The L-Word

There is more life in this house, always a good thing.  Not only is the Rev. Missus off for the summer (from the university; she gets to keep her other two jobs) and returned from nearly two weeks of Texas (enough for most people), but we have a Russian Blue as a permanent visitor.  The carbon dioxide output in this home has increased by some degree, and everyone’s sleep has been a little off, but all are adjusting.

Including Lorenzo, which was this cat’s name when my son made his acquaintance at the local animal rescue shelter where he’s been volunteering twice a week for about a month now.  It’s part of a program to integrate him into the world, get him out of the house and eventually into a job, but he’s had a leaning toward the feline part of our community for a while now.

So Lorenzo grabbed his heart and hung on, and soon we were down there, adopting him and losing sleep.  The sleep thing was only the first couple of nights, as we got used to him wandering.  But we relive it.

The Russian Blue is an intelligent, quiet, friendly breed, not that we knew anything about that.  John just fell in love.  But it’s nice to know.  They also live a fairly long life, sometimes up to 25 years, so since Enzo is 5 this all just about worked out as well as it could.

So aside from a few doors that now remain closed (mostly the basement; even I could get lost down there for days), our lives seem the same, just mildly enriched by another life form.  As with Shelties, the breed of our much-missed Strider, Russian Blues tend to be shy around strangers, so he won’t be an annoying cat.  Just a creature to keep John company and the rest of us dancing, stepping around cat toys and occasionally sneering at spiders, who quite possibly have met their match.  All good here.

———–

The fireworks yesterday seemed louder and longer, and I hid under headphones while the others did pretty much the same.  My neighbors got a little aggressive, but I remember having a young boy and doing sort of the same thing, and they’re good people.  If they want to blow stuff up once a year, and clean up the next day, I can live with that.

Still, we’re surrounded by big events, including the huge show on the lake across the street, and honestly?  I outgrew fireworks.  I just did.  If they disappeared I wouldn’t miss them.  If I had to trade daily firework displays and leaf blowers, though, it might be a hard decision.

And as opposed to many dogs, Lorenzo seemed to handle the war zone fine.  Just camped under the table and looked bored.

————

So summer begins.  We already had one fairly warm day (high of 94 in Seattle, mid-80s here a little north of the city) and the weather people are saying more of the same, on the warm and dry side for the duration, which is fine.  Snow pack is fine, no drought here.  Eastern Washington is always another story, but there’s always another story.

I have several, in fact, but they tend toward the personal at the moment, and also unfinished.  Let’s just say it’s anticipatory in many aspects, wondering what might happen, and also almost entirely dependent on me, so we’ll see if I feel like writing about them.  Or writing at all.  I may be evolving.  For all you know.  I could start doing watercolors, or sculpting, or running marathons.  At this age, possibilities and limitations blur into something that vaguely resembles curiosity, and I’ve always been curious.  Which, being a human and not a cat, feels like a good thing.

 

Nope. Heard Of Him, Though.

 

The Blue Fairy Moment

For a year, from the first day of summer 2012 through the last day of spring 2013, I wrote a journal.   No one has read it.  No one would want to.

It was a whim, a nod to compulsion that probably wouldn’t hurt and who knew?  Might have produced something interesting, at least to me, although so far that’s not really the case.  It started as just data, mostly to track the days in case we had freaky weather or something interesting happened.

And something did, right away.  There’s this, for example, from June 23, 2012.

I had a bad cold and/or a sinus infection that week, something that was draining me and left me feeling fuzzy all the time, so my memory is fuzzy.  Another reason to journal, maybe.

But I can practically guarantee you that this first meeting didn’t inspire any fantasies of filmmaking.  It was vaguely interesting but I mostly considered the whole idea sort of absurd, and expected to decline.  Arthur needed a real actor.  Not a once-actor.

By the middle of July, though, I was on board, although it felt so far off that the whole notion seemed abstract, barely past daydreaming.  Maybe it would happen.  Maybe not.  We’d have a whole year, anyway, to figure that out.

In August I met the rest of the cast – Megan and Jake; I’d first met Ellen 20 years before – to take some photos for the website.  In November we filmed a short scene (I was a voice on the phone only) for reasons I now can’t remember, but that’s when I met Julia Bruk, who would end up as our Director of Photography; Kjell Hansen, who ran sound on that first day and ended up wearing so many hats Arthur made him an associate producer; and Case Barden, who’d serve as producer.

And there were more meetings and lots of emails and video chats and back-and-forths, and then it was summer and we filmed, and then we were done.  I’d stopped journaling by then, and I didn’t feel fuzzy at all.

I’d check in occasionally, visited Arthur in his editing suite one day, did the sound studio work, etc.  Eventually I’d watch entire scenes, although most of the film (and a lot of the actual filming) remains unseen by me.

And I never saw Paris.  Absolutely not.  Not even close.

It’s not like I knew much about the indie filmmaking world anyway.  I understood there were film festivals.  I understood that there were film distributors.  I understood that we were small, very small, so small.  Barely a budget, no name actors (although Ellen would change that dynamic quite a bit, becoming suddenly a celebrity from being the voice of probably the most iconic artificial intelligence since HAL 9000, GLaDOS in the video game Portal), no publicist, no potential distributors, and a few rejection letters from festivals (after one pass at a full edit; there would be five more.  More to come).

And here we are, all the same.  US in Progress, devoted to pushing American independent filmmaking, partnering with the Champs-Élysées Film Festival in Paris over the past three years, picked Winning Dad as one of four films in postproduction to present to European distributors and others.  Never saw it coming.  Glad it came.

So we sent our film and its creator to France, and the news was fun.  A good response, lots of it apparently, and lots of help and advice.  From what we can tell, given our exhausted leader’s brief but emotional posts on social media.

And at the risk of dipping into the metaphor pool and finding the same old stuff, it not only feels affirming but life-giving.  We made the damn puppet.  In order for it to come alive, somebody had to see it.  And now somebody has.

Winning Dad is a real movie.  We knew that.  It’s still nice to say out loud.

 

Inside The Bubble

I had a meeting scheduled for 2:40 yesterday afternoon.  I was thinking about it on Wednesday, and suddenly realized that the main reason we set the meeting up for that day was to assess something that was supposed to have happened, but as it turned out got postponed.

I’ve already lost you.  Never mind.  I canceled an appointment, which meant that I didn’t need the car, which meant that my wife didn’t have to get up early and take a bus into Seattle.  She could just drive and come home after her last class if she wanted.  It’s a busy time for your college professors, in this area, as classes are ending and finals approaching.

If she had taken the bus, she probably would have hung around longer.  Done some grading.  Taken her time.  Waited for the right bus to get her home, after I was back from my appointment so I could pick her up at the Park and Ride.  I mean.  It’s not hard to graph out.  She would have still been there.

Not that I’m doing this.  Even if we get to make the what-if rules and only change one fact, that she didn’t leave the campus of Seattle Pacific University and was still there when Aaron Ybarra entered Otto Miller Hall and started shooting, we can’t really construct a scenario where she’s anywhere near the line of fire.  It would have just meant that she would have been there a lot longer than she intended, in lockdown with the rest, probably comforting and doing the things she’s trained to do.

So what-ifs don’t bother me today.  Not worth my time.  She left before Ybarra started shooting.  That’s how it happened.

What bothers me today is the callousness I read yesterday afternoon on social media, even some mild joking.  A 19-year-old young man, probably a freshman or sophomore, went to school on a beautiful Seattle spring day, and now he’s dead, and his family is doing the what-if thing and are grieving and in shock, and some jerk on Facebook is making comments that sound light-hearted, even?

What bothers me today is it really wasn’t callous.  It was just removed.  The way I’m removed when I read horrific news, much worse news than we had here yesterday.  Santa Barbara was worse.  Sandy Hook was so much worse.  Virginia Tech, and so on.

What bothers me today is that for a few hours yesterday, I got stuck inside the bubble of proximity terror.  I was on the SPU campus last weekend.  My wife has taught there for years.  It’s a small school, a tight community, a family.  She sat with her phone and her iPad and the local news on, and waited to hear from her students.  Students who very well could have been in Otis Miller Hall.  Before we knew everything, before we knew anything.

It made me think about empathy, and how it works in a constant-information world.  Nobody was being callous yesterday, or desensitized.  They just didn’t know anybody involved, and they’ve heard this song before.  Many times.

So I learned what it’s like to be on the inside, just a little.  To see familiar streets from the copter shots, barricaded and swarming with law enforcement.  To see familiar buildings with stretchers outside, waiting.  To completely shut down for a few hours, waiting for news, processing horror, processing relief.  Processing proximity.

This was close to home.  I just have a feeling home got a lot bigger, and the news a lot more personal, and the empathy a lot more intense.  Next time it won’t be here.  It’ll just feel like it.

 

Seeing In The Dark

Late at night, when I was 12 or so, lying in bed and waiting for sleep, I discovered that closing one eye turned even the darkness blurry.  I think I just wondered about this for a while, then brought it up one day to my mother, who had me stop by the school nurse to get a quick eye exam.

Half of my world was, in fact, blurry.  Bad vision was nothing new in my family, with the exception of Dad, who only needed reading glasses when that time came, as it always does.

Glasses back then were pretty basic, with nothing much changing over the decades.  I got a pair of black-rimmed Clark Kent glasses, and of course I hated them.

And of course I had one eye with 20/20 vision, which meant I compensated and could see fine without the glasses, which I wore as seldom as possible.  In a couple of years wire frames were the fashion in eye wear, and I liked those better.  Still, there were plenty of times when I ditched the glasses.  Sometimes I wore contacts.  Sometimes I just relied on my good eye, knowing it was bearing the burden of binocular vision, and evenually it got pretty bad too.  Still, look at my wedding pictures (some 13 years after the first pair of glasses) and nope, no glasses.  Maybe contacts, but I remember still being comfortable even driving well into my 20s without any correction at all.   A little squinting at road signs, maybe.

Because of my astigmatism, I needed special contacts, more expensive, and aside from that brief period (it seemed) when I could wear contacts 24/7 for a week at a time (do they still make those? Or did people go blind and they stopped?), I just wore those same basic 1974-era wire rim frames, with one deviation in the 1980s when glasses got VERY BIG and weird.

So this past winter, as I was in Austin with my daughter and whining about the need to make changes of all sorts, she first suggested I get my hair cut shorter (turned out fine), and after that she brought up new frames.  Just update the old guy a little.

That’s the picture you see above, assuming you’re at the actual blog and not reading this through a feed.  And, in one of those funny life things, I picked pretty much the pair I had in the seventh grade that I hated.  It’s sort of like broccoli.  We reevaluate.

They’re heavier, making it less easy to slide up and down to read small print (I’ve stuck with single-vision lenses, even though I’ve needed bifocals for years, because I work so much on the computer, big monitors, and thought it wasn’t worth the trouble.  I just take them off to read at night).

Sort of forgot about my phone, though.  I get messages and there are no arms long enough to read those without moving those heavy black glasses, so maybe an error was made there.

Or maybe LASIK.  Or, since I have incipient cataracts, very early but predictive, I’ll just wait for an internal lens and a quick surgery.

It’s less of a deal than I make it, but more of a deal than it was, and just funny that it turned out to be such a throwback.  And the broccoli is just a tiny bit clearer.

 

It’s Alive

Still here.  Still just working on what to say and how to say it, as always.  You could always check some past columns to make sure I’m still alive.  Although I am.

In the meantime, here is the boy, 10 days shy of 8 months old.  Who knew?

 

The Biden Effect

I’ve just spent the past five days on vacation, although once again my annoying tendency to parse the semantics jumps out from a dark alley and forces me at gunpoint to elaborate on things everyone can easily understand.

I do various things to earn money, which I exchange for goods and services that make my life easier, and in fact possible.  These past five days,  I have not, in fact, earned much money at all.

To over-elaborate even more, I normally would have been free of responsibilities yesterday, and this weekend, so there were only four days.

I had some plans.  I accomplished some of them.  I accomplished other, unanticipated things, like making my son pancakes every morning for breakfast.  He likes pancakes, but it’s not a common thing for me to do.  Just once in a while, when I feel no pressure, I’ll make him breakfast.

But pancakes are easy, and repeating the process over several days simplified everything.  Yesterday the pancakes were very good, for example, and on the table pretty fast.

I didn’t stop there.  I did some lawn work.  I did some exercise.  I tried to watch a movie (I reacted badly to it, on a personal level, so I stopped watching).  I did some of the usual chores.  I thought a lot.

Really, you might have to just call it at the pancakes.  That might have been the highlight of having some time off.

I also seem to have lost my appetite, for the most part, which is a strange thing.  Hasn’t kept me from eating, but I’ve left food on the plate.  I expect some sort of reward for this, too, in a weird way.  As if eating three pieces of pizza and stopping because you’re full and not eating a couple of more because they’re good is at the very least an occasion for applause.

My reduced appetite and a tendency lately to trip over pieces of furniture has led me to suspect I may have early Parkinson’s disease, for some reason.  This is almost positively not the case, but it just seemed like something to wonder about, since I had the time.

That, and why my phone battery seems to be zipping through toward empty at a much higher rate.  Could be something.  Could be time dilation related to free time.  Could be I’m away from my desk more and don’t charge it up a bit as much as I usually do.

Finally, some very exciting things have happened this week.  My son had a good experience in a situation I don’t need to explain.  Other moments of what are surely just serendipity have popped up, leading me to posit that I need to relax more so the universe can grasp what it is I need.

And among these things, the best was saved for, I suppose, the last.

US in Progress, formerly Gotham in Progress,  is a joint initiative between the American Film Festival in Wroclaw and the Champs Elysées Film Festival in Paris.  It is the first and only industry event devoted to US indies in Europe.  Its aim is to present US indie films in post-production to European buyers in order to foster the circulation and distribution of American indie films in Europe.

That’s from this web site, and here’s the gist: Four American independent films in the post-production state, out of the hundreds that are made each year and out of the (maybe again) hundreds submitted to the US In Progress competition, are selected to be screened in Paris at the Champs Elysees Film Festival for a group of European distributors, who most of the time have no awareness of the films that are being made at the independent level here in the States.

And this year – next month, in fact – one of those four American films is “Winning Dad.”  Which, I assume, you’ve heard of.

On June 10th, then, our writer and director, Arthur Allen, will be flown to Paris and hoteled for three days, while our film is screened, presentations are made, meetings are arranged, and just general mingling is accomplished.  What happens next exists only in the realm of the possible, but this is huge.

Huge.  That’s the word I keep using.  Huge.  Or, a BFD as Joe Biden might say.  It’s not only the opportunity, but the fact that there are people who looked at the film in its current state and said, yeah, we want that one.

So, huge.  Exciting.  We are excited.  We went out to dinner with friends last night to sort of celebrate, and also because we just like going out with these friends.

But at some point, and more than one, really, you’ve got to ask yourself: Have I been ignoring the universe?  If so, I should stop that.  And maybe take more time off when I can.  Because shit just got real.

 

Change Of Life

We begin day #2 of My Spring Break, having just dropped my wife off at the park and ride, where the rest of the world is GOING TO WORK.  But not I.

What exactly I’m doing is another question, considering that there’s no shortage of doable things, and the current weather pattern is inspiring.  That flower bed?  The lawn that I just mowed?  These are easy chores when it’s 73 degrees and sunny.  I could do this all week.

What I’m really doing, or supposed to be doing, is assembling a series of essays and shorter pieces into something that vaguely resembles a book, in order to produce (wait for it) this book.  There are other reasons to do this, but then we wander into self-actualization and existential questions, and I have no real answers.

But the sun definitely calls me.

———-

My first stop, though, after cleaning up, is an eye exam.  It’s been over two years (at least), and while I haven’t noticed any changes in my vision it’s always been pretty bad; it’s hard to get worse.  It’s partly just one of those things one does (I have a dental cleaning in two weeks, same philosophy), and partly because I’ve mostly been wearing the same type of glasses (aside from an unfortunate period in the mid-1980s, when glasses that covered three-quarters of your face were popular) since I was 14.  Wire frames, in other words, big, little, same.

And styles have changed, and I’m all about style, you know.

But, as it turns out, there are some nice frames out there, sturdier and somehow more adult looking, and maybe it’s time for a switch.

It’s easy to blame this on my daughter, who on a superficial assessment looks like she’s trying to do a major make-over on her father, but let’s think about that.  She’s a new mother.  She works.  She is often left home alone for long stretches, when she has to manage an increasingly mobile baby and the rest of her responsibilities, which recently include landscaping.  She has other things to do than mess with her father’s appearance.

Nope.  She’s a facilitator, is all, one of those special people who can listen to another gripe and bitch about this or that and actually look them in the eye and say, “Then fix it, fool.”  So whining about my clothes led her to suggest that I just try – just try – buying some that were designed at any point after, say, 1985.  First step.

Second step, on this last trip, was more whining about needing to change, after spending months staring at photos and film of my dumb face, which led to a phone call and an appointment with the mysterious , mystical, and oddly appropriately named Lauren Lust, who is sort of a magician.  She doesn’t provoke lust (in me, anyway, but then all 29-year-old women look to me like little girls who made the mistake of growing up; I’m sure she has admirers, and she should), but she appears to be part 21st-century hippie and part a character from “Lord of the Rings.”  One of the elves or fairies or, you know (I only watched the films once).  There’s just something other-worldly about her, and she gave me a haircut, much shorter than I typically wear my hair and possibly shorter than I have since the 5th grade, something I’ve considered but never quite followed up on.  And there you go.

Now all that’s left is some decent shoes, and those new frames, and I’m ready for my close-up.

Which, of course, already happened, last summer.  My next one, then.

In the meantime, there’s this book to build…

 

Just Teasing

Here’s three minutes from “Winning Dad,” all post-produced and looking nice.  There’s a reason it’s not ready to be released yet, and that has to do with it looking nice, if you get my drift.  This is awfully expensive, so there’s a link at the end in case you want to contribute.  At any rate, I hope you enjoy.

(Warning: This is a movie about a family with a gay son.  There are two men kissing in this clip, if that sort of thing freaks you out.)

 

Winning Dad – Sneak Peek from Arcturus Entertainment LLC on Vimeo.

 

Porching

A special thing happens next week.  Two special things, really.

One, the first footage – sort of a teaser/trailer – from “Winning Dad” will be released.  Fun.

Second, I’m taking a vacation.

Vacations are hard to pin down for me.  In 2007, I just wrote a column and let other income go unproduced for a few months.  It was costly and maybe not as productive a decision as I anticipated, but I felt the need to see what was out there, after decades of doing the same thing here at home, most of it every day.  So there’s that.

But a vacation, in the sense that I have a job (plural, really) and I purposefully take some time off.  The problem with this, of course, is that I don’t get paid.  The problem with that, of course, is that I don’t get time off.  And time off, particularly from certain forms of drudgery I have to indulge in to stay solvent, sometimes feels necessary, even as loose and goosey as my life can feel.

And I have a writing project that needs to get finished, and I keep finding other things to do, then getting wiped out by producing said income…and since I was due to have three official days off next week, I just did some math and found four more to make it an even seven.

There’s no way to anticipate what will happen.  I’m trying to stay away from big goals; I would just like real progress made with no excuses, or the understanding that I need to forget about this and get busy with something else.

And then there are other things, making an eye appointment, seeing some friends, pulling some weeds; I can only write so long every day, and some of those days look to be sunny.

It’s still a weird idea, taking time off.  I don’t feel like I work that hard, but it’s still weird.  And exciting, and a little intimidating.  And then it will be here, and then over, and then we shall see.

————–

“You have to write about this porch,” my daughter said a week ago today, as we sat on her front porch, surrounded by youth and energy.  And so I did.