than I alone can give him, and the kids are being severely lax in their duties.

I should've just found another cat.

Happy New Year - may it be better in EVERY FREAKIN' WAY POSSIBLE.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Cut the Crap

This might be slightly entertaining, to see how many "potty" references I can use in regard to our situation. Nah. It's already old.

The update is as follows:

The water damage guys came out to begin the dry-out phase yesterday, sucking up waste water from the carpet with their Vacu-Suck 5000 Suck-o-Matics. Okay - I'm really done with the sophomoric glibbery. And with making up words like "glibbery".

It's a tough time for them, as they are stretched thin with all the flooding happening in Seattle and the surrounding area. We usually get one guy, two at the most. But they work hard, and at least the lion's share of the water is out. The dehumidifiers have been blowing around the clock. Today we had a contractor come out to look at the potential rebuild. Also got a call from the adjuster assigned to our case (and the others on our street). He will be out tomorrow to check the place and talk to us about our various situations. One encouraging thing I got from the city adjuster head honcho was that they are taking this very seriously, as they know it was their liability. The guy even offered to put us up in an Extended Stay America, but the closest one is in Tukwila and I'd have to drive my kids in to school and back every day. Not a pleasant prospect.

As of now, there are no toxic fumes. There is a musty smell downstairs, but we keep the basement door shut and the HEPA filter going upstairs all the time. We're not running the heater, but the dehumidifiers radiate their own heat, which warms the upper floor. The drywall tearout has begun, and they've roughed in a new access door to the carport, something I always wanted but Sam always talked me out of. It will make much more sense to have carport access downstairs, making it much easier to haul out the washer & dryer, as well as the carpet and drywall debris. In fact, rather than replacing the carpet in the hallway, I'm considering replacing it with a good strong vinyl. Carpet in the bedrooms for sure. They also may have to rip out the tile floor in the master bath, depending on how much brown water got into the grout.

So I'm orchestrating the work from the office, and sleeping on the sofa with Wiley on the floor beside me. I rescued Punky from Kayleigh's room and brought her upstairs, where she promptly hid in the office closet. I have her catbox and food dishes on top of a card table above Wiley's night kennel. She has access to her stuff without coming into contact with him directly (although he certainly raises a fuss whenever he smells her). Tyler and Kayleigh are scheduled for sleepovers the next couple nights. Having them gone during the busier parts of the day makes everything a lot easier to manage - and they're not constantly getting cabin fever and attacking one another with random makeshift weapons.

Whew... Goodbye, 2005, you bastard. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. Come on in, 2006. Let me rub your feet.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Homeless For the Holidays

Well, that's not entirely true. We still have a home. It's just that we can't access the part we usually sleep in.

Christmas Eve saw an army of Sea Scouts arrive with breathing filters and rubber gloves to help move everything out of the downstairs. I started to itemize the losses. The largest single monetary loss will end up being the cases of books contaminated by sewage and water. Over $5K wholesale so far. We're thinking Sam's cedar hope chest and the oak rocking chair we used to rock both children in can be cleaned. The master bedroom tub has whirlpool jets which will never be properly cleaned, and the water came up over the top, saturating the greenwall behind the surround. I can't imagine they'll be able to do much except tear it out and replace it. I can't even begin to comprehend the loss in clothing, bedding (Tyler lost his bed totally), books and stuffed animals. The appliances and electronics that were on the floor and are thus sitting in contaminated water include the washer & dryer, a phone, boom boxes, a game console (and several games). And of course, just random "stuff" - photos, papers, bits and pieces which are irreplaceable. The latch hook rug Sam made for Kayleigh just before she died was being used as a bedside throw rug. I hope we can have it cleaned.

The kids slept at a family friend's house while I finished a bottle of wine and crashed on the sofa here at home, Wiley at my side. I awoke at 5AM to the sound of two sewer "suck-trucks" at work just south of my house. They'd cordoned off everything south of about two houses down. Apparently, the sewer backup had also undermined a section of street which was totally sunk and will need to be repaired. In the morning, my brother, SIL, SIL's twin sister, stepmom and kids came to the house and we had a Christmas morning. Blueberry pancakes and tea, and the delight of my kids discovering what Santa brought them. Then we headed north to my mom's place for the larger family gathering. It was a good day. Finally got the kids to crash out on the floor at about midnight last night. They're still sawing logs.

So the bottom line is that Allstate doesn't cover this damage because it was a city liability, not something that originated on our property. Fortunately, an inspector with the city arrived first thing Saturday morning, with claim forms and business cards in hand. This is a serious, serious matter. To their credit, the city of Seattle is being very proactive in responding to the emergency and accepting full liability - it is far better to take care of these issues now, rather than wait for a class action lawsuit from everyone who was affected.

And how many were affected? That is unclear. We do know that rainfall choked the east/west sewer main at about 2AM Saturday morning, hit the dead end and came back up the north/south line under our street. Everyone on the west side of the street with a low drain of some kind got sewage flowing out of those drains. The woman nearest the main got over TWO FEET of sewage in her basement. And since this neighborhood includes a lot of smaller 1920s craftsman homes, you find a lot of them (ours included) have converted/finished basements for additional living space - and that will add up to a huge loss for the city. Especially since that living space is currently uninhabitable and the city is responsible for lodging all of these displaced people. Now, we're currently able to sleep upstairs on the floor - there was enough rainwater dilluting the sewage that there are no noxious fumes (and Wiley is very sensitive to such odd smells). We are also fortunate that the tear out process will begin today. We got a mitigation specialist who is familiar with sewer decontamination work, and will bill the city directly, so we will not be out of pocket for the majority of the rebuild and cleaning. I guess the bright side is, we get a whole new downstairs essentially. All the carpet and all the drywall up to a height of about 3 feet must be torn out, replaced, relaid, repainted, etc. It will probably be a month before we are back in our bedrooms.

I think this week we will do a lot of overnights with friends while the kids are still on break, and after that find a local B&B (there are really no hotels per se in West Seattle, save for a single Travelodge). I will be contacting the city adjuster and finding out exactly what they recommend, and what will be covered.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday. As if I didn't already have loads of perspective, this weekend gave me loads more. We're alive and surrounded by love from family and community. And we'll be okay.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


Okay, so we've all heard the term "Shit happens". Well, in our case, it literally did.

At 2 in the morning, I awoke to the gurgling sound of water rushing into my bedroom. The city sewer line had flooded with all the rain and backed up, sending 4+ inches of raw sewage into the downstairs. The ENTIRE downstairs. Where our bedrooms and laundry facilities are. The carpet, which was originally just laid over concrete, was now floating eerily, rolling in waves. In addition to the living space, I also have thousands of retail dollars worth of Deep7 product stored in shipping boxes down there. And now I just heard a crash downstairs, as the carboard storage boxes on the bottom begin to collapse, sending whatever was on top to a stinky, watery grave.

Pardon me but, WTF IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?? I thought we were done with the tragedy and hardship this year, but apparently not. Apparently I need yet another lesson in stress management. I used to be so proud of the fact that I'd kept my hair as long as I have, but this year it's started coming out in figurative clumps. I'd make a glib reference to a certain Biblical character named Job, but then I'd totally end up with boils. I don't want boils. Not so much.

So, in terms of how this will affect our Christmas, your guess is as good as mine. We can't sleep here in the house because the sewage fumes will make us sick after prolonged exposure. We'll find out if we are indeed "in good hands" with Allstate. 10 years of insurance premiums better yeild some positive fucking results. Sorry for the profanity, but I think I'm due for some. And I got no sleep last night (in bed at 1:30AM, turn on the light at 2AM to water encroaching, rally the kids upstairs with as many clean clothes as I could salvage, call 911, call Allstate... blah blah blah). Sorry if this is less than coherent.

Merry Christmas anyway.

Friday, December 23, 2005


It's been over a week, so I figured it's time for an update...

I miss my dad.

I miss Sam.

Film at 11.

This should really be no surprise. I mean, birthdays are bad enough, but this is the first Christmas without either of them, and I've always had them there - Sam for 20 years, my dad for 36. Even though we're keeping busy with holiday things, it's still that aching, empty feeling. Especially now that the weather is cold - Sam's favorite season was Autumn, when it got colder and we could snuggle together every night. I don't have to tell you I miss the snuggling - that's pretty much a given. The skin hunger is EXTREMELY acute right now.

I've been going through lots of old junk and throwing out a lot. My front patio holds stacks of garbage bags and sundry office furniture debris. When I'm done in the house, I will have a hauling service take it the hell away. At night, I've been digitizing old video, including the Black Pelican Dead Man's Party & Hallowe'en Ball videos. The Black Pelican theme parties ran from 1988 to 1991 with a fifth held in Seattle in 1993. They were invite-only custom-written mysteries couched in a certain genre: 1930s, 1960s espionage, B-movies, pre-20th century authors... it was great fun and we have video from the first four in California.

Putting together a 2-DVD set of the four parties of course led me to the And Tears Fell music video we shot back in 1990 for our single Ghosts, which we never edited. So I found the footage, took it into Vegas, and edited it. Just as if we'd put it together 15 years ago - even the style of editing and layers of ethereal color over black and white sync footage. It looks like something you'd see on the 4AD Records compilation Lonely is an Eyesore. But something it also has done is create a Sam-saturation. I'm now archiving stuff and putting it away - it's too painful for me to have all of these images of Sam, with her voice all digitally preserved, right here at my fingertips, and yet not have her physically here. It hasn't reached obsession levels, but I can feel an ever-growing discomfort with all the constant exposure to her image and voice. After the holidays, I will be able to finish up some of these projects and not dwell so much on the loss.

I want to get to the point where these triggers cause happy memories and not pain of loss. It's happening. I know it is because I'm undergoing the equivalent of a Medieval wound-searing. It hurts like hell now, but the wound will be closed without further infection.

We (my kids, sister, brother, SIL, niece and stepmom) saw the Pacific NW Ballet production of The Nutcracker on Wednesday, after an awesome dinner at the Bamboo Garden vegetarian Chinese restaurant across from Seattle Center. It was the production with Maurice Sendak-designed sets & costumes. I loved the sets and costumes. Nuff said. The children enjoyed it plenty, but at one point in the second act, I just reached saturation. Beautiful sets... with some activity happening on stage... honestly, there's only so many bodies you can cram leaping about onto a stage before it becomes ridiculous. And as much as I applaud the Sendak design for turning the Nutcracker's candy kingdom into a 19th century Ottoman slave camp, I found I really missed my Russian dancers and the fat-butted lady with the gingerbread kids in her skirt.

Was supposed to see King Kong today, but Steve-o got a gig that conflicts. So we'll go next week. Got dinner at Salty's on Alki tonight with Sam's folks, my stepmom, bro, SIL, and the kids. Tomorrow is Christmas eve at Sam's brother's place, then Christmas day happens... I'll let you know how that goes.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

God Only Knows...

Tyler's math teacher called last night, but I didn't pick up in time, so I decided to let the answering machine get it. My immediate thought was, Ugh - what trouble is Tyler in now, or what is he the victim of this time?? Imagine my immense, pleasant surprise when the teacher announced that out of two 6th grade classes at his school, Tyler was the only student to score perfectly on their math final - including 6 extra credit logic problems which were meant to stretch the most limber of reasoning skills. I walked into the front office where Tyler was sitting at his mom's old workstation, grabbed him up in a huge hug and (with tears welling up) whispered in his ear, "I'm SO proud of you... and your mom is proud of you too."

Earlier in the day, an email came in from a friend of mine from high school. JS was born with a congenital heart defect, and spent much of his childhood frail, small and purple. I don't think he'd begrudge me the description - it's pretty accurate. Sam had been a big sister to him, as she had been to MH, who had lost a leg to cancer at 14. It occurs to me that this might be why she thought she wasn't popular at school, at least with the "in-crowd", because she hung with the kids outside the mainstream. The girl with "no maternal instinct" was already everyone's mama bear.

In any case, Jason wasn't supposed to see 20. At about 36 now, he's beaten the odds, recently married a great gal, and they hoped to eventually start a family. Unfortunately, his cardiologist dumped a great, steaming pile of shit on his morning oatmeal, explaining that his current heart is likely going to start degrading very quickly over the next few years, and that he's not a good candidate for replacement (and all heart replacement can buy is about ten very painful years of isolation and procedures). He might see 50, but nobody knows for sure. He hit the figurative emotional wall and had a meltdown. Not that any of this was a huge surprise, JS says. "I've always known I won't live as long as the average Joe, but it's hard having it stuck in your face."


So he had a dream about his mom's house in Palo Alto. I was standing in the kitchen, evidently examining a frying pan (perhaps occupied with providing for my family?). Sam was there too, and JS described her in her later years, post-chemo: the short cropped hair, the bruising on her arms from IV needles, her weight, her post-chemo smell. JS has not seen or spoken to Sam in over 20 years, and hadn't seen any pics of her early chemo state.

I won't post the entire missive out of respect for JS' privacy, but the section that kicked me in the gut was this:

She crooked a finger at me and said, "Come here."

I followed her out the back door onto the porch. It was cold, and I could smell woodsmoke.

"I heard about this," she said, tapping my chest with a finger.

I stared at her for a moment, then said, "I don't want to die."

She shrugged and quirked her brow. "Neither did I, kiddo."

It was then in my dream that I started to cry, and Sam held me in her arms. I've never been there in the past, I assure you--but I could just tell it was *her*. I cried and cried, and she just held me...

After a while I felt empty, sort of cried-out.

"Better?" she asked.

"Yeah," I said. Then I looked at her. "You're dead."

"Yeah," she said. "And you still have no tact."


"It's okay. We all go sometime." She hugged me again. "Just make the best of the time you have."

"Okay," I said. I knew it was a dream but it felt different somehow. Once I knew it was a dream, I started waking up. "I think I'm waking up," I told her.

"Take care then. Tell Todd I love him."

Jason is a writer by trade, with a gifted imagination. However, he will be the first to disavow belief in the woo-woo side of things. He's not a believer in ghosts or the supernatural. His mind is like a scientist's dissection tray and scalpel. Sharp and inquisitive. We've never been particularly close. In high school, he was surviving and I was goofing off. We got reconnected through work in the adventure game biz, and, while there is a certain level of Old Paly Dog cameraderie, we're not on the daily (or even weekly or monthly) email/phonecall/whatever schedule. So I find his dream extremely interesting, just from a Jungian-Collective-Unconscious angle.

I thought it was a pretty amazing message, whether it came from Sam's persistent spirit out there somewhere, or from Jason's own intuitive subconscious mind.

And of course, as I was reading his email, David Bowie's cover of God Only Knows came up on my '80s playlist...

If you should ever leave me
My life would still go on, believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me?
God only knows what I’d be without you

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tears Are Not Enough

Yesterday marked 8 months since Sam left us. It just happened to be occupied by the end of a 3-month dating relationship with LA. There were some misunderstandings and a few hurt feelings, but it's mostly ironed out now, and we are going to remain friends, which is good. I value LA's presence in my life, and the light she brought into a very dark time. She's a great woman and deserves a guy who can fully reciprocate her feelings. Nothing but good reviews here.

I guess that, even though I was totally going to avoid the whole dating/relationship thing for a long time (look how well that worked out), I've gone and done the same exact thing a lot of my fellow bereaved do. They are so lonely for a taste of what they've lost, they get in over their heads (in whichever way you want to imagine), and before long, there is the gnashing of teeth and the wailing of broken hearts when the non-widda in the relationship gets inadvertently stomped on. It's not something I'm especially proud of, but I guess I've earned my Widda-Scouts Premature Relationship Merit Badge. My widda friend Lisa in Florida says I'm going to be a Widda Eagle Scout soon... or something. Huzzah.

I was listening to an old song by the Chameleons today. The title of today's blog entry actually comes from the original song title (it ended up just being shortened to Tears), and has to do with frontman/songwriter Mark's experience of losing a friend to cancer. Funny how it speaks to my relationship with Samantha. I'm missing her very acutely now.


It's just coincidence
Well you can talk that way
But I have to say
I don't believe in it
And with the chill of chance
I decided to dance the days away

And I wasn't worried at all
Sneaking through the backdoor
No I wasn't worried at all
Dreams are what you live for

Waiting for the light to turn green
Carry me home
To the kindest eyes that I've ever seen
Carry me home
Can you tell me how will it be now?
How will it be?

Well we were younger then
And the days were long and slow
But were we wiser then?
I couldn't say
I wouldn't know

But I wasn't worried at all
I had someone to run to
No I wasn't worried at all
I knew which way the wind blew

Kicking out the chaos and gloom
Carry me home
I'll watch the ceiling spin round the room
Carry me home
Can you tell me how will it be now?
How will it be?

In a cold world how will it be?
In the real world how will it be?
In a lonely world
How will it be?
Will the ghosts just stop!
Following me

Now drawn into the sun
He was the only one
He cries out to everyone
For his only son

From the window of my room now
I can see the colour blue now
You can't even look in my eyes now
What would you see?
If you could look into my eyes now
What would you see?
What would you see?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Quick disclaimer - the Narnia books are beloved far and wide by kids 8 and up. Therefore, I went into the theater with a lot of expectations and willing to let a lot of little things slide. Little things like some occasionally whacked-out acting by the actors in the kids' roles (especially Lucy). Like little blemishes in the effects (with Rhythm & Hues, ILM and WETA behind this project, it surprised me how many effects shots looked like ass).

That said, my kids absolutely LOVED it. Kayleigh actually said, in her ever-ebullient manner, "That was the best movie in the history of the world!" Granted, she is the target age for the book series, and I'm waiting a few more years before showing her Citizen Kane. Call me crazy, but she may not always feel that way.

I enjoyed the film immensely (all effects nitpicks aside). It was VERY faithful to the book, and where it does trim, it trims with love. The cast members were well picked for their resemblance to respective characters, and Liam Neeson I thought was a good choice for Aslan. Many would have opted for a real booming basso like James Earl "Mufasa" Jones or the like, but Neeson has a gentleness to his voice that is very appropriate here. The performances are "by the book" - that is to say, the acting is all very faithful to the novel and does not tread far from the page. No one really pushes the envelope (as I thought Viggo Mortensen did in Lord of the Rings). And that's just fine.

Let me just say the gryphons rock the house. They are the one element that really stands on equal footing with the best fantasy movie bits ever. Oh, and seeing Angus from Highlander in the role of Father Christmas was a nice geek moment. The beavers are cool (Ray Winstone & Dawn French are terrific in their voices). Mr. Tumnus the faun is cool. The wolves are ok. Wasn't really digging the White Witch's dwarf henchman, but Tilda Swinton was quite good in the WW role. Jim Broadbent (a BBC veteran of such comedy as Blackadder) was really charming as the professor. The centaurs are probably the weakest in terms of facial appliances - their makeup was not as well done as it could have (or should have) been. Production design was otherwise beautiful. Score was adequate, if uninspired. Cinematography was lovely. It is perhaps more fair and accurate to equate this film adaptation with the Harry Potter movies, in scope and execution. I've heard many comparisons with LotR, and it's really not even the same ballpark.

Bottom line, if you like the Narnia books and sparkly, fairy-tale fantasy, I recommend it. I wouldn't take a kid under 7 or 8, as there are some pretty intense moments. But it's a nice escape from the bustle of holiday shopping and will eventually go on my DVD shelf alongside LotR and Harry Potter.

Now let me vent about the two things that almost ruined the experience. The lesser of the two was the Star Jones wannabe Montel renegade in the track suit who, in the middle of the climactic scene, decided to get into a loud argument with the patrons around her. She finally did exit in a huff, telling everyone who shushed her, "y'all be trippin'!" I hate it when stereotypes come true.

The second and more irksome thing was that outside the theater were a handful of Christian fundamentalists passing out these cute little cards with some nice graphics from the film and C.S. Lewis - The Chronicles Collectible printed on them - as if to indicate some kind of official connection to the film. On the back, however, was a hardcore tract about how if you'd broken any of the Commandments, you were going to hell. Now, I understand that C.S. Lewis was Christian, and that The Chronicles of Narnia is a Christian analog. HOWEVER... it is also just plain classic fantasy literature, and shame on those hucksters for using it as a bully pulpit to scare children, a most un-Christian act. I'm sure Disney would love to know their film, for which they paid huge license fees to make, was being co-opted by some of the same zealots who urged a boycott of Disney due to their gay-friendly corporate culture. The hypocrisy here is simply astounding.

Fortunately, some of the more clear-thinking parents complained to the theater staff, and the hucksters were driven from the premises. Parents taking children to the film may want to be aware that this is going on, in case you don't want your preteen being threatened with eternal damnation before you actually have a chance to discuss theology with them.

Other than that, a pretty good day.

For the record, I was raised Presbyterian, briefly went to Catholic school, married a Pagan, and wound up with a Deist philosophy (like most of this country's founding fathers). I have nothing against a person's faith, unless it becomes invasive and used as a weapon against others. If more proponents of a given faith would actually live their lives by their own religion's doctrines, we wouldn't have nearly as much strife in the world. Thank God I'm a Deist. Amen. ;)

Another Easter Egg

God bless Craigslist! Less than 48 hours after listing the old piano and recliners, they were gone. After removing the recliner that had been in the front office by the printer table, I was cleaning and found an old SmartMedia card (the kind we use in the old digital camera). I popped it in the card reader and, lo and behold, 25 pictures taken on our trip to Indianapolis for GenCon 2003. Sam had undergone almost a year of constant chemo by the time this was taken, and remarkably enough, still had hair and a decent skin tone. Aside from extra water retention and some sinking of the eyes, it's hard to tell she's even sick. After this, the decline was more marked and steady.

Note the kids' excitement at being at GenCon. Wow.

Taking the kids to Narnia today. I've been looking forward to a really good film version since 1976, when Mr. Miles read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to our combined 2nd/3rd grade class at Rio Del Mar Elementary School.

In regard to the dream post and "rescuing" women, let me just recap:

1) it was a dream
2) as such, its insight is into MY psyche - it means nothing outside of that
3) the whole message behind that post was that I have no need or desire to "rescue" anyone
4) if you're gonna troll a blog, do someone else's
5) if you feel you have to troll mine, at least read the bloody post and make sure you understand it before you go making an idiot out of yourself
6) if you must make an idiot out of yourself, at least have the balls to sign a name

I'll post a review of the film later today.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Shoot Him Now! Shoot Him Now!

Apparently, according to the anonymous comment on the last entry, I'm being way too damn hard on myself. I disagree, in that I'm just out here on my board, surfing the waves of grief, (coming up on) 8 months without the woman I loved most in the world. And at the end of the month, one day shy of his wedding anniversary, 7 months without my dad. That's just a basic fact. Yeah, I feel badly that they're gone. I mourn for their passing, and for the forced change their absence makes in my life. I watch old video and feel like I'm watching someone else's life, because my life now is fundamentally different. And it fucking hurts.

But I don't feel like I beat myself up about it. I don't feel like I go particularly hard on myself. My dad and I were on GREAT terms when he died. And I gave Samantha the best transition a wife could hope for - if she had to go at all. There were no issues outstanding between my dad and me, nor were there any between Sam and me. Except for the fact that they were both way too young to die and it's not bloody fair. But that's MY feeling, because I am left here to pick up the pieces. They're doing just fine, wherever they are.

There's nothing I particularly want to do about it, except feel the feelings and address the issues now, so I don't have to rehash it in a shrink's office ten years down the road when my kids have disowned me and I'm on my third rebound marriage. I'm very clear on the whole not-stuffing-your-feelings-into-a-little-ball thing.

If anything, I'm overindulgent with myself. My whole existence has reverted to that of a selfish 16 year old - the universe revolves around ME and MY shit, my daily routine, my schedule. I easily slide into self-pity or emotional loner mode, neglect basic chores or errands, and become passive in relationships (or vanish altogether when it's too painful to face others). I engage in retail therapy when I really shouldn't (and guys don't buy shoes or a new outfit - we buy big-ticket electronics and computer hardware).

It is what it is. And as long as we have a warm meal together at night and the kids make it to school with clean clothes on and their hair occasionally brushed, it's all good.

There is a basic truth in all this grief: The only way out is through. And if I can make it through Christmas and New Year's Eve, then I will just have a few major anniversaries to worry about (Sam's birthday, Dad's birthday, Sam's death, Dad's death) then the first year will be done and after that the anniversaries hold less and less power over your emotional state.

And now for some less depressing - and gosh darn it, even uplifting - news. We put up the Christmas tree. Or rather, my stepmom helped the kids put up the tree while I was watching Thomas Jefferson and John Adams debate in Tukwila on Wednesday night. We decorated it last night, including ornaments from our first years of marriage, the kids' first ornaments, and the pair of little teddy bears we always tied at the top of the tree. Kayleigh is going to take Samantha's stocking with the unicorn on it. Tyler is sticking with the needlepoint one Sam made for him when he was a baby. There are already some gifts under the tree, and the living room is full of white kitchen trash bags filled with old clothes and toys for charity.

The other bit of good news is that I got behind a camera for the first time in years yesterday, and it felt really good. My friend David Choi, with whom I co-founded Next2Nothing Studios, contracted me to operate the DV cam at a Holland America corporate video shoot. David is one of the most generous people I've ever known, and simply the opportunity to frame a shot and say, "camera's rolling" was a blessing in my current circumstance. We met at the N2N studio in Ballard at about Noon, where Dave had matching N2N shirts for us - very pro. We went over the expectations of the shoot, the game plan, etc. This was a pivotal moment for Dave's operation, because he's a little fish and wants to swim with the sharks, so the more pro we looked, the better N2N looks in the eyes of the folks at HAL.

To sum up, we rocked the joint. Hauled the gear to HAL HQ close to downtown Seattle, set up in a big paneled conference room with a china cabinet and beautiful art deco cruise posters from Holland America's 130+ years in the biz. The CEO of Holland America came in at 2PM, Sheila did her makeup magic, Phil set lights, Jason rigged the audio, I pushed the little red button, and Dave directed. We did several takes with the guy reading from a big prompter board and just ad-libbing (which Dave definitely preferred). We were broken down and out of there by 3:15. And, more importantly, the folks at Holland America liked what we did.

It feels good to be back in the biz and making new connections again.

Gonna hang with Caleb, Ron and the kids tonight, eat pizza and watch movies. Tomorrow, I'm taking the kiddos to the Narnia film, and Sunday I'm supposed to go into Brian's studio to lay down more guide tracks for Sam's tribute CD project. Somewhere in there I have to fit a coffee date. And now, to the gym - this fat ain't gonna burn itself. And we're having pizza tonight, fer cryin' out loud!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

More Dreams

I've been having more dreams again. In them, Sam and I are sitting at a table in an ethereal, nondescript setting. I can't hear the specifics of what we're talking about, but I can hear her voice, and I'm pretty sure she's telling me something serious. I've been waking up feeling a bit more engaged in the world, which has been pretty good...

...until yesterday.

Something in the world switched off. Something shifted, and I feel precarious and on my guard again. Some of it might have to do with the dreams. Some of it may have to do with the fact that I gave Sam's old piano away to free up space. There may be a tinge of guilt there, even though it was falling apart, out of tune and totally impractical for us to hang onto - and we need space to put up our Christmas tree.

And then, last night, I had a very vivid dream that has me questioning everything today. I was in this big old house (totally unfamiliar to me), and there was a young woman with a baby (also totally unfamiliar), and I was helping her escape from an ogre of a man - not sure if it was a father or an abusive husband or what. We packed up her stuff (which really only amounted to the infant and the clothes on her back), and I got between the ogre and the woman. Then Sam rang the telephone to distract the guy (for some reason I knew it was her calling from beyond the Veil, to help us escape), and we ducked out the garage door to my car and drove away.

Holy shit. Is this how I see myself? Am I the rescuer of women? Am I the stand-up guy, the knight in shining fucking armor?? Is this a warning, or a premonition? And the most terrifying thing about the whole ordeal is that I didn't feel anything for the woman I was helping. I was only living up to some role, going through empty motions. Pardon all the profanity in this paragraph, but this scares the shit out of me. Especially since there are quite a few single mothers in my life (no offense to any who may be reading this). I have enough on my plate without "rescuing" someone else. I need to just slow down and get my head and my heart in sync. I understand that a lot of widowers date relatively early in the grief process, and many have written that in retrospect it was too early. And I'm getting a lot of stimulus right now, and am feeling a bit emotionally overwhelmed.

So I need to just focus on the moment and get through the holiday without Sam the best I can. I need to listen to less Flir and more Brian Setzer Christmas music. I need to build the new bookshelves in my studio, attend the Clay Jenkinson Thomas Jefferson event tonight and do a damn good corporate video shoot on Thursday. I need to get the chainlink dog run from Home Depot so Wiley doesn't have to be tethered or kenneled when we leave him home. I need to finish my Christmas shopping and generally do things that are motivated by legitimate feelings, and not just do things because I'm the kind of guy who SHOULD do them.

UPDATE: While cleaning the corner where the piano used to be, I found an old videotape of my son Tyler as a baby, including his first Christmas (with both families - including Samantha & my dad - in attendance). Sam was such a good mom. Seeing that, and what we had as a couple, as a family, breaks my heart now that it's gone. My dad was an awesome grandpa. So that was the straw that broke the camel's back, and suddenly I'm being smashed around by a great big grief wave. Happy Holidays.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Why David Whyte Rocks...

I went to see David Whyte speak at Benaroya Hall last night with my stepmom, two of her friends, my brother Gavin, and Caleb. Whyte had an Irish guitar & fiddle duo who opened each set of spoken word with the most beautiful Celtic music. If you don't know who David Whyte is, he's a celebrated Welsh/Irish poet who resides on Whidbey Island, WA. My father loved his work, as much of it has to do with reinvention of the self after terrible loss, or observing the dark in one's periphery as part of the nurturing whole, rather than something to be feared.

That's why I like his work too. Not just the subject matter, but the fact that it's just plain beautiful (and often painful) to read.

This comes from his book Everything is Waiting for You, and it speaks directly to my life with Samantha, and my life ahead without her:


At the end
things pass away
into a hard won perspective
The sepia photographs
of childhood
like twilight encounters
with eternity
and the youthful
laughter peeling
across a mountainside.

Standing close together
we make our vows
in front of others
with a backward
kind of courage
that everything
away no matter
how precious
the memory
and that
even in this
we recognize
the flourish
and the firm
signature of love.

Everything we ever
held in our hands
is given to another
or slips like sand
throught the gate
of our fingers
into something
which to begin with
we cannot recognize.
Everything we ever
held in our hands
is given away
in marriage to another
person or another world.

How could we know
the blessings
which illuminated our days?
The joy too strong to feel
until it was
no longer there to disturb us.

We find ourselves
always at last
ennobled by the encounter
the wedding vows
remembered at the end
and cherished now
like a live hand
holding a dead hand
loving everything it must let go.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Let it Snow!

That's right, first day of December, and we got snow in Seattle. How sweet is that? I mean, as long as you don't live on Queen Anne or Cap Hill, and can stay indoors most of the time...

That's what's nice about living where I do. It's a little slice of West Seattle that backs up to a state building and a green belt, with a large backyard and 1 block walking distance from all my basic necessities. We have a QFC, Rite Aid, Staples, Big 5, 24 Hour Fitness, Bed Bath & Beyond, Marshall's, Radio Shack, Pier 1, Sleep Country, Payless Shoes, Famous Footwear, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble (with a Starbucks), Hollywood Video/Game Crazy, Jamba Juice, Sub Shop, Laundromat (which I don't need), Thai restaurant, Teryaki restaurant, McDonald's, and a post office (among others). The only time I need to leave West Seattle for anything is to go to a first-run movie theater, and most of the time I can just walk down to Westwood shopping center to get what I need. This comes in handy on days like today, when I wanted to go work out. I just head down to the gym, do my thang, and get a nice warm down, walking home up the hill in the snow.

Getting my studio set up and am beginning the tutorials for some of the new software. Found a conflict with Vegas and my previous video capture unit. The Plextor ConvertX is USB. Vegas likes firewire. So firewire Vegas shall have. Better to trade up on a $150 vidcap unit than replace an $800 piece of software.

Watched Down With Love the other day. It was on our Netflix list before Sam died (that's how far behind I am). Loved the production design, the script, performances and direction - it was a nearly perfect homage to the Tony Randall/Rock Hudson/Doris Day wacky sex comedies from the early '60s.

Watched Shaun of the Dead with LA yesterday after a nice lunch at the Celtic Swell on Alki. She's a bit squeamish about the zombie/horror/slasher stuff, so I thought a comedy zombie horror film might be fun. Gawd, I love that film. She liked it too. At least she left with a smile on her face, but that may have been due to... something else entirely. As Stephen Colbert would say, "If you were here right now, I would totally high-five you, while winking."

Just watched Ali today. Very impressed with Will Smith in the title role. There were shots where I really had to do a double-take because he looked and sounded so much like Mohammed Ali. Unfortunately poor John Voight's brilliant performance as Howard Cosell was obscured by an atrocious makeup job. Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith and Mario Van Peebles also stood out in their respective roles. I think the film strayed in a few places, at times becoming more of a civil rights lecture than a biopic of one of the greatest boxers in history. The lengthy Malcolm X assassination sequence is one example. Don't get me wrong - I love Michael Mann as a director, and I can now detect his visual style from a mile off. But sometimes he can meander.

My buddy Conor from the theater group has been writing a ton of music recently, and when he read my last blog entry about going back to Palo Alto and feeling enpty, he started writing a song. While I was writing this, he pinged me in MSN Messenger and sent me some lyrics:

I've seen the sun set on our seasons of love
by returning to the place where our lives begun
face of young, turned worn and old
as the ghosts of our joys haunts my drive down the road

memories of your touch, the sensation of smell
the nights we spent lyin', thinkin' time could stand still
lost in this world, I found a home in your heart
'til reality struck and tore us apart

you fought flesh with faith
gave me strength in your weakend state
then judgement was passed, as the sand fell fast,
your grace remained 'til the air we shared was your last

Conor says he can't take credit for it, as it was my experience that inspired the song. I say that is what a true artist does - he acts as a lens for the rest of society, translating the real into the surreal or the hyperreal or the fictional. Hats off to you, Conor. You took my feelings and wrote the song that was too painful for me to write. You are my champion-by-proxy. Thank you.