Tuesday, May 30, 2006

One Year for Dad

One year ago today, I called my father at the UW Medical Center to inform him we'd just adopted Wiley. I thought that such news might help cheer him up a bit after three brain surgeries. He wasn't able to verbalize much, but communicated his feelings of approval with his sobbing, which, as his wife confirmed, was due to joy, not sorrow. He knew how much we'd wanted a dog when Sam was alive, but we'd decided against bringing a canine into the house when she was sick; it wouldn't have been a good situation. Dad knew with a dog around, we'd be well looked after.

My dad and stepmom played cards that day. Kit finally left to go back to the boat and get some sleep. After she left, I got a call from the hospital - my father had suffered a pulmonary embolism and was going fast. I knew where this was headed. I started calling everyone in my family. Finally, I got the frantic call back from Kit at the boat. My father was dead.

He'd been diagnosed about three months after Samantha, with a rare form of leiomyosarcoma (LMS). It had started in a nerve bundle in his calf, and appeared to be gone upon surgical removal. But months later, it showed up in his lungs. Again, they cut into him, cracking his chest and removing a portion of both lungs. Again, it seemed to be holding back, then it metastasized to his skin. Then, just after Sam's death, he began getting bad headaches. A scan revealed the cancer was in his brain... in two places. Two surgeries appeared to get the tumors, but the second surgery gave him a bacterial infection and blood clot, and he had to have a third emergency surgery to remove the clot and treat the infection. He'd been in the ICU for several days, and had just been moved into the standard oncology ward when he died.

My dad was my hero when I was a kid. He had ample opportunity to repeat the patterns of abuse directed at him throughout his childhood, yet he did not. He survived the loss of a child and later, a marriage, and came out a better human being. He was a kind and gentle man, a traveller, author, philosopher, entrepreneur. He was a talented computer programmer and a passionate yachtsman. He was a loving father and husband and a devoted grandfather. He embodied the Roman motto carpe diem, "seize the day", in his early retirement to a liveaboard cruising life in Florida, his sail cruises with Kit up the Eastern Seaboard, across the Caribbean and South America. Thank God he seized the day and did that - your normal healthy 62 year-old would usually still be working that day job. He inspires me even now to excellence in my own vocation, and in my fathering skills. When Samantha was sick, he was the lynchpin of my support system, despite his own condition.

He made the world better by being in it. His wife will miss him, his siblings will miss him. The grandchildren will miss Grampa Bear. And, Pop - I will always miss you too. Fair winds and following seas, Captain. We will meet again where the setting sun meets the vast and open sea. And there will be drinking of Chivas and telling of dirty jokes.

Until then...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Gee, THAT'S a Surprise...

You scored as Cyclops. Cyclops is the team leader of the X-Men, and a skilled one at that. He loves Jean Grey very much. He's a strict and sometimes uptight leader, but he believes in his cause and he knows what he's fighting for... Peace between Mutants and Humans. Powers: Optic blasts









Jean Grey










Emma Frost




Most Comprehensive X-Men Personality Quiz 2.0
created with QuizFarm.com

...which brings me to X-Men: The Last Stand. First off, I will say that it was not of the "unwatchably bad" variety, but that was mostly due to the cast being packed with really good actors. Really good acting, however, can't save a weak script, lame direction ("Bryan Singer's not available? Then let's get the guy who did the Rush Hour movies!"), or unnecessary character murder. The alterations to canon characters and continuity will leave most X-fans less than enthusiastic (and that can look like anything from rabid frothing-at-the-mouth to head-scratching and mutting, "But... but... WHY??").

I understand that changes must sometimes be made in translating comic book characters to the big screen, but it HAS been done successfully in the past, without sacrificing the core ethos of the title in question. Singer's first two X-films were, with a few notable exceptions, fairly loyal to the characters, if not the continuity as a whole. They had heart, and were well executed and entertaining. Fox claims this is the final X-film they will tackle. I say, if this is the way they are going to treat Marvel's most popular comic title, thank God.

So here's my list of good & bad - it's VERY geeky, and your mileage may vary. !!SPOILER ALERT!!


  • Kelsey Grammer as The Beast. Perfect visual representation and a great performance.
  • Visual representation of Angel was, I felt, spot-on.
  • The Danger Room, Sentinels and the Colossus/Wolverine "fastball" were all represented.
  • Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are always awesome, especially playing off one another.
  • Magneto's "detour" of the Golden Gate Bridge is a great sequence.
  • Liked the representation of Juggernaut, despite a continuity issue (see BAD).
  • Kitty Pryde, one of my faves from the Claremont/Smith days, has a lot more to do in this film, and is well represented visually.
  • Jean Grey's transformation toward what in the comic would be her Dark Phoenix form I felt was pretty impressive and well done.


  • The X-Men represent a multi-ethnic, multicultural melding of ethics and ideas. Why was Colossus made American?
  • Why remove the Kitty's love interest in Colossus and give it to Iceman?
  • Where was Nightcrawler?
  • Rogue does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, and punks out by taking the cure. WTF??
  • Magneto walks away from Mystique after she takes the shot meant for him, and loses her powers. The Magneto we know would not have abandoned such a loyal comrade - he would have tried to find a way to re-cure her and get her mutant abilities back.
  • Juggernaut is NOT A MUTANT.
  • Since when does Callisto have super-speed/time-phasing ability?
  • Did Hugh Jackman actually grow another couple inches in height, or did he lose weight? Wolverine is in the mid 5-foot range and built like a tank. Although Jackman had sort of grown on me in his Wolvie portrayal in the first 2 films, this was the least convincing Wolvie yet. Tall, slender and hardly any chops. They need to look much more like The Beast's whiskers. Sorry Hugh - most of it was the script and makeup, not you.
  • I'm not against the occasional loss of a major character in an epic continuity. It increases tension and keeps interest, and usually serves as a catalyst toward some major plot twist or action. But to kill a main character OFFSCREEN?? I was going to invoke the script yet again, but IMDB doesn't even have a listed credit for whoever wrote the damn thing. Ugh. Come to think of it, a lot of folks just get punked in the film - mostly by neutering of character.

Anyway, don't spend the money for a nighttime show. Stick with a matinee or wait for DVD.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Mood Swings and Birthday Cake

The past week has been chock full o' family dynamic goodness. Well, some of it not so good. Tyler's birthday culminated with him throwing a major tantrum, barricading himself in the kids' shared bedroom. He'll be paying for the door out of his allowance. We had a good counseling session with Tyler's therapist, and Tyler seem to be rebounding well. I think the arrival of summer break - and all the attendant activities - will be a much needed break for him (although not for me), and the switch to a new school will be a positive step.

There was a fire at school, allegedly caused by the same kid who had been picking on Tyler earlier in the school year, saying that he didn't believe Samantha was really dead - that she was just hiding from the family. Needless to say, this kid (whose parents are not in the picture at all - he's being raised by his grandmother) has a lot of personal issues. According to the report from Tyler, the kid was expelled.

The kids' school is one of a dozen on the chopping block this time, at least three of the dozen are in West Seattle, which seems a bit disproportionate, but I don't have any of the enrollment data at hand. According to the current plan, the school facility would be closed, but the program would be relocated. As long as Kayleigh can stay in that curriculum, I'll be happy.

We headed up to Bellingham last Sunday for our usual May birthdays celebration. Because five of us have May birthdays and more than half of them are up north, it makes sense to just gather all at once, rather than making a bunch of trips (or none at all). I was tired from the start. Although Tyler likes to ride shotgun, he usually just plays his Gameboy - not much for conversation. So of course I start wishing Sam was there to keep me company for the trip. Once there, I was OK until we ate. Then I had to go outside and have a grief attack. Kept feeling like there were two other people who should've been there. Got home and slept for 2 hours.

I can feel the mood pendulum swinging over to the depressed side, and for once I'm not trying to stop it. We're coming up on the one year marker of my dad's death. I still remember very clearly how he had everything all tidied up and in order regarding his estate. I think he knew on a subconscious level what was going on, and he wanted us to be cared for. I remember how, after his first brain surgery, he insisted on attending Tyler's birthday dinner. I think he knew that would likely be the last birthday dinner he would share with his grandson.

I miss my dad... and my wife. The craving is not as bad. Now it's more just feeling pissed off that they're not around.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Happy Birthday, Tyler!

So it didn't start particularly well; I woke him with a gentle "Happy Birthday, Tyler," and a big hug. Then he insisted that because it was his birthday that he shouldn't have to go to school. Wrong. Then he laid in bed until the very last minute, and insisted he should be allowed to wear the filthy sweats he's had on all week. Wrong again. Then he fought me getting dressed, fought me out the door and down the street to the bus stop. He fought me at the bus stop, and I literally had to drag him onto the bus. That's what real ADHD does to a 12 year old kid (and yes, he'd had his meds at wake-up, as usual). As a single parent, I choose my battles. Unfortunately, there are times when Tyler chooses some battles that put us at complete odds. All sense of rational thought goes out the window and this hyperintelligent kid reverts to a three-year-old having a tantrum. It used to scare me, because in these instances you wouldn't recognize him - it's a complete Jeckyll and Hyde. But now I just take a deep breath and guide him through the motions. It sucks that he had to get his videogame priviledges taken away on his birthday, especially since they have early dismissal from school today. Kayleigh smiled and waved from the bus. Tyler made a big production of looking at me and then dramatically turning away from the bus window. Hopefully he'll mellow out today.

Had a meeting at the house with the contractors, now that the preliminary demo work has been done. There was a lot more smoke and fire damage than we'd thought, and some of the framing will have to be torn out. There are some code issues that will have to be addressed as well, as the original house is 80 years old. Hopefully it'll end up a better, more liveable space. I have confidence in these guys.

I'll have some more pics later. Off for my LMP appointment, then we go to dinner at Tyler's choice of restaurant - Red Robin, here we come.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Dad Does Hair

With all this positive reinforcement for moms, let's also give a round of applause for those single dads who do their daughters' hair and get their costumes assembled in time for dance class pictures. In our case, two classes = two complete costume & hair days in one week. Good thing I have had 1) a modicum of theatrical experience and 2) past experience as an owner of long hair. Kayleigh looks like the spawn of an 1880s saloon dancer and a 1920s flapper, which is perfect for the theme of the recital this year, Viva Las Vegas. It's a much better costume than last year.

The kids made me Mother's Day cards, which I told them they didn't have to do. But I still appreciate the sentiment. Kayleigh's came on green construction paper, with a beautiful pipe-cleaner & tissue paper flower taped to it. Scrawled in big letters (in Sharpie) is: HAPPY MOTHER'S/FATHER'S DAY, DAD! Then there's an additional note: Look what's inside the flower! Lift the flap and see! So you open up the petals of the tissue paper flower and there's a little bee inside, saying: "I'm happy to bee your child!" That one hit me hard, and I hugged her. A lot.

* * *

The demolition guys are almost done with the tearout. When I checked on them today, they were vacuuming out the insulation in the attic and the old furnace was sitting in the carport. Yep, that's the one. Look at it, sitting there in a pool of its own oily excrement. Good riddance, ya bastard.

I will take more pics of the tearout and reconstruction as it happens, most likely posting some this week. In the meantime, here's a shot of my house with a pile of debris in front. Oooooooh.

Oh, and someone stole my lawnmower. My sloth of an electric mower with a 100ft extension cord. Gone. They left the kids' Razor trikes (the ones that look like chrome Big Wheels) and Tyler's bike and the hedge trimmer. It reminds me of Gilbert Godfried's standup act about Moby Dick (paraphrased): "I was talking to Herman Melville the other day, and I said, 'Herm, what's all this with the one-legged sea captain chasing the big whale? Are we to believe that there's this little teeny guy, and this giant whale, and the whale just takes the leg?? BIG WHALE, LITTLE GUY, JUST THE LEG!'"

That's the problem with not living in one's own home - I could have heard someone getting into my shed if we were still in our house, but it's hard to hear a lawnmower being stolen across the street. Or a giant whale taking the leg off a little teeny sea captain. Which actually sounds like a euphemism for a sex act one could purchase in White Center... "Excuse me, you know where I could get the leg off my little sea captain?"

Sorry for the tangents... it's sunny and 80 degrees in Seattle, and I think I probably have ISD (Impending Summer Delerium).

Still hitting the gym six days a week (and on Sunday, Todd rested), and doing upper body three times a week. It's helping.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


1. A woman who conceives, gives birth to, or raises and nurtures a child.

I've pondered this for a long time, ever since I first made a Mother's Day card for my stepmom. In my opinion, the first part may more define a mother, but it is the all important second part, to raise and nurture a child, that defines a mom.

I was lucky enough to have more than one mom in my life. Of course I have the mom who gave birth to me and 3 siblings, who raised us to be gentle and conscientious achievers, and who supported three of us on a clerical salary after the divorce. I also have my stepmom, the woman my father married and with whom we went to live in 1984. For one who was raised a military brat in a huge family, she is amazingly serene and spiritually aware, and because her 22-year marriage to my father ended with his death last year, we now share a connection that only another widda would "get". During my time growing up in Santa Cruz, I was often the Beach family's third son. Louise Beach was one of those truly amazing do-it-all moms, and had the nurture thing down. And later, I would come to know Samantha's mother as simply "Ma". We didn't always understand one another, but I have discovered since the loss of the "Sam filter", that it was because we relied upon that filter and never really cultivated a relationship based on our own merits. I am closer to Sam's mom now than in the past 20 years.

I'd like to take a moment to honor the single moms I know, those women doing what my own mom did - raise a child (or more) without the aid of a partner. Some are single by choice - some had their partner taken from them: Jeanne, Carrie, Jen, Lisa, Sheila, Lynnae, SJ... you are doing the best you can under often difficult circumstances, but your kids are becoming truly amazing individuals - big props to you ladies.

To my friends Elizabeth and Sara, and my cousin Katie: you've created vibrant, dynamic families, facing life's challenges head-on without forgetting who you are and what's important. I salute you. To my aunt Kendra, ever the peacemaker in a family with often volatile politics - love you - keep making the peace.

And to my sister Sara, who has been raising my niece (who is just 3 months older than my own daughter) single-handedly almost from birth, and who just made the dean's list in college as she pursues her degree: just know that I think you're amazing. You're my hero. Thank God my kids aren't in diapers, or I'd end up in a straightjacket. You really are Supermom.

To all mothers: the miracle of childbirth is certainly awesome to behold, but you need not have given birth yourself to be called mother. What happens after that miracle is the real test, and those who excel get to be called mom.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Andrew over at SteamPower had this new personality test on his blog: which Star Trek character are you? Apparently, like Andrew, I am Riker. That's funny, because I always thought he was the most like Christopher Pike, who never shows up in these questionnaires (because Jeffrey Hunter only did the original series pilot, "The Cage") and who is my favorite USS Enterprise captain. There are worse options, of course. And the beard (when I have one) is pretty close...

Your results:
You are Will Riker

Will Riker
At times you are self-centered
but you have many friends.
You love many women, but the right
woman could get you to settle down.

Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Test

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Power of Sound

I ran across a listing for an old George Winston album the other night while perusing my mp3 store of choice. It's an older title of his, the aptly named 1982 album December, which includes his variations on several traditional winter melodies as well as his own original compositions.

I thought, wow - George Winston - I haven't heard December in ages... let me just preview the first track...

And when the first strains of "Thanksgiving" hit my ears, I was immediately reduced to a pile of sobbing human rubble. It was almost as if I'd been hit by a car or shot - the reaction was that quick.

You see, December had always been one of Sam's "go-to" albums. She owned it on cassette and it was always in her car or, later, on our CD deck (until it went missing in one of our many moves). We listened to it at Christmas time, sure. But we also listened to it on any blustery autumn day, or snuggled listening to it after making love. It sounds like softness, and beauty, and, well... love. It sounds like safeness. And for a moment I found myself staring into the face of grief, utterly, painfully missing Sam. But just as suddenly, I also felt her arms around me. I rode out the wave with her holding onto me, and then it was over.

Weird. I haven't had a wave like that since... oh, probably back in November? I guess they get fewer and father between, but when they do hit, they hit just as hard.

* * *
I was happy to see a bunch of big, burly pirate dudes destroying my home today. The demolition is finally underway!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Happy Birthday

Today, some 38 years ago, a baby boy came into the world - kicking and screaming in a US Army hospital in Germany. He would share this birthday with the likes of Sigmund Freud, Robert E. Peary, Willie Mays, Orson Welles and George Clooney. Perhaps of more significant social importance, porn star and B movie actress Traci Lords was born the following day.

The boy was backpacked around Europe within the first year and a half of his life, and returned "home" to the San Francisco Bay Area before the birth of his little brother. At only 19 months apart, these brothers had a rivalry like no other. The older brother would build a world wonder in wooden blocks, and the younger would run up and, Godzilla-like, destroy it all with a shriek of glee. The older brother would experience major loss just before his 4th birthday, when the younger managed to get into a bottle of adult iron supplements (in an upper cabinet) and poison himself. The last time the older brother saw the younger brother was in a hospital room, surrounded by a crash team.

The next couple years would unfortunately include molestation by his paternal grandmother, a terrible secret he would carry for twenty years.

If the first lessons in the cycle of life had been tragic, the next few lessons were from the other end of the spectrum. The family cat had a litter of kittens, some of which were born on a towel on the boy's lap. Then a baby sister came along just after his 5th birthday. More growing and learning, then another baby brother when he was 8. In that same year, the family would move into a KOA campground to await the finished construction of a home in the Aptos hills in Santa Cruz, CA. The move to Rio Del Mar Elementary School opened new doors, and ushered in new friends, including David Beach and his older brother Adam.

At age 11, more tragedy hit when the boy's father moved out of the family home and divorced his mother. The mother, who had been the traditional stay-at-home mom, was suddenly faced with supporting two schoolchildren and a preschooler. During one particularly bad rainfall, the mother stood hip-deep in mud, fending off the collapsing hillside with a single shovel as wet muck poured in through his sister's bedroom window. It is a powerful image and a very apt symbol for the circumstances at the time. The house was eventually sold and the mother moved her children into a series of rentals in Aptos and Santa Cruz, always attempting to keep the kids in their schools.

At age 12, the boy met a fellow hiker nine years his senior on a camping trip in Nicene Marks, and latched onto him as the older brother he never had. 26 years later, they would still refer to each other as brothers.

During the next few years, the boy and his siblings were shuttled between their mother's home in Santa Cruz and their father's boat in the harbor (and later, the father's home in Palo Alto - which belonged to his new girlfriend). Both parents remarried in the same year, the father to an old acquaintence of the boy's kindergarten teacher, and the mother to a man who tagged along as the third wheel on a date. Both of these marriages would outlast the original.

The boy had assumed the chief male role in the household, sleeping with a baseball bat by his bed to protect the family. When the new stepfather moved in, however, a power struggle occurred. More rules and chores with less allowance and no acknowledgement of his prior status in the family unit. Fortunately, in 1984 (shortly after the death of his paternal grandfather), custody was changed and the three siblings went to live in Palo Alto with their father and stepmother, where the self-induced pressure to be "the man of the house" would be gone. With the exception of a few family dynamics that needed to be worked out, it was a positive arrangement for the boy, and he enjoyed meeting new friends and fell in love with a cute actress/cheerleader.

At 17, the boy wrote and directed his first film, a 70-minute supernatural thriller that, while primitive looking now, impressed the adults and professional videographers he showed it to at the time. It ended up in a PBS young directors' series.

At 18, he drove to Vancouver, Canada with his actress/cheerleader girlfriend for World Expo '86. On the long, scenic drive up the Olympic Peninsula, they fell in love with Washington.

At 21, he went on a life-altering bareboat charter cruise of the Virgin Islands, which rekindled a love of travel. It also gave him clarity on his feelings for a certain actress/cheerleader, and they would marry the following year - a beautiful ceremony in a beautiful stone church in Portola Valley, with friends and family in attendance. They spent the better part of the following month driving through England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland on a wonderful honeymoon.

In 1991, the young married couple realized that they needed to leave the Bay Area and make a home someplace that actually felt like home. That place was Seattle, at the beginning of the "grunge" movement and before the real estate craziness. At first, she worked as an administrator in a state technical college while he freelanced as a graphic artist and writer. But when she became pregnant with their first child, he went to work in the videogame industry as a concept artist and art director while she became a stay-at-home mom. It was an arrangement they agreed upon, to give their children the home that was taken from the boy at 11 when his parents split.

Although the son had a traumatic birth and went into distress, and the wife hemorrhaged and started bleeding out, everyone recovered and the experience didn't sway the wife from eventually wanting to have one more. They studied the Shettles Method of conception, and put it into practice for conceiving a girl. Three years after the birth of their son, a little girl was added to the family and their family unit was complete.

At 34, the boy received the news that his wife had a rare form of cancer. Over the next two and a half years, they would fight together, hoping for everything from a medical breakthrough to a supernatural miracle.

At 36, the boy held his wife in his arms as she died. At 36, he was a widower. At 36, he was a single father.

The memorial service was held just prior to his 37th birthday. And not long after that, the boy lost his father, the lynchpin of his own support system, to a different cancer. He felt the world rip apart around him. Then his house flooded with sewage. Then it burned down.

The end.

Actually just the opposite.

Today the boy is 38. He is a different person at the most primal level. He has earned perspective at a prohibitive cost. He has paid what many would call some of the highest dues possible. He is facing the future with a positive attitude and his children at his side.

Today the boy is the same age his father was when he remarried and started his life over. Today the boy is the same age his wife was when she died. If anything can make one perceive life and death as circular, that's certainly it.

Today the boy is 38, and the circle begins anew. Happy birthday, boy. Step forward and seize your future.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

I'm Too Sexy for my House

Well, at least for any real progress to be made. Actually, that's probably not quite true. I did meet with the contractor on Friday, and met the guys who would be doing the actual work when said actual work actually commences. The permits have already been applied for, and that will take about a week, then the demolition phase will begin (probably early next week).

For anyone who has dealt with permits, contractors and/or city bureaucracies, this should come as no surprise. Add in not one, not two, but three insurance companies, and it's REALLY not surprising in the least. Hopefully we can move back into our home before Tyler graduates high school. [/sarcasm]

I think we need to deep-strike some assault terminators to do the house demolition. That would make for some good TV. [/warhammer joke]

Got the opportunity to see trip-hop vanguard Massive Attack at the Paramount on Wednesday with Steve, JD and his girlfriend Allison (who, according to my first impression, is a real sweetheart). Visually stunning light rigs - very cool indeed. It was unfortunate that the sound board was having issues getting a good mix. Lost vocals and obnoxious mic feedback. That said, it was great to see a lineup of guest vocalists like Horace Andy and Liz Fraser (of Cocteau Twins). Plus, it was their first show on the tour - one of only 3 US dates, I might add, all of which are west of the Rockies. So I can't find too much fault with some technical issues. I just grooved for 90 minutes on a great set with some powerhouse tunes and the ubiquitous white-raver-chick-freeform-dancing on the theater floor.

I was all set to go to Tacoma and shoot coverage of Steve's 1-hour caricature challenge, but Kayleigh woke up this morning with a fever and cough. So that was that. Just one of those single parent things that comes up from time to time - usually at the worst possible moment. Could I have gone to a local friend or family member to have someone here while I went to the event? Sure. But sometimes - especially when she's sick - a girl needs her daddy.

I did get my workout in, though. One of the benefits of living a block away from the gym. I've started a new program: doing an hour of cardio every day, with a light upper body sequence twice a week. I decided I missed being slender, and although I probably won't end up at 160 lbs like when I was 16 and riding my bike everywhere, I will be happy on the light side of 220. A decade of sedentary work in computer games and the last 4 years caring for a sick wife (or mourning her) did a number on my metabolism, and I'm kick starting it again. I should mention that my friend Dave Beach has been extremely inspirational in this quest (whether he is aware of that fact or not). On days when I go just prior to lunchtime, I get an all-fruit smoothie from Jamba Juice and drink that for lunch. Add in my daily vitamin supplements and about 1.5 gallons of water per day, and I'm already feeling better than I have in the last 5 or 6 years.

We will be locking in the dates for the fall Twelfth Night Productions show at Youngstown soon. I will be attending the next board meeting to deliver the proposal in person, but formalities aside, it looks like I will be directing A. R. Gurney's The Dining Room - opening in November!