I have often eulogized and rambled in this space about my father. Every reader of this blog knows what a great guy he was, what a supportive and nurturing husband and parent he was, what a silly and generous grandparent he was. Everyone knows how close we were, and how much he was loved.
Doesn't change anything. He's gone, and I miss him.
I know this borders on shilling... heck, it's outright panhandling for votes. As I mentioned last week, D Constructed Media shot three TV spots for a morning radio show (The BJ Shea Morning Experience) here in Seattle - specifically for a contest. Almost more important than the $10K prize for the audience fave, the spot will be shown on the Seattle Fox affiliate during prime time. It's great exposure for our work, and could lead to steady commercial gigs.
Anyway, here is the link to vote. One vote per person. Our spot is the #2 listing, the "Awkward Morning Experience" (which features Eric Riedmann from Ordinary Angels and the lovely Linsey Price in the towel). Just check the box and hit the button marked SUBMIT TOP 10 (don't ask... we're well aware there are only 5).
There are some clever spots in the batch, but I think ours and the Cheerleader Pillow Fight are the best targeted at Shea's demographic. And ours has TWO gags for the price of one!
I was 14 when my dad and stepmom married, so I never got particularly close with her family. Soon, I was in my late teens, totally self-absorbed with making films and music and having this amazing love affair with Samantha. It wasn't until Sam & I moved north to Seattle that I got a little more comfy with the Hitchcock clan. My dad was, of course, very close to them. And they rallied when Sam and my father were in the home stretch. When we were on the edge of financial ruin due to medical debt, they stepped in. When dad was in the ICU at UW Hospital, they kept watch in shifts.
My step-uncle Keith recently had what can be described as a mild stroke. But my stepmom just notified me that the doctors have done a CT scan and have found what appears to be a tumor in his lungs. Cancer? Maybe. Please understand that I want so much to be positive and root for the home team, but every time the C-word comes up, I will readily admit that I brace for the worst. Prayers are welcome.
Perhaps I was already warmed up for the conversation with my stepmom. You see, cold meds can wreak havoc on the REMsleep/dreaming thing, and the last couple nights while I've been fighting off the flu bug du jour, I've been having a bunch of nightmares. So this morning, I awoke early and went upstairs to check a couple films off my list. And as whatever passes for fate would have it, both Elizabethtown and Wit were in my red envelopes.
Elizabethtown is a Cameron Crowe film, and as sappy as his material can sometimes be, I have always admired his way of telling a story. From the Fast Times at Ridgemont High screenplay to Say Anything to Singles to Almost Famous, there's a human commonality to be found. In brief, a young professional man's career and future bottom out - he's finished. His girlfriend breaks it off. He will forever be unemployable. And at the moment he is about to commit suicide, his sister calls to tell him their father just died. The film deals with the son going cross country to deal with obscure relations and supervise the memorial and cremation of his father. In the midst of the journey, he meets a woman who reignites his "pilot light".
What I love about the character is that she doesn't distract him from his pain - she supports him in it fully. The message seems to be: Go ahead and give yourself time to wallow in it - give in to the dark, sweet melancholy. Just remember to surface - and when you do, I'm here. As I watched this guy take the urn with his father's ashes on a road trip home, scattering bits of him at places they'd visited together, I was reminded of scattering my dad in the Pacific Ocean off Santa Cruz, CA, where I spent a great deal of my formative years. And of my stepmom's world travels to scatter some of him in places they'd been together, or where he'd always wanted to go. I didn't buy some of the romantic cheese, but some of it was actually dead-on (at least from my own experience). And although some say the film meanders, I would argue that after the death of a parent, your whole goddamn LIFE meanders. So there. Similar in vibe to Garden State. [EDIT: I know I said "similar in vibe to Garden State", but it's not even close to being in the same ballpark of quality - just wanted to clarify]
Wit, on the other hand, was brutal. I don't know why I made myself watch the whole thing, except that Emma Thompson is undeniably brilliant in the role of a career academic with no family who undergoes radical chemotherapy for late-stage ovarian cancer. It's an amazing piece of work and should be required viewing for anyone wanting to go into medicine. Even though much of the film breaks the fourth wall in Emma's monologues to the audience, the character's experience is frighteningly, viscerally real, and spot-on in terms of what I witnessed Samantha endure for almost three years. And that is why I streamed tears for 98 minutes.
The transformation from flashback college student to middle-aged college professor to bald, dying cancer patient is astonishing to behold. The makeup was so accurate there were times I had to do a double-take to make sure I was watching Emma and not Sam. The sunken, glassy eyes; the yellow splotches of jaundiced skin; the mouth sores; the skinny, frail body; the chest port. Thank God she was able to die in relative peace at home - not mistakenly code blue, being strongarmed by a crash team in the hospital. Once again, it reminded me of my dad, who was intubated by a crash team who attempted to revive him. There were no heroic measures taken, but I still think, regretfully, that it was more intervention than he would have ultimately wanted. In the end, that's just my opinion - not what he signed.
Anyway, some powerful stuff. If you are somehow perversely interested in what a terminal cancer patient goes through, read Sam's blog and watch Wit. There's something of human value there.
My drummer buddy Steven Fox came up this weekend. In early 1989 he'd come into the Kinko's where I worked in college when he was playing with a San Francisco band called Show & Tell. He needed fliers. Almost two decades later and I still haven't been able to shake him.
I saw Show & Tell open for Voice Farm at the Stone in SF. Shortly thereafter, Show & Tell reformed into Atomic Snakes (my favorite incarnation). They were making solid, clean, new wave-style alternative rock in the age of Nirvana and Soundgarden. You might guess what happened to that project. Then Steven began drumming for Riots, kind of a club/rave project. For whatever reason, the dude has just never been in the right place or time to sieze a particular zeitgeist and get signed. So now he happily plays at the "hobbyist" level, despite a great talent and a warm, friendly and non-elitist personality (a rarity of in almost any genre of music).
He was hanging out at our Fremont, CA home studio when the first And Tears Fell album was being recorded. I'd been wanting to collaborate with the guy since forever, and aside from sampling some of his drums for my various Starbug/Impetus works, we'd never actually played on the same album together. So it was a real treat when he accepted my invitation to play drums on the And Tears Fell "Requiem" project.
I can't tell you how awesome it was to have my old friend show up in Seattle to bash out all eleven tracks in less than 4 hours. Considering that ATF had always used programmed drums, it marked a technical first. And after 18 years, we've finally been able to collaborate. We even broke for lunch at one point and headed around the corner to the restaurant where Muriel was working, so the two of them were actually able to meet. All in all, we were in the studio from 10AM until almost 2PM, broke for an hour and then went back in to go over a few bits and pieces - we were gone by 5PM. And even as much drumming as Steven did, I think I was more exhausted just from having watched him play.
I put him on the plane back to San Jose today. We both have a good feeling and a real sense of completion about this album. Now to finish up the fiddly work.
There are a few of us who have earned the right to say "Bay humbug!" on Valentine's Day. In my case, it's not what you might think - I mean, there's the obvious bitterness of having lost my true valentine, but it's really that I have always bristled at the notion that we must mark our calendars and make conspicuous displays of material giving to support the greeting card, candy and jewelry industries. Oh yeah - and flowers.
I have written here previously that Samantha and I made a tradition of doing something extra nice for each other NOT on V Day. Today also marks one year since I sat on my front lawn and watched as my home burned. So now of course the urge to flip February 14th a big middle finger is especially dominant.
It got off to a GREAT start too. I went in to my local Supercuts to get a quick clean-up of back & sides. As I was the first one into the shop this morning, there was a chair waiting for me. The chirpy stylist immediately dove in.
Her: So you getting cleaned up for a hot Valentine's date tonight?
That should have done it. But she would not be stopped so early in the game.
Her: Ah! That must mean you're MARRIED!
Me: Used to be.
Again, you'd think she'd get the clue. But no.
Her: Awww, what happened?
Are you kidding me?? Okay lady, you asked.
Me: I lost my wife to cancer two years ago.
Normally, that stops a conversation dead in its tracks. By all accounts, she should have just shut the hell up and finished the haircut. Wrong again!
Her: Ohhhh. WHAT KIND?
This hair stylist is superhuman, I'm convinced.
Me: Unknown primary. Attacked her liver and lungs.
Not to be outdone, she then proceeds to tell me about her friend who had a cancer of unknown primary in his mid 20s and died. Thank you. I had no idea I would get a cancer story with my haircut on Valentine's Day - how generous of you.
She finishes the haircut. And to top it all off, as I am getting up to leave...
Her: I hope you feel better.
WTF?? I came in here feeling just fine, lady. It was the grilling and anecdotes that put this scowl on my face, and my smile will return once I'm out of this establishment and back in my car - away from you.
So yeah. Screw you, Valentine's Day. There was a time when I was jealous so many couples strolled around with goofy adoring looks when I'd lost the object of my affection. But not anymore; I don't begrudge anyone his or her happiness. But it'd be a lot nicer if that sappy, glazed "I'm in love" look everybody floated around wearing today would show up on every other day too. Like Christmas, there's an inherent cultural expectation of affection and gift-giving. But if you do it simply because the calendar says you should, I say you aren't clear on the concept behind it.
We looked forward to this day, the two of us. We each wanted to plan something cool for the other's milestone, and talked of going to Hawaii or back to the Virgin Islands. That will not happen now. At least, not for this occasion.
This was always the short window of time when you were 2 years ahead of me, instead of just 1. We would joke how your were a cradle-robbing perv, preying on the poor defenseless underclassman. When we could afford it, I'd get you a day at the spa, or some other way to pamper yourself. We'd always go out to dinner with the family, at a place of the birthday-person's choosing. And we'd always get intimate time together after the kids were in bed.
Your chocolate cake is here, with a big wax four and zero on it. Kayleigh insisted.
How much our lives have changed since you were the age I am now. You've gone on to new horizons, and I've found my own here on Earth.
Our children are growing up - you would hardly recognize them in some ways, and yet you would always know them as your own. Tyler is fully on the road to becoming a man, and Kayleigh now charts a course in your performance footsteps. She sings along to our old music and practices makeup application in her bedroom. That should sound familiar to the suburban California teenage thespian who once caught my eye in drama class, and who met my shoes years earlier while we were both working tech on Romeo and Juliet at the Palo Alto Children's Theater.
I will always miss your presence, but the hurt of your passing has dilluted with time. And you will always have my love, that part of my heart that blossomed in having grown up with you. That love will not grow weaker with time - that is a constant, and will endure as long as our energy lives on.
Happy 40th birthday, Sam. You may not have made this milestone in the flesh, but we celebrate it in your honor anyway. Love, always.
Three to four hours sleep a night for the past week + boxes of Sam's stuff + heavy Gilda's session + food poisoning from the taqueria across from the PolyClinic = a crazy night of dreams.
Crazy. I haven't had food poisoning in a long time, which is really amazing considering how much I eat out. Hell, I never got this sick eating Mexican food in MEXICO. After the crampy back-and-forth to stink up my bathroom for a couple hours, I collapsed in bed at 11PM, which is a huge achievement, considering my pillow hasn't seen me before 2 or 3AM for the past week. And boy did I ever dream. A cast of thousands. Family, friends, Sam. I don't even remember what they were about, specifically. Except one bit where the dead husband of one of my Gilda's friends told me to "tell Jeanne I'll see her in Guatemala." Ordinarily, this would be one of those dream non sequiturs, however she's just bought property in Guatemala and is relocating there. So that's interesting.
I didn't wake until NPR erupted from my alarm clock at 7AM. Eight solid hours, but I feel like I've been run over by an incontinent elephant. Perhaps it's the residual burrito bacteria. Perhaps I was working overtime on the astral plane. Perhaps both. I'm taking it easy today, remastering audio and trying to get my strength back for a commercial shoot tomorrow. Fortunately I don't have to direct, just operate the camera. Huzzah.
The kids want to celebrate Sam's birthday on Sunday, so we'll get a cake and do that. Which is fine. If it were just me, I'd drink a bottle of red and pass out on the sofa.
Speaking of the Cardigans (wha??), I love this song and video. They are incredibly underrated.
RestorX brought the last of the boxes today. I couldn't bear to make another maze in my downstairs, so I had them stack them against the house in the carport.
Sam's clothes are in about 5 or 6 of them. Her pajamas still smell like chemo.
In another uncanny twist, a box from my bro Randy in CA arrived this morning - a bunch of archive DVDs with our old music on them. Sam's and mine. Stuff that I lost in the fire, stuff that I'd not heard in more than 10 years. Happier times. It's good to have this distraction because I don't want to face the boxes of Sam's stuff right now.
Sam's would-be 40th birthday is coming up on Sunday, then the 1 year marker of the Great Valentine's Day Fire of Old Westwood Town, then my dad's would-be 63rd birthday.
So, I pretty much hate February now, just on principle.
Wow. It's already Saturday. The week has just zoomed by. Much of it was spent placating various government bureaucracies (the joys of owning one's own business). Wednesday night was Gilda's. Not much to say there. Thursday saw our rough cut submission of Ordinary Angels to SIFF. Thursday and Friday night I got to chill with the kids, which was cool. Friday night's movies were Click and Flyboys. Click was much better than I expected, which is how most Adam Sandler movies end up. I go in with such low expectations that I'm always somewhat pleasantly surprised. There's a lot to like about the film: Walken as a crazy ethereal technogeek, Kate Beckinsale as the hottest housewife ever, the awesome pair of Henry Winkler and Julie Kavner as Sandler's parents, David Hasselhoff as the obnoxious yuppie boss, and Sean Astin as a speedo-clad swimming coach/suitor for Kate's affections.
The message is pretty clear and simple: DON'T FAST FORWARD THROUGH YOUR LIFE, and DON'T WASTE A SINGLE MOMENT.
One thing's for sure - if I were married to Kate Beckinsale, it'd be pretty hard to be a workaholic, what with us never leaving the house and all... I can suspend my disbelief only so far. A "universal" remote that controls your universe? Sure, I'll accept that. But fast forwarding through sex with Kate Beckinsale?? Sorry. Not buying it.
Flyboys was pretty much what I expected. A sweeping WWI epic adventure drama. With cool vintage aeroplanes. And zeppelins. And as everyone knows, EVERY movie is better with zeppelins*. I don't know about EVERY German plane being a bright red Fokker triplane (as if everyone was Manfred von Richtofen). There were only 300-some made during the war, and during the period depicted in the film, most German pilots would have been flying Albatros D-3s. I guess the producers thought it would be easier for the audience to differentiate between the good guys and bad guys. Shrug. It wasn't terrific, but it's pretty well executed and enjoyable, with some "holy crap that was cool" moments.
* One day, I will write the ultimate pulp screenplay, and it will include zeppelins, monkeys, ninja, pirates AND robots (and they will all have jetpacks and tommy guns). And maybe a flying bear that shoots lasers out of its eyes. 'Cause that would rock.
Went into the studio today with Muriel to get her vocals done for the And Tears Fell CD. It's sounding great, and I think Brian is looking forward to getting my project out the door. Met with some of the guys from his band, Full Life Crisis, and went over some concepts for their CD art. I am charged with the design for their upcoming album, a task I gladly assume. In 2 weeks, Steven "Thug Drummer" Fox comes up to add his bashing to the mix. Looking forward to the visit. We never have enough time to just chill out and be friends - there's always a schedule. And of course there will be a schedule somewhat, but we'll be hanging out in addition to the studio time. Still trying to get on a schedule with Jason Parker for a horn solo on Fire Inside. We shall see.
Superbowl tomorrow (aka today). Don't really care. See you this week!