Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Drove the whole West Seattle clan out to Shilshole last night for a birthday celebration on board Volant. We had a favorite meal of my dad's: lemon chicken, mashed potatoes, brocolli, caesar salad and olive bread. Music alternated between John Denver and Pavarotti - surreal, yes, but he was that ecclectic. We crowded eight of us around that settee below, chowed down and told stories about my dad (aka Grampa Bear to the kids). Dessert took the form of a lemon sheet cake with this lemon sauce that dad used to tease the kids with, telling them it was made from banana slugs.
Had some trouble with Tyler at bedtime. He's trying that boundary push again, just making sure I'm paying attention. You better believe I am, but I really don't need the added stress of preteen rebellion. Sigh. This too shall pass.
Crawled into bed and had a dream...
I entered a hospital-ish room, but I could tell this was more homey, like a rehab facility or something. And sitting up in bed, smiling and healthy, was Samantha. She had her long dark hair and a nice red tint to her skin. It had been a long time since she hadn't looked gaunt and gray. I was astonished. I sat on the edge of her bed and she reached out and held my hand.
"They're not finding any cancer anymore," she said. "They're going to do a full scan tomorrow, but all the blood work has come back negative. I think it's gone."
I looked at her seriously, caught in the turmoil of being ready to continue my life and yet being faced with my soulmate, my partner of twenty years - back in the flesh. "Honey, you were dead. I held you as you died. I thought I'd never see you again."
Her hazel eyes sparkled with tears. She squeezed my hand earnestly. "I know. I know. And I was, technically. But it was all a lesson I had to learn. This was all something we had to learn."
We were cut off in mid-conversation by a stray cell signal buzzing my laptop speakers as they occasionally do. I awoke. It was 6:15AM. I tried to go back to sleep and continue the conversation, but to no avail. Perhaps we can continue later...
This is the first really clear conversational dream I've had of Sam. And the most clear in terms of setting (with the exception of the scary eyes opening dream, which was entirely too realistic). So much of this past few years (and this last one in particular) has been about being pushed along, out of my comfort zone, to grow and change - even though such growth hurts like hell. I still haven't sorted out what everything means (at least in terms of my own intuition), but I'm working on it.
Back to the gym today - finally...
Monday, February 27, 2006
We did the usual suburban family things. Dinner parties, camping trips, BBQs. I watched Monday Night Football with my dad on a little black & white TV set in his den. We did the YMCA Indian Guides and Cub Scouts together. We went sailing on Lake Vasona in San Jose. When our family built a house in the Aptos hills, he let me help nail the outside stairs and deck planks, and never took me to task for getting it wrong - just showed me the proper way to do it.
My dad ran along behind my first bike, only letting go when I was completely under my own power, letting me fall upon occasion (because that's how we learn), and always there to help me up and try again. He went to my soccer games, my basketball games and the occasional field trip. I used to ride on his shoulders a lot. When he was the age I am now, he was 6'4", like me - it was the best view a boy could want.
I was 11 when my dad left his marriage. The next year was painful, as we rarely saw him. I tried hard to fill that void in my house, becoming my mom's chief of staff as she went to work to support three children on a shoestring budget. It was hard to do without my dad that year, but we talked about it in depth later, and I understand why it would have been hard to be in contact - not to say it's okay, because it most certainly wasn't - but I understand.
When he re-entered my life, it was as if he'd never left. We just picked up where we left off. We got NAUI certified together and went diving off Monterey. He took me to rated R movies, much to my mother's chagrin. When he married the woman who would become our stepmom, my brother and sister and I were all part of the ceremony. When we moved to Palo Alto in 1984, not only was it the right move for a 16 year old boy who was stagnating in Santa Cruz, but it facilitated meeting a certain hazel-eyed actress in drama class.
My dad and I didn't always get along. There were periods of angst and strife and family drama, but when I came into my twenties, we did a lot of sorting it through. We stood united against the generations-old dysfunction and abuse in our family. He owned his own computer consulting company and retired early to follow his dream of living aboard a sailboat and cruising different parts of the world. He was an example of success on the most personal level, an example I've always tried to follow.
He was a loving dad. He was a loving grandfather. He would have turned 62 today.
I miss you, pop. Fair winds.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Interesting that so many have mentioned luck as a factor. What bad luck. They've had a run of bad luck. That would indicate the presence of randomness in all of this, but that doesn't explain the timing of it all. Was Sam's diagnosis just bad luck? Was it mere chance that something funky on the kidney scan made our doctor ask for a full torso CT? And my father's diagnosis just two months after that? Okay, maybe. Was Sam's death just before spring break 2005 just random, so that the kids had time away from school to be close to family? Perhaps. What about my dad dying just 6 weeks later, on Memorial Day, after a VERY rapid 2-week decline? And not directly from the cancer, but of a pulmonary embolism in the hospital? Was that random, or was he supposed to go with Sam for some higher purpose? Were those left behind supposed to learn something from the odd set of circumstances?
People die all the time. I suppose just by playing the odds you could come up with two people related by marriage dying within 1 clendar month of two unrelated, non-hereditary, rare cancers. But I'd bet those odds are astounding.
Okay, so we're reeling from having these two people ripped from our lives, and starting to get back into a semblance of normalcy and life. But wait - Christmas Eve wouldn't be complete without a little sewage in our bedrooms. Okay, sewer mains back up, I understand that. Sometimes people get flooded. On Christmas Eve (when we have winter break to deal with it). Fine. I suppose that could be random by itself too. But to lose the rest of the house in a fire on Valentine's Day (just before the President's Day/midwinter break), in combination with EVERYTHING that's happened in the last year... well, that's just a little bizarre. It smacks of fate or plan or whatever you want to call it. In my opinion (speaking from the eye of the huricane), we're meant to be changed by all of this - my kids and I are being set on a different path. I was beginning to make strides in my own life toward releasing the "couple" part of me, toward making "our" home into "my" home. But whatever forces are at work (be it a collective intelligence, my own higher consciousness or a gentle janitor played by Morgan Freeman - see Bruce Almighty), it is clear to me that we were not meant to remain in that home. That home was something that Samantha and I created with our kids. And that part of our lives is over. We have no choice but to move forward.
Bad luck? I don't think so. I think people make their own luck. And in the midst of everything terrible we are dealing with, there are bits and pieces of really good luck to be found: friends and family who drop everything to run to our aid; a school PTA which organizes food delivery so we don't have to worry about cooking every night; a vacant rental house right across the freakin' street; the firefighters who thought our situation warranted some special attention; a massive campaign by friends around the world to get us on Extreme Makeover...
Whatever lessons are to be learned in all of this are being learned. Outside of those larger lessons, we nurture relationships and try to attract positive things into our lives. Even though my kids have had their world turned upside down, they smile and hug me and know in their hearts that the universe is ultimately in balance and things will work out. Maybe that's pig-headedness, or maybe it's faith in an ordered universe. Regardless, I think it goes beyond a roll of the dice on some cosmic scale.
We are where we are for a reason, and are becoming the people we need to become. Luck... mmm, yeah, not so much.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Representative Jim McDermott was there tonight. Former Seattle mayor Norm Rice and family were in attendance on Wednesday night when I made the booth dedication to Sam. Mary Springer delivered a really beautiful introduction to Sam, and turned things over to me. The name plates are not the typical brass or plastic strips with a name on them, but rather large pieces of slate from the former school's own vintage blackboards, etched with the name of the donor or contributor. Sam was on a DNDA subcommittee, and really contributed more to the whole process than I ever imagined.
My video camera and stuff came on Thursday. As you might recall, I'd ordered the stuff the day before the fire, and because it had to be shipped out from NY, it was not a fire casualty. I cracked the manual today and filled out the product reg stuff. Can't wait to try it out.
It was good to see friends and note the very packed facility. But I'm all done with sensory overload now - took my melatonin and I'm gonna hit the sack. For those of you who have seen The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, "I SLEEP NOW."
P.S. My brother and SIL rock. Thanks G&M. For all your help.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Two of the three adjusters I have working on my claim through Allstate came out to the house to walk around, take pictures and poke and prod. I'm sick of the smell of wood smoke, soot and burned plastic.
There is obviously a lot going on right now and will be for some time, but I wanted to mention a few positive things that are keeping me going...
- RestorX says it looks like they will be able to salvage some of the data on the hard drives they yanked from the office computers and laptop. Holding breath.
- RestorX says my Ovation guitar (the 22nd birthday gift from Sam) was in a hard shell case and is being sent to a stringed instrument shop to be detailed, but it seems to have survived okay.
- We have beds to sleep on.
- I am still out of pocket for my replacement computer, printer and dress suit (which I purchased for Jordan's wedding 2 weeks ago and the dedication for Sam tonight, and which was hanging by the front door and vaporized in the fire), but at least I have them, and can make the presentation tonight.
- A reporter from the Seattle PI called and talked to me this afternoon, so there is going to be more press. This part always makes me uncomfortable - I'm no stranger to hype for creative endeavors, but this is not exactly how anyone wants to become a celebrity.
- Tomorrow, the Seattle Fire Department is presenting the kids and me with a Fred Meyer gift certificate (more clothes for the kids - school starts back up next week). The reporter will be there, and there will be a photo op.
- My buddy David Choi came down to the house on Sunday and shot a walkthrough for the Extreme Makeover folks.
- David Beach, my oldest friend on the planet with whom I'm still in contact, wrote perhaps the most beautiful tribute to me on his blog. Thanks Dave. It makes a huge difference in my psychological outlook.
I hope I don’t sound trite when I say that theatre was in Sam’s blood. We met in a high school drama class, later discovering we’d both worked tech on the same production of Romeo & Juliet at the Palo Alto Children’s Theater two years previous. And although we were both film majors in college and dabbled in music, we never wandered far from the stage.
In the twenty-plus years we shared, Samantha honed her craft, whether on the stage, backstage or in the booth. In productions at the Haymarket Theatre, The New Varsity, Palo Alto Children’s Theater, Foothill College, San Francisco State, LACT, ArtsWest, Theater Schmeater, and with Wingspread and Twelfth Night, she proved to be a tireless talent, a driving organizational force and a consummate professional.
Samantha was drawn to the Twelfth Night mission of building community through the arts. It was this sense of community that enticed us to settle in West Seattle, to become merchants, to raise a family. It is this community which sustained us through Sam’s cancer diagnosis in 2002, her three-year fight against the disease, and her passing last year, just one month before my father lost his own battle with cancer. It is this community which reaches out even now, as my children and I meet continued challenges and create new lives for ourselves.
Although exhausted from constant chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Samantha was able to tread the boards one final time, as Mrs. Peterson in the Twelfth Night production of Bye Bye Birdie, sharing the stage with her husband and daughter – a girl of eight who is already charting a future in the arts. In productions to come, Kayleigh will be able to see her mother’s name on this booth, and be reminded not only of her mother’s talent, but her contribution to the Seattle theatre community, including her expertise in the design of the control booth at this facility.
I am honored to continue Samantha’s legacy of involvement with the Seattle arts community, and to dedicate this control booth in honor of my Juliet, Samantha Downing.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Sunday David Choi came down with his DV cam and shot the walkthrough and interviews for the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition submission. There was actually a moment where I found a melted picture frame containing a portrait of my dad just weeks before his death, and later a Polaroid of Kayleigh as a toddler. If we get on the show and you see any misty eyed looks from me in the walkthrough, it's real.
I got my girls from Gilda's club to back me up today. Sharon (who lost her brother to stomach cancer the same weekend Sam died) got on the phone and sorted out my utilities, phone etc. Gavin already handled the cable - we'll have broadband sometime Wednesday. I filed a claim on my primary home insurance so I have an advocate who can get me reimbursed and go after the responsible parties instead of me doing the legwork and the waiting. At the adjuster's behest, Jeanne (a widower from my Gilda's bereavement group) and I went down to CORT furniture rentals and ordered a house full of furniture for the 6 months we'll be living across the street from our former house.
Meanwhile, Pathfinder School has organized parents into a daily food brigade. It's amazing how just wrestling verbally with bureaucrats over the phone all day can exhaust you to the point of forgetting to cook dinner.
Bottom line, we're being taken care of, by the community and our friends and family. The utility companies are treating us well and it looks like we'll have furniture and a new work machine for me by the end of the week. People are writing to ABC on our behalf to get us on Extreme Makeover. Still others are putting money in my PayPal account to cover the inevitable shortfalls of the insurance companies. So far, my insurance has said all the right things - but until I am depositing that final settlement into my bank account, I'm staying on my guard. It's tiring, but I fell like I've been savaged by rabid mutant crocodiles right about now, and my defenses are on full alert.
Again, my thanks to everyone for everything you've done and are now doing. And we don't currently need any more milk. :)
OK - more sleep and then back to the pile of rubble to identify the pieces of our lives tomorrow. And Wednesday I get to make the lighting booth dedication to Sam.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
This place is smaller, but it's clean and it's right across the street from my house. The kids can go to their same bus stop and I can oversee the reconstruction, collect my mail and try to pick up my business again.
I will just make this observation: the insurance companies are being slow behemoths and balking at reimbursement at every turn; in contrast, RestorX is being pretty darn stand-up so far, taking the initiative to make sure we're covered for stuff quickly. I will reserve the right to yank that praise if and when it ceases to be true, but so far they've been pretty good.
We had a bunch of friends and family converge to help move what little we have into the new space, and to acquire what we needed. Members of my Gilda's group came through with legwork and a few amenities (like a TV set and DVD player, etc).
And let me just give a shout out to all the folks on Widownet and YWBB who have crowded my email inbox with PayPal donations. I'm floored. Seriously stunned at the overwhelming show of support. I didn't even ask, yet here it is. You people are seriously the best. I wish I had the time and energy to reply to each person right now... eventually I will, but I'm just worn to the bone right now.
Thank you everyone for your support and prayers. I'll update when I can.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
On Tuesday afternoon, the subcontractors who had been hired by RestorX to decontaminate and clean my furnace (as the last part of the sewage flood cleanup before reconstruction could begin) accidentally ignited a piece of foam that was used in the cleanup process within the ductwork. When the exchange kicked in, it turned my oil furnace and the ducts into a giant blowtorch. I grabbed my daughter's guinea pig cage (with James Brown inside), let Wiley out the front and left the back open for Punky. I called 911 as the furnace guys tried their best to stop the flames. But the thick black smoke was too much, and I sat on the front lawn and stared in wonder as my house burned.
The house that Sam and I bought as a young couple with a toddler, back when I was working as a concept artist in the videogame industry. Our first home. The only home Tyler can remember. The only home Kayleigh has ever known. The home Sam died in.
The kids were at school, so they had to be told. Why, in the name of an ordered universe, must my children have to withstand yet ANOTHER horror? I don't care about being kicked around - I've been a rock all my life. But leave my kids alone, damnit.
We'd just been replacing some of the stuff we'd lost in the flood. Now we have to replace the replacements.
All the stuff we'd saved the night of the flood had been stacked upstairs. Poof.
The new TV, the new leather couches that were my attempt to create a stable home out of what chaos my life had become in the last year. We enjoyed them for 5 days. All the new studio equipment, the work computers (jury is out on salvaging hard drives - the laptop drive may be saved, thank you Dell). Photo albums, CD & DVD archives. Our film collection, our music collection, our original music master tapes and digital archives. Our business - from tax records to content. 1 of a kind artwork by friends and by me. The huge forest painting I did for Sam's 26th birthday. The Ovation guitar she gave me for my 22nd. 20 years of our life together, and family history dating back generations.
Just stuff, sure. But HISTORY. It ain't the Library of Alexandria, but it may as well be to me, to my kids.
The contractor and fire inspectors agreed - it's back to bare external studs and rebuild from scratch. At least 5 months. The house across the street is a rental and the insurance companies are trying to get us in there on a 6 month lease. It would be the ideal annex for the rebuild operation.
The wagons are again being circled, and the community is pulling together. How sick I am of having to be the object and beneficiary of that community once again. Not that I'm ungrateful - I am blessed beyond imagination to have an incredible network of friends, family and community (both local and international). I just don't want to NEED help again. I've been needy enough this past year. Still, when this stuff gets put on you, how else can you possibly stand up without the help of others? The lyric from Nada Surf's "Do it Again" say it perfectly:
Maybe this weight was a gift
Like I had to see what I could lift
Honestly, this is shock talking. I'm not as rational on the inside. The inside is crouched screaming maniacally inside an old steamer trunk. I know the folks who read this blog care for my family and for me. At this point our basic needs are being addressed, but if someone reading this wants to help in some way, they should probably communicate with my brother, since my access will be spotty until further notice.
If any of you guys have an "in" with admin, can you please find out when they expect to send the locusts?
I'M KIDDING. DO NOT SEND LOCUSTS.
OK... back to racking up my cell minutes sorting out my life from this moment forward. Take care - I hope to post again soon...
More pics here. Thanks Gavin. BTW, the dead gray cat is Punky. She used to be white.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Yesterday was so good, I didn't even care that the court in North Bend, OR decided to uphold my alleged speeding ticket from back over Thanksgiving. Ehhhh. So what? I'm finally on the road to getting my house back! Many smileys.
Also watched Hurlyburly after the kids went to bed, which I will review on Manic Lobster later.
Today is crazy busy. Because of the cool stuff happening, I totally spaced on getting Tyler's prescription refilled. It will be a late-to-school day, as we must wait for the pharmacy to open and then wait for the prescription to be filled. But that's also OK, because Kayleigh needs to bring some Sprite to her in-class Valentine party, and we don't keep soda pop in the house. So, to RiteAid we go, and then home for me to rehearse a project with Conor, a project which will be shot with the new camera. Sorry, couldn't resist putting it in there a second time.
That means the gym will have to wait until later this afternoon, but then maybe Caleb can join me. Working out is better with a partner to keep your head in the game.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
She was proud of every new smile crease and wrinkle, ecstatic when she found her first gray hair - it mean she had achieved age, and she equated that with wisdom and character. In her case, I'd mostly agree (at least the character part - ;) ).
But after her cancer diagnosis at age 35, those birthdays meant something else entirely. It was an even more profound milestone, because cancers of her kind usually killed within 6 months, and by the time she hit 38, she'd outlasted those odds by about two years.
After that last birthday, "mile marker thirty-eight" as Caleb wrote in his poem, it was over. The doctors gave up, and I think she gave up on herself. Although she acted tough and resolute, I could tell that she'd lost the battle in her mind... it would only be a matter of time. Infections and surgeries and hospitalizations didn't help either. Starting in March, she began to shut down.
Today I woke up missing her. Did some writing and production prep. Focused on mundane tasks and kids. Got a very nice phone check-in from Sam's brother, feeling a similar melancholy vibe. Then I sent the kids off to a friend's house to play, and went to Brian Chase's studio with Caleb and Muriel to work on the tribute CD. The Divine Mizz M. trooped through the vocals for FOUR entire songs, including overdubs and harmonies that had never been rehearsed. And she put them ALL in the can in three hours. I'm in awe of Muriel - the vocals do not in any way sound like Sam's, but the point is that they are not like her, they are for her.
And finally Caleb took the mic and recited Mile Marker Thirty-Eight, at the end of Sometimes, the end lyrics of which still haunt me...
But knowing I am here
Away from what I love
Lets my heart know
We have somewhere to go
Leaving all behind
The places and the time
When I'm with you
Stopped at the store on the way home and picked up dinner and a small chocolate cake. When the kids get back, we'll have a little birthday celebration for mommy.
Happy Birthday, honey. I miss you.
UPDATE: We had some dinner and each lit a candle for the cake, then we sang happy birthday. Then I happened to see a photo (this one, of her kissing me at my 21st birthday in 1989) and it all imploded. Major wave. Crash.
Now all I want to do is get drunk... but I don't think depressants are a good idea right now.
I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it until it ceases to be true: This sucks.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Of course, I was intrigued, and went online to check it out. Sure enough, he has all of the habits and personality of purebreed Basenjis and Basenji/shepherd mixes, as well as the gait, facial features, build and bizarre "yodeling" vocalizations.
In a way, it's kind of a relief - I mean, there was a certain "cool factor" telling people Wiley was a coydog, but there were plenty of people who would give us an apprehensive sidelong glance when they heard the "coyote" part of "coydog". The Basenji is an African guard/hunting breed utilized in Egypt long ago (and will no doubt have some jackal in their lineage). They are really smart on their own, but mix them with the German shepherd and you get a canine Mensa candidate who will tie your shoelaces together when you're not looking.
I appreciate the comments of support I get, both on the blog and in email. But if you want to comment about another blog I link to, please don't post it here. There's no need to get catty about someone else and create yet more internet drama. As Brad said in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, "Read it. Learn it. Live it."
And speaking of Fast Times, here's an amusing short on iFilm for all you comic book geeks...
Monday, February 06, 2006
Finished my dedication remarks for the light booth at Youngstown on the 22nd. Planning to go into the studio again on Sam's birthday with our vocalist to put down some tracks on the tribute CD. It's coming along. Slowly, yes, but I'm happy we're making some progress.
Dating schedule is full, which is a bit odd (just because I've never "played the field" before), but satisfactory. Meeting some great women and making new friendships - no pressure to jump into anything substantial at this point.
Non-dating social calendar has also been pretty full. Helped Darlene out with her Year of the Dog Chinese New Year party on Friday, complete with trivia, bingo, picture matching, scattergories and dog stories. It might be the year of the dog, but the night belonged to the Monkey/Dragon/Rat team. In actuality there were 2 monkeys and a dragon, and no rats. So my monkey-led ace fighter squadron dominated early, and ended up taking the exquisite trophy at the end of the night. One of my teammates (the dragon) was Heath Ward of the Zero Film collective, and I daresay we hit it off quite well. I was already a fan of his film The Winter of Her, and we had a lot of shop to talk. I hope to work with him someday.
Saturday was my friend Jordan's wedding to his girlfriend Mali, and it was a nice event with just about every alt cultural scene represented. Unfortunately my goth gear was at the clean--er, I mean the morgue, so I was one of just a handful of "norms". Ron looked very Bondian in his black tux, and stuck out like a sore thumb among a very colorful and diverse wedding party. It was good to see some friends I'd not seen in awhile, and I found going to the restroom conveniently during the garter toss was very telling. Hmmmm.
Sunday was a coffee date with a nice gal from the old neighborhood (Palo Alto, CA), and then Superbowl XL, which as anyone with a TV set knows by now has become a very controversial topic. Lest anyone think the yelling is a case of sour grapes, I think Seattle is a very level-headed, realistic and gracious community, and would not begrudge the Steelers a win if they'd actually won it by playing better, as opposed to having it handed to them by official calls that were questionable at best. Pittsburgh did have a few amazing plays, but Seattle played rings around them in terms of most of the stats. The 11 point spread in the final score is ironically the number of points denied Seattle and/or given to Pittsburgh under dubious circumstances. And I have to say, when the commentators start scratching their heads and questioning calls repeatedly, that's a sign of bad officiating. Either corrupt or incompetent, take your choice - the result is the same. I'm sure this game will be debated for a long time to come. There is a huge fan outcry (including Steelers fans who wanted a legitimate win and are embarrassed by the result), but to their credit, the Hawks came home with heads high - deservedly so. It'll be interesting to see if there is any inquest by the NFL, or perhaps they have gone the way of baseball in the 1920s or boxing in the 1950s.
So enough football. I'm not even a huge Hawks fan. I'm old skool Raiders, baby. But as a Seattleite, I'm happy to root for my home teams, especially when they play a great season.
Now I'm just cracking the whip on the house reconstruction, and hopefully seeing some progress soon. Queuing up the financial stuff for the accountant - boy, tax time will be a real joy this year... bleh. Looking forward to my coffee date on Friday, and life goes on.