The Highway To Hope

The past two mornings, I’ve hit I-405 heading south at around 7:30am, overcorrecting a bit to make sure I make it down to Renton by 9. I’m usually early, but not that early.

Keep in mind that it’s 30 miles, almost entirely freeway.

Yeah. Traffic sucks here.

But it’s temporary, and occasionally I’d find myself watching the other drivers, assuming that they did this every day. It’s a good exercise.

It’s part of my experience, though, lately. Seeing the invisible people, the ones who never cross my path, who either lead lives of quiet desperation or maybe pretty noisy desperation, depending on lots of things. Including how desperate they are.

And some are. I’ve met them.

This is what happens, then, when you take a guy who’s been isolated, if fairly comfortably, in his home with a roof and shower and utilities and food in the fridge, and you introduce him to the world.

Not that I’m ignorant. I’ve hung around enough desperate people, sipping bad coffee in cold church Sunday school rooms on dark nights, to know that our paths are endless and diverse, bad and good.

And that we can change them, but sometimes we need help.

I’ve been helping, a little. Minor stuff. Details, things I can do, organizational things, writing things. Moving furniture, taking pictures, exchanging emails. Not front line work, not me, or not yet. Support line, maybe.

I’ve seen enough, though, to know that whatever ripples my perfectly ordinary existence have produced, what I’m doing now, even part-time and maybe even temporary, is the best thing I could do, or have done.

And I’m completely exhausted, and overwhelmed, and a little frustrated and maybe even angry, a little. And the happiest I’ve been in a long time.



So, this is getting interesting. I mean, fascinating.

Not to mention frustrating, considering I have no time to consider and reflect and, you know. Reflect on all this. Busy stuff. Unrusting rusting skills. Learning new ones.

Seriously. It’s fascinating. Maybe soon.

Busy Busy

The next two weeks…

It’s hard to wrap my brain around it. Lots of driving. Lots of filming and editing. Lots of meetings around this gala fundraiser we do on Oct. 8, and then of course there’s Winning Dad‘s Seattle premiere on the 13th. And one in Fort Lauderdale on the following Friday. And Pennsylvania…

Who knew? I mean, I didn’t even think it would get made.

Busyness is not my friend. After all these years of setting my own schedule, it triggers anxiety and stress, not to mention lots of butt in chair activities.

But feeding and sheltering people makes stress worth it, and then there’s the movie. I can’t complain.

I will. But not in good conscience.

Now just to find clothes that fit. I seem to have sized myself out of some formal wear. I’m leaning toward informal. I’ll keep you posted.

Did I mention Kanye?

I Do

Yesterday we attended a wedding slightly less than 30 miles away, as the crow flies.

No crows were available, though, so the trip took roughly 100 minutes. As did the return trip. We essentially drove to Portland, minus the bacon-wrapped donuts from Voodoo.

In other words, we had to cross some water. We missed the 10:25 ferry and settled on the 11:10, and after 35 minutes or so we landed on Bainbridge Island, where we drove some more.

I would have gone further; we both would have. These are lovely people, marrying in the middle stages, as happens to people. It was beautiful and sunny and cloudy and warm and cold, and it was a wedding, by God.

View_smallerAll SmilesAlmost

Barista, Heal Thyself

I crawled out of bed this morning at 5:20, knowing I had a busy morning, not understanding that we were completely out of coffee. Although this is not as bad as it sounds.

It was oh so much worse.

Of all the childhood fears — the dark, separation anxiety, monsters under the bed, giant Muppets — nothing compares to the adult terror of waking up before dawn and finding no coffee in the house.

I dislike the idea that I’ve become chemically dependent on the active ingredient in java, especially considering that for many years I didn’t touch coffee. Not interested. Not my cup of tea, so to speak.

But now I’m all in, and no substitutes allowed. Some days I have a cup. Some days two. But these are mugs, and I calculated that each contains about 250 mg of caffeine. A can of diet soda, which occasionally I’ll have when I just feel like something sweet, has about 35 mg. That actual cup of tea has a little more, but really these shouldn’t even be in the same category, or genus, or universe.

I don’t want to make a bigger deal of it than it was. It was the worst morning of my life, more or less.


But coffee has been procured and I can feel my pleasure pathways begin to open up, which is a good thing because it’s a busy day. We’re heading for a wedding, taking place at 12:30 on the other side of Puget Sound. This is a nice trip and one we don’t make a lot, but ferry rides are dicey on weekends. This could stretch out.

This is similar to my buddy’s wedding three years ago: People a little later on in life (in their 50s), moving on into marital bliss because nobody wants to hang out for God knows how much longer alone. And then there’s compatibility and love. Really, this is going to be a special day.

But you begin these days the way you must, and I must. Pardon me while I drink this.


Too cute not to link to. Too awkward to embed. Still cute.

(Bix and his mom in Houston airport)

You Probably Think This Blog Is About You

Vanity is a subject that’s been on my mind a lot lately. A lot.

And yeah, there’s an elegant joke wrapped up in that sentence, only needing an elegant jokester, but honestly it’s too early.

First, this is entirely my opinion. I’m not about to read long articles or even a Wikipedia page on the subject; that way lies tardiness and sloth. I’m just winging it here. Judge accordingly.

But vanity, I think, considering that it seems to be innate in most of us, isn’t a survival tool, at least not in this era. I have no idea whether Paleolithic Man combed his hair. The Flintstones are not much help.

What vanity is, I think, is a coping mechanism. It’s just one of those things, all smeared together with hygiene and health and cleanliness and fresh breath. At its simplest, and least annoying, it’s just what we do, a lot of us: We want to look presentable to the world. We don’t want to go to a wedding in cut-off jeans (unless it’s that kind of wedding. Weddings are weird these days). We don’t want to draw attention to our mismatched socks or our bed hair or our unbrushed teeth. That’s all. One less thing to worry about.

You have vanity like this, I imagine. Do you wear a tie, or skip it? Dress, skirt, pants? Wear a beard, be clean shaven, grow one of those monster ones the kids are all wearing? It’s all vanity, and it’s all perfectly normal. We just want to look nice.

This essential vanity (italics mine), a humdrum social lubricant, sometimes wanders out of control. We all know about this. It creeps up on us from time to time, mostly because our bodies or faces or hair don’t meet our expectations and make us feel bad.

The other form is of the Carly Simon variety (meaning “You’re So Vain,” the song, not the singer). No need to discuss this, as it feels more like a pathology or at least bad behavior. A case in point would be Donald Trump’s hair, or whatever that is. But we can all think of examples. Moving on.

This is one of the pleasures of aging out of the mating pool, by the way. You can ease up a bit. No need to suck in the gut, etc. You’re either invisible or blocking the aisle, basically. Vanity is meaningless.

Fine with me. I lost those 30 pounds this summer not because I wanted to wear skinny jeans, but because I wanted to cut back on the sugar. It was just collateral damage, although vanity shows up from time to time. But it’s personal, and bathroom vanity only. Unless you’re a dedicated athlete or a body builder or, I guess, just lucky, it doesn’t really matter what your body fat percentage is. Taking off your shirt in public is never going to be an ideal experience.

But my hair is a different story.

Listen: You grow up in the 1970s, when hair was getting longer for boys and more annoying for their fathers. It became a battle front, won by us but at the price of pictures we now have that haunt our daily lives and make our children wonder exactly what genetic material we might have passed down.

But, of course, age again. Hair gets gray, and then white. It falls out, it gets thin, it won’t respond to the usual interventions, and most of the time, who cares? Hair has now, 40 years after my youth, become optional, even if you have plenty.

My problem is I have thin, wispy hair, always have, and decades ago it began to thin on the crown, very typical. This didn’t bother me, because I can’t see the back of my head. No problemo.

But I’ve seen a few pictures lately, taken from the rear and above, and it looks sloppy. As in the first kind of vanity. It feels like I don’t care enough to look nice.

So I haven’t had a haircut in months, trying to decide whether I want to go with the aging, country singer style, a little ragged and easygoing, or short and sweet, taking what life has taken from me and making it work the best I can.

And considering I have two very public appearances coming up, I think this needs to be settled. My guess is I’ll end up short, but rest assured I’ll let you know. Vanity, and all that.

No comb-overs, BTW. In case you were wondering. Not that vain.



It’s the first day of fall, so naturally I mowed the lawn yesterday. Spring and fall gives my mower a work-out; summer, not so much. Once a week or so, sometimes less, especially with a dry season such as this past one. But now the grass is rich green, verdant and anxious to spread its wings. I must stop this.

I’ve got another month of mowing, at least, and then a break until late January or so, again depending on the weather. But smelling the cut grass, negotiating those tricky spots I know so well, noting the flower bed weeds that still need my attention — this grounds me, this lawn, as does the month of September. It begins so many things, as it did four years ago.

From September 2012.


When To Look Away, And Why

I met him in a high school hallway, when he was still 14 and still had hair, although it was covered by an interesting hat. I called him “Zorro” for a while, actually, although he didn’t seem to mind. As long as I didn’t disrespect the hat.

Forty years is a long time for anything this side of redwoods, but this particular span, from teenager to wherever we are now (middle age? Late middle age? Pre-death?), contains multitudes, a lot of which we probably aren’t remembering correctly and some of which might have technically been illegal at the time. We grew up together, in other words.

He moved up to Washington from Arizona three years after I did, so even geography helped the friendship, and now here I was, a bunch of calendar pages away from high school, on a boat docked on the north end of Lake Union, about to watch my friend do something I’d never seen him do.

Two things, actually, since I’d missed his first wedding. But watching an old friend get married, under blue skies on the penultimate day of summer, was easy. I’d seen him change over the past few years, under the spell of this wonderful woman who now stood next to him on the deck. He was happier and calmer, it seemed, now surrounded by friends who loved them both, on a beautiful night. As I say, that part was easy.

But I’d never seen him dance, and I was going to go out on a limb and assume there was a good reason for that. The same reason that none of you have ever seen me dance. Over four decades of friendship, it’s possible to observe any number of judgment errors, but this one just had never come up. And now, apparently, it was about to.

Drill down into significant affection and you’ll find this feeling, this empathy, the fear that someone you care about might be put in a position that makes them look clumsy, or awkward, or worse. We grimace, we cover our eyes, we hold onto our stomachs and we try not to watch. That pretty much sums it up.

It also explains why, despite my curiosity and easy availability, I’ve not watched Clint Eastwood’s recent appearance at the Republican National Convention.

I know, I know. That was WEEKS ago. This is what I’m talking about.

Affection is what I have for Clint Eastwood. He was The Man in my formative years, the one movie star who had me waiting for his next film. I saw a lot of them, actually, in the 1970s with my newlywed buddy up there, afternoons spent in dark theaters watching Harry Callahan roam the mean streets of San Francisco. The only reason there’s not an “Outlaw Josey Wales” poster up in my bedroom is that I’m married.

I’ve never lost my respect, either. Even when his co-star was a monkey. He seemed like a good guy, an honest man, a passionate person who loved his craft and did it well, at least more times than not.

And even though he was never a typical Hollywood political type, never a Chuck Norris or Sean Penn, he had his beliefs and those too seemed admirable. He seemed traditionally conservative on some things and surprisingly liberal on others, but mostly he seemed sincere. This was something to respect, I thought, and it never occurred to me to wonder whom he voted for or why.

But this wasn’t about politics. This was about awkwardness, about satire, about appearing old and lost and fumbling on stage. I didn’t want to look. Not Clint, please.

To be fair, lots of people thought he did a great job. There seemed to be a consensus, though, or at least a widespread feeling that it was embarrassing for him, and I couldn’t watch. Still can’t. Still won’t. I hope it wasn’t that bad.

And he’s not the only one. The world has changed in the past four years, since we last had a national (i.e., presidential) election, by which I mean your grandma has a Facebook account and maybe a Ron Paul membership card. Politics won’t tell you who your friends are, but it sometimes sure tells you what dumb things they’ll believe.

So I cover my eyes, wait for the silly season to be over, when we can go back to funny cats and Clint’s latest film. I’m a coward, of course, but sometimes it spares me a lot of grief.

On the other hand, I closed my eyes and held up my cell phone instead, recording my buddy’s wedding dance, and surprise: He did great. Obviously some rehearsal had gone into it, so I was able to breathe easier and pat him on the back. “Nice dancing,” I said, and got a Dirty Harry look for my efforts. Some things are better left unsaid, apparently. There’s a lesson here.

The happy couple, 9/20/2012. Still happy.

The happy couple, 9/20/2012. Still happy.

Big Night

We left Phoenix on Tuesday, September 27, 1983, little U-Haul loaded, trunk loaded, backseat loaded, and the anxiety of three people definitely loaded and ready to fire. The best man at my wedding was making the move with us, so the three of us headed east, with no idea at all.

After a couple of days in L.A., visiting relatives, we headed north to Santa Cruz, spending a couple of nights with a college friend before getting back on I-5. We spent the night of October 3, 1983 in Grants Pass, Ore., then arrived in the Emerald City in the mid-evening of the next day, ready or not.

So October has some dates.

We moved to the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, just east of I-5, just a few blocks north from the Egyptian Theater, where Winning Dad will premiere in three weeks. Repo Man was playing at the Broadway Theater (long defunct), and we’d see Risky Business and The Big Chill in those first few weeks, but this?

Honestly, if you’d told me back then that in 2015, a movie I was in would premiere down the street, I’m pretty sure my reaction would have been, It took that long? Times, they change.

None of that diminishes the moment, though. My mom, who’s not crazy about traveling, just because of the hassle (she’s in fine health), is coming out. My brother and sister-in-law are also.

Because it’s been two years, and because it’s a big deal. In a relative sense, of course. My friend Kris, the one I recently wrote about, who received that faculty award from UT Austin? That was a bigger deal.

My son-in-law with his two Grammys, particularly that one for Roomful of Teeth in 2014? Much bigger deal.

Nobel prizes, doctorates, ordinations, moments when magic happens on karaoke night? Bigger deals.

But for us, my friends, my family, the friends and families of all of us, who have watched this project from the genesis in 2012 to the filming in 2013 to all the news and excitement and disappointments and successes of the past two years, this is a Big Deal.

Mostly because the odds of it happening again are slim, at least for me. It’s a one-off, or probably, and worth the excitement. It comes just a few days following a big event, a gala that I’m buried deeply in, details crossing my desk every day. It’s the kind of thing where you want to take a week off afterward.

So, busy busy. But in a good way.

And I think I’ll revise my imagination. Tell me way back when, in 1983, in a new city with strange streets and weather, with homesickness and domestic squabbles and job hunting and sad auditions, that this film would open in 32 years, and I think I’d just respond the way I do now. It’s a big deal.

Until the Nobel Prize. Which, frankly, I don’t see happening.


Inside the Egyptian


I missed mentioning what Facebook and other apps were so quick to remind me: It’s been five years since my wife’s brain surgery.

Five years is not without significance in the world of oncology, although this was a benign tumor. Still, there was radiation treatment, and of course we plunged into the world of cancer victims within a few months.

But that was the big day, Sept. 15, 2010. The sunny morning I drove her to the hospital, sat with her in preop, then retired to the waiting area, where I waited and answered a million text messages and emails and phone calls until I stopped.

And then, at about the time the surgery was to start, I couldn’t help but picture that incision being slowly made in my wife’s forehead, and that’s when I put my head between my knees and hoped for the best. Sometimes imagination is not a good thing.

But look at us, five years later. We’ve walked through the fire. We have a new grandson. We are busy doing underpaid work that makes a difference in the lives of people who don’t necessarily have brain tumors, but have other things. Mostly hunger of one sort or another.

Not that we were mean, selfish people who didn’t care until we got hurt.

But there was a subtle push, I think, aided by a front-and-center look at mortality, and while we are of the world, we mostly try to stay in it.

We’re aware of what’s going on. But we’re also aware that somewhere near, a little girl sleeps in the backseat of a car, watched over by a single mom who probably sleeps very little, knowing the danger and aware that her kids are hungry.

My guess is they don’t worry about dudes marrying dudes, or recreational marijuana being sold in retail stores and filling the state coffers with tax dollars, or Donald Trump, or any number of idiots who still believe the president of the United States was born in Kenya.

They’re just hungry. Neurosurgery won’t help.

But we can.