What Dreams May Come






















Any serious “Star Trek” fan (let’s be fair; we’re all serious) knows “Amok Time,” the premiere episode of the original series’ second season, the one in which the breakout star of the series, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, shows his illogical or at least biological side. He gets really horny, in other words, entering pon farr, the mating season for Vulcans.

And, for you unserious people, he returns to Vulcan, only to have his bonded mate reject him in the only way she could, by instigating a challenge duel to win her…whatever. Soul. Matehood. Vulcans are hard to understand.

And blah blah blah. Oh, wait. Unserious people, I forgot about you. She chooses Captain Kirk as her champion, knowing even if he wins the battle he won’t want her, and if Spock wins he certainly won’t be interested since she challenged his right to become her mate. Very logical.

Anyway. Kirk doesn’t die (duh) but it appears that Spock kills him, and T’Pau, the head Vulcan or whatever, expresses her remorse, even if passively.

“I grieve with thee,” she says.

I want to say this, quite a lot. It seems so much more personal than “Sorry for your loss,” and still formal enough to sound authentic. I swear, I’ve come this close. I grieve with thee, I want to say. Because I do.
Sometimes, anyway. When your pet dies, when your grandma dies, when you suffer. When you grieve. When I know you, and care, and suffer in solidarity with you, muted grief but still grief. You know what I’m talking about.

I have grieved for a week now, sitting my Presbyterian shiva for a movie star who was more. I wrote a column for this week, mulling all over this over, writing little of it. How we react to the deaths of people we don’t know, just know of. The impact certain people, particularly performers and other creative types, have on our little, uncelebrated lives, accepted and ignored for the most part until they leave us.

And this was so, so different. He didn’t die at the right time, as did Elaine Stritch and Lauren Bacall, to be missed but mostly celebrated. He didn’t die in an accident, or after battling cancer.

But he battled something, and I suppose it’s good that we talk about that. A friend mentioned to me the other day that she’d read more people die every year from their own hand than in war, a fact that stunned her. It sort of stuns me.

I have nothing to add, though, to the devastation of depression so dark that the only light seems to be death. No experience with that at all.

But I grieved, as I went about my business, for this man who made a career out of joy, bringing it, sharing it, celebrating it. I knew him from the beginning, spotted him on an HBO showcase and laughed like crazy, then saw him rocket into stardom so quickly that it was bound to end soon.

It didn’t, though. There was one point, and maybe following his second film, “The World According to Garp,” when I wondered if he wouldn’t surprise us all by turning into a superior actor, whose range and depth of characterization would rank with DeNiro and Brando and Olivier and Hopkins. He just seemed to have so much of everything.

Except hope, as it turned out. That is why I grieved. I know a little about hopelessness, but not this kind.

I never saw him become that kind of actor, by the way, but that’s just an opinion from a constant watcher. Maybe I couldn’t let loose of Robin Williams to find his characters, or maybe he couldn’t. There just seemed to be too much of him to hide, as brilliant and moving as he was in so many films.

Which, paradoxically, made me admire him more. Once again: He specialized in joy, even if he had trouble locating it within himself. I’ve watched very few of the tributes or old interviews, because I’ve seen them before. I was a Robin Williams watcher, and I got used to seeing his thoughtful, ruminative, quiet side.

For me, this brought him out of rarefied movie star air and down to a level I could relate to, a bit. It made him more human. It certainly made him mortal, and he certainly was.

As I wrote in my column, my first reaction to the comments I saw from my younger friends upon learning of his death was, “But he belonged to us,” those of us who were there at the beginning, but that passed quickly when I remembered. I saw him in Altman’s “Popeye,” a bravura performance, in a theater, but also in “Jumanji” and “Hook” with my kids.
He truly belonged to all of us.

I’m moving on now, my shiva over, but he will always cross my mind, and I suppose yours, too. He belonged to all of us. I grieve with thee. Find joy, now, him and us. It was his legacy, I suppose, and would that it were said of me.

Continue Reading

The Day Before

In the fall of 2034, Throwback Thursday will be institutionalized by the sitting U.S. President, who quite possibly will be standing when she does it.  Or at a walking desk.  Sitting will be smoking by then, discouraged and sneered at and lectured against by medical professionals, who will always be moving, making our eyesight even worse.  And it’ll be bad, by then.  Too much screen time, usually spent sitting.

There will be sitting ghettos, in alleys and under eaves and 30 feet from the entrance to anything, where recalcitrant (and myopic, of course) sitters will lounge around, telling stories or just trying to stay out of the rain, and for God’s sake sitting for a few minutes.

Anyway.  #TBT will become law.  It will become the Sabbath Day of social media, but we won’t call it social media.  We will just call it life, and once a week we will pause to reflect on the past.  The present may not be all that good.  So we look backwards, as poets do, and those who don’t may be suspected of other bad habits, some of them sedentary.

In the meantime, we don’t need no laws, and we can still sit.  So this is Throwback Thursday.  I hope someone is stuffing a turkey, somewhere.  It deserves celebration.

We’re just getting started.  We’ve only now started producing this first generation of natural archivists, babies who will have access to multimedia documentation of their entire lives.  “What was I like when I was little?” will be a punch line, a silly joke in a society that keeps everything, and if it’s a serious question then Siri will handle it, quickly and efficiently.

But while we wait 20 years, we can desperately search shoeboxes for fun photos of earlier times, when “Full House” was a hit and hair was big and nobody had phones or indoor plumbing.  Pictures of us, probably.  When we were thin.

In honor of this uninstitutionalized TBT, then, I just wanted to make an observation.

A year ago, on August 7, 2013, I got my Chromecast stick in the mail.  It wasn’t that big of a deal.  Still isn’t.  Although we use it all the time to shoot stuff from our phones and tablets to the big screen.  Fun.  But that’s all I come up with for a year ago.  Today.

But tomorrow?  When it’s not Throwback Thursday, just Plain Friday?

That day, we shot the last scene for “Winning Dad,” in a small apartment in Ballard, then moved down the block to MacLeod’s for a wrap party.  It wasn’t wild and crazy, but still fun.  We made something, together, and now our part was done.  Other parts had to be finished, but most of us wouldn’t be involved.

So I will throw back to a year ago, but tomorrow.  The parts I don’t want to remember (those pants, that shirt) are long gone, if preserved.  The rest of the parts are special, and here’s how special.

It changed my life, making that film.  In small ways, to be sure, but significant ones.  I relearned that I need to be part of a group of like-minded (if, in this case, much younger) people, all aiming for a common goal.  I realized eventually, after the fact, that the happiest times in my life were spent doing things like that.  This is only remarkable when you understand I’ve worked alone, mostly, and at home, mostly, for a quarter of a century.  So relearning was necessary.

I also, apparently, need to make this point.  Some of you are wondering, a little anxiously, why you haven’t seen “Winning Dad” yet, and I will explain.  If it were a bad or even mediocre piece of filmmaking, you would have already.

I’m not saying it’s going to save the world, or change it.  Just that there seems to be enough quality that came out of those 24 days of filming that timetables shifted.  “Winning Dad” is not a blog post film, to be published immediately following the last period, and a quick spellcheck.

So there will be more news, probably in a couple of months, maybe sooner, and maybe that will just be that it premieres and then moves into the contemporary distribution world, removable media or online streaming.  Or there could be a delay; a slight chance, but for a good reason.

But eventually, sure.  You can watch it.  You might be all meh or blah or ho-hum, or whatevs, but it won’t be hidden.  Films take time.

I just wanted to note it, a day early for TBT.  We finished 366 days ago.  We were relieved, and grateful.  There were some hugs.  The weather was nice.  The company was warm.  It changed my life.  It made me a better person, and I sit as little as possible these days, just in case something else happens, because a year ago something did.

The last day of filming, August 8, 2013.
Continue Reading