A Lovely Shade of Brown

It’s my wonderful husband’s birthday. Since the days of long ago when I homeschooled my two oldest daughters, I have done them the disservice of teaching them that all family birthdays are national holidays. We took those days off from school, started the morning with a special breakfast complete with a birthday crown, a decorated chair, flowers and a special balloon. We’d then venture out to explore the world in the fashion the celebrated one chose.

Our homeschooling adventure lasted three years, and two months  into our life in “regular” school my daughter reported to her second grade “regular” teacher that she would not be there the following day—it was her mother’s birthday. Suffice it to say she did attend school the following day, but neither one of us was very happy that our tradition had been broken by the calls of, “the right thing to do.”

But school days are long over for our family and we’ve returned to the lovely birthday routine of days gone by. This morning I fixed a breakfast to be cringed at by any calorie-counting, carb-watching, fat-shaming adult and we headed out to see where the day would take us.

It was 88 degrees before noon, so we opted for an indoor, people-watching, coffee-sipping, Apple-store-drooling trip to the mall. As we drove the 5, we tuned in to NPR. We listened to an interview with a lovely, courageous woman at the helm of some city in the mid-west as she declared her city a safe place and her disdain for the hate that had been incited by a racist campaign. We listened to a report on the history of Steve Bannon until my husband turned it off with the gentle words, “It’s my birthday.” By the time we parked at the mall the lump in my throat was the size of a softball and I choked on my words to my beautiful soul of a husband.

“I want to be wrong, I hope I’m wrong. I hope I’m the one apologizing one day because I’d overreacted and no one was hurt by the terrifying ideas that have been let loose.” I lost the battle with tears for a time, and he held my hand and quieted my heart with words that only love can manufacture.

When the skincare Kiosk guy offered to “fix” my eyes with his miracle cream, I politely refused and gave in to the idea that I was destined to walk around like a red-nosed raccoon for the rest of our day out. As they began to clear, not in small part from my husband’s generous humor, I took in the mall patrons. There were moms with baby strollers, wanderers, girlfriends on lunch breaks, ladies and men hurriedly hauling shopping bags of that last minute gift, that early holiday purchase, or that “had to have” item. What I noticed was the color of their skin, it was mostly a lovely shade of brown; black-brown, dark brown, light brown, golden. Their eyes were all kinds of shapes and shades, their hair was straight, curly, black, blonde, brown, pink, green, blue and sometimes I couldn’t tell, because it was covered.

I never had cause to notice the color of my country. This past week has brought it to the forefront, but today I was comforted by the many shades of America.

The Electoral College failed America. The idea of hate is doing exactly what we feared, it’s spurning incredibly scary times, but the thought that we’re still a beautiful melting pot of human consciousness gives me hope—I’m good with that, I look good in brown.

I noticed I take time off from writing here when all is well, it’s like one long birthday where I have nothing to do but celebrate life. Tuesday changed that—my tears are real, but so is my resolve to elevate my voice along with the rest who find the only truly intolerable thing is exclusion.

Silence nets us nothing.



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NMP Spells Angry!

Yesterday I was sad. Like so many of us, I couldn’t stop the tears from randomly rolling down my face.

Today I’m angry.

America did not elect Donald Trump. America elected Hillary Clinton. The outdated, two-hundred year old Electoral College elected Donald Trump; a dangerous, misogynistic, racist, homophobic, ticking time-bomb buffoon. That same Electoral College, created back in a time when only white men who owned property were allowed to vote, is now on the list of necessary change.

Regardless, he will be the next president. He is not my president.

However, I have an open mind.

Mr. Trump: If you would like to be my president, do not repeal Obamacare until you have the program you claim will be superior in place. Do not screw with the environment and cause our earth greater pain than we all experienced yesterday. You don’t think climate change is real?  It’s unusually hot in many areas around our nation this season, and not because we’ve just entered hell.  Respect the hard-fought rights of those who wish to love and marry the person of their choice…you did–three times.   Respect and ensure a woman’s right to choice when it comes to her own body, and while on the subject of respect…lose the gross, unappealing, sophomoric, sickening misogyny.  Work to get all equal pay for equal work. Don’t take us to war. You want to be the leader of this country? A country of mixed races, skin-tones, religions and sexual orientations – embrace them all. Quit threatening to take our country back nearly 60 years to a time of fear and tyranny. If you can’t do these things, then please step off.

If you do step off there is only more to fear.

Mr. Pence: How many friends, family members, acquaintances, staff members have you shoved into closets, locked the door and threw away the key?  Get with the 21st century – you think you can “pray away the gay”, the only thing we can hope is that we can pray away those that would even suggest such a thing. Why are you so afraid to accept people who only want to love? You don’t believe in “gay” love and marriage? Don’t sleep with or marry a man. It’s really quite simple.

To you both: You have succeeded in obtaining your red Senate, red House, red White House, soon-to-be red Supreme Court; you cannot blame Obama for the messes you will make, so be very careful how you proceed.

Speaking of Barack Obama; he is the epitome of grace. He has dealt with the most ignorant racism, your ridiculous accusations, gridlock, stonewalling, disrespect and stupidity by elected officials, all while reducing unemployment, creating jobs, getting our economy under control, mending relations with countries we were at odds with and still managed to be the classiest president we’ve ever had. He will be my president long after January 20th, 2017. DO NOT MENTION HIS NAME UNLESS YOUR TONE IS DRIPPING WITH THE UTMOST RESPECT! Seriously!

You want to be our president? Act like one. That’s all I have to say to you right now. You’ve got enough repair work on your plate. Good luck.


Today, I’m angry. By now you’ve read a lot of rants like this one, and I do appreciate your indulging me while I complete my meltdown. But, it’s not really over. I’m not going to be quiet from here on. Social media makes it far too easy to write our Senators and Congress-women and men every day if necessary.

Speak up, shout out, make your voice heard. We spoke by voting Hillary Clinton into office, only to be told our voices don’t matter. I guess that means we get a little louder. Creating noise? Maybe…but silence gets us nowhere.

Roll up your sleeves comrades – we’ve got work to do.




Posted in #notmypresident #barackobama #angry #presidentobama #trump #pence #gaymarriage, barackobama, notmypresident, Uncategorized | Tagged | 7 Comments

“Just Alright” Friday

I always enjoyed this one. Happy Easter everyone!

Several Stories High

This has always been a tough week for me.  In grade school it was customary to have Good Friday off, and the ABC affiliate usually ran “The Greatest Story Ever Told” at 3:30pm.

I wasn’t crazy about that movie.  Even my third grade self found it violent and just plain mean to Jesus who seemed to me a very nice guy — complete with Breck shiny hair and an extremely enviable BMI.

Not even the thrill of  dying eggs and the smell of hidden chocolate could take the edge off the heavy gray, usually drizzly, not necessarily “Good” Friday.

It gets chilly here in Southern California.  On one particularly brisk-breeze-off-the-ocean day, I was scheduled to meet Mr. Two-Day for a little rendezvous complete with a movie and make-out take-out.

I figured I would find him in a warm and welcoming flannel shirt, smelling of Old-Spice or Irish Spring and smouldering kindling — you know — those manly, man by the…

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Built from Snow

In case you’ve missed it, it’s snowing in the east.

I remember snow days. I remember they were few and far between just outside Chicago when I was a kid, in fact there would have to be more than a foot on the ground for school to be called. We’d wait patiently for Ray Rayner to rattle off our school at 7am and when he did, he was the local hero, and when he didn’t—we called for his show to be cancelled and vowed to hold Cuddly Dudley hostage until he came through.

School kids in suburban Illinois learned early how to navigate three foot drifts—in skirts, in order to board the 7:40am bus that showed up at 7:39am, even with a fresh 12 inches having fallen between dinner the night before and six a.m. It built character.

Then we moved to Virginia.

All grown up and with three daughters of my own, we’d watch the five o’clock news the night before an anticipated 3″ dusting and our school would be among those listed as closed. The girls would cheer and head to the basement to dig out sleds, boots, snow pants, hats, gloves and scarves.

Sometimes the three inches came, sometimes not, but the trip to the sled hill, the beauty of untouched white and the breathless climbs up the sled-hill after a good run were memories in the making. Memories we could pocket—and keep.

Today they got upwards of three feet. We only had a few that were close to that during the girls’ school years in Virginia, and they were magical. Our street became an army of shovelers helping one another, pushing cars for one more trip to the grocery store and showing the kids how to build a real igloo, one they vowed to spend the night in, but never got the chance. Crackling fires, warm beds and hot chocolate trumped a night in ice.

I remember one winter storm in 2010 when I donned my boots and gloves to head out to shovel the walk after a 15 inch dump of the white stuff. I was single again and the girls were grown and their interests had shifted from snow forts to friends and boys, so only dog paws across our yard indicated that anyone was home. I opened the front door and there were six men with snowblowers and shovels in our driveway. Six men who saw to it that me and my daughters were taken care of.

Snow angels had a whole new meaning from then on.

We watched today from the opposite coast and found the excitement from the east had spread all the way here. It wasn’t memories of wet foyer floors, boots in the middle of the hall or dozens of trips to the dryer to toss in wet clothes to be ready for the next venture outdoors—it was thoughts of fun and beauty, of crimson Cardinals and bright Bluejays on the back deck taking advantage of the bread crumbs we tossed to them—and sharing with the less vibrant, but equally hungry sparrows. It was thoughts of mulled wine and hot cocoa, tomato soup and grilled cheese lunches to nourish the young creators of snow families and sturdy forts. It was thoughts of neighbors and friends who didn’t go to work, but stayed home and played with their families, and the world didn’t end because of it.

My forever friend, who still lives in Chicago, once told me that Californians rob themselves of the joy of emerging from winter. That surviving storms was essential in building character. She told me this as we took in the shores of California during her visit to see me and remind me who I am. I find her statement to be true and I’m glad I had my share of storms, that showed themselves in many forms.

Storms do build character.

I felt a little guilty today, we live at the beach and it was chilly today, which we mentioned more than once. I thought of why warmer climates are necessary for some; the homeless, the elderly—I thought about the homeless and elderly back east, this type of storm isn’t fun, it’s life threatening, but I also thought of those who extended a meal, or a hand, or a couch, or a clear driveway—proving once again, that storms build character.

I remember waking up to the perfect snowday, where the children slept late and the flakes fell silently. Chimneys spewed smoke that melted the rooftops and made me certain the occupants were warm and safe.

A perfect snowday.

The inevitable will happen, cabin fever will set in, the thaw will come, the roads will be messy and the empty fridge will require a good trip to Costco—but for now, it’s magic.

Good for the soul kind of magic—the kind you put in your pocket and keep.


Posted in blizzard2016, snow, Snowdays, Uncategorized, Virginia | 3 Comments

Grace – Fully

My parents were married on October 15th, 1955. Four days later my father would return home to their Chicago apartment with half a cake from the local bakery and reveal to my mother that it was his 24th birthday.  From that day, October 19th was always special in our household.

My father has been gone ten months and twelve days now and not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of him. I’ve collected countless pennies in a penniless world, I have dreamed of him, heard his voice and more times than I care to share, I’ve had to remind myself that he’s no longer here. At least not physically.

The gifts that he gave us were plentiful; his examples of love, loyalty and his ability to treat every stranger as the friend he hadn’t yet met were traits we came to take for granted – kindness was his way.

The lessons he taught me were plentiful, but one that resonates is when I was just 16 years old.  We lived by the Arabian Sea and my brother and I returned from our strict Kuwaiti school, traded our school uniforms for bathing suits and headed to the pier where my cousin and her boyfriend, who happened to be a Kuwaiti prince, would pick us up in his speedboat for an after-school treat of waterskiing.

An envious neighbor, who had witnessed our clandestined boarding of the boat, sent her little brother to my parents’ front door to tattle that we had left the grounds and were now waterborne.

We returned to see my father waiting on the pier. One of the more frightening sights of my short 16 years.

He scolded the prince and was not at all impressed when his bodyguard asked, “Do you know who this is?”  My cousin had opted to remain at sea on yet another royal vessel, so it appeared to my father that my brother and I were hitching rides from random princes with flashy speed boats.

A few days later the prince called our home and was granted permission by my father to stop by. I was on pins and needles, unsure what sort of rumble was to take place when the prince showed up.

The knock on the door meant the prince had arrived. My father opened the door to said prince holding a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates for my mother.

“Welcome,” my father said. His smile was genuine as he opened the door wide and waved him in.

The prince sat with him for some time, apologized profusely for taking us out on the seas without his permission and left our home with an invitation to return anytime.  I was confused.

Later that evening as I said my goodnights, I braved the question, “Why were you so nice to him? I thought you’d be angry.”

His response was this, “When someone comes to your home to apologize, you have no choice but to be gracious.”

That was all he said.

Lesson learned.

I miss him.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

What a fortunate daughter I was and will be forever thanks to the fact that you were my kind, gracious and loving dad.

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Forgive the Rant ~

I’m a little tired of the hate ~

I’ve been quiet for a long time. Primarily because it’s hard to write when you’re shaking your head at the unthinkable—the unbelievable.

I feel a bit of a rant coming on, so I ask that you indulge me while I purge.

The inflammatory remarks by presidential hopefuls about women, gays, Muslims, immigrants—both legal and illegal—and our current president are peppered with so much hate and misinformation that I can’t decide if I find it shocking, embarrassing or just plain scary.

Let’s start with women, shall we? Donald Trump is a buffoon with an unkempt squirrel atop his head, yet his misogynistic remarks toward his female opposition, commentators and anyone lacking the ability to pee standing up, continue.  While I’m not a fan of Carly Fiorina and do my best to avoid anything on Fox News, his remarks about these women were ridiculous and uncalled for.

Build a wall—really? What happened to the country we were so proud to be? What happened to the sentiments inscribed on the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door. ~ Emma Lazarus

What happened to our ability to embrace those whose situation is so desperate that they will risk life and limb to begin again in the land of the free? Each and every one of us is the result of an immigrant braving the journey to this great country.  If we are going to adopt the thinking of those against lawful and obtainable immigration, then surely we must take down the inscription and return the statue to its rightful owners who speak a foreign language and therefore aren’t welcome here.

Kim Davis – if you don’t believe in the rights of gays to marry, don’t marry a woman. I would not choose to marry a redneck and yet I respect your right to spend the rest of your life with one. Stop (illegally) shoving your personal beliefs down the throats of people who just want to spend their lives with the person they love the most. If you can’t do your job, then do the right thing and step away. In doing so you will relieve yourself of the task of issuing legal marriage licenses to same sex couples and you will relieve us of the hate and intolerance you spread.

Muslims are people. Like Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Lutheran and every other religion known to man, there are the good and the bad. ISIS is not a reflection of Islam in the least. They are insane radicals with no regard for life, liberty, history or religion. For Ben Carson to suggest that a person’s faith should determine whether they should become president or not takes racism to a whole new level. It seems we have taken so many steps backward.

The “All lives matter” movement isn’t just based on the color of skin, it is our responsibility to respect one another on so many levels—ethnicity, race, religion, gender and sexual preference to name just a few.

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Upside Down—Inside Out

It’s Father’s Day and if there’s anything my Palestinian father taught me it’s that prejudice is pain.

I find it ironic that the movie “Inside Out” came out the week of one of the worst hate crimes in our history. Not because the theme is relevant, from what I understand “Inside Out” is about emotions, wearing them on our sleeves, saving them a place at the table, validating their need to make themselves known—then again, maybe the theme is relevant.

I’ve been quiet during these turbulent times of recent. I’ve had a hard time wrapping my head around senseless killings, bullets to the backs, lives snuffed out more like some video game than the harsh reality that the trigger happy world we live in leaves behind.

Inside out. What if that were our reality? I can’t imagine a world where one would say “Her bones aren’t white enough.” “His blood’s not red enough.” “Those lungs aren’t pink enough, and therefore, he can’t stay.”

Turn us inside out and we all look the same.

My insides ache for those who sent their loved ones off to worship on that fateful Wednesday. My insides ache for the young man who allowed hate to take hold of the course of his life, setting him on a path of jailbird jumpsuits, painful hearings and the knowledge that he turned lives upside down. My insides ache for the fact that the powers that be in South Carolina can’t see the confederate flag for what it is, a symbol of prejudice. A symbol whose time has long passed. A symbol that, like floral wallpaper and trans fats, has to go.

I take refuge in the display of compassion from those who lost and those who embrace them. They are focused on the inside, the broken hearts, the frail attempt to look toward a future that no longer sees difference—only what makes us the same. Today the emotion that longs for a place at the table is grief. Grief in that we haven’t ventured very far from the days of 1963 when four young girls were killed for no reason other than the color of their skin. Grief that we have revisited hate, yet again.

We all bleed red. Our common color. Perhaps we should focus on that.

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A Light Snack at Tiffany’s

I love movies. I always have. I remember my very first encounter with a movie theatre with a scrolling marquee of bulbs as big as me. I was less than five and they were showing Disney’s “Cinderella”. My parents must have pinched pennies until they bent double in order to snag my sisters and I seats, popcorn and the notion that somewhere, among all the chaos of the world, lies a happily ever after, a prince and some really great shoes.

At the time I was too young to be distracted by the “Why, that just couldn’t happen!” aspects of the film. I learned some twenty years later that it is absolutely impossible to befriend a mouse living in your wall boards as they are not cute, or endearing and you will likely resort to murder—and the closest you will come to that pumpkin coach is a spiced latte in October.

I don’t claim to be an expert on film, although I did totally call it on “King’s Speech” and “Argo” and have now added “Boyhood” to my collection of “I’m pretty sure this film is getting an Oscar nod” movies.

My family finds me less than capable of being a film critic because I tend to fall asleep.  Often before the opening credits have finished.

I blame that on the fact that I get up very early to tend to an elderly dog with a weakening bladder, throw blankets over shivering daughters who think it’s cool to leave all the windows open to capture the night sea air, and solve all the problems of the world before venturing out into said world by 8:00am. It’s a taxing venture to say the least. So, when a movie is mentioned at 8:00pm, I know it’s the equivalent of a dose of warm milk with a Nyquil chaser and I simply succumb to the Slumber Fairy and I sleep.

But, I have been fortunate to catch a film every so often in the middle of the day and seen it to those fleeting words “The End”. What I tend to focus on is less story and far more distraction. The cynical voice in my head chimes in with “Wait a minute — that can’t happen!” That’s the film critic I’ve become, the one who finds the flaws that hide out like Waldos in horizontal stripes in all the dark corners of the film.

So, grab your popcorn and settle in. Let’s head to the city that doesn’t sleep —

Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

My favorite film evvvveeeerrrrr….

Who doesn’t love this film? Audrey Hepburn?


Please. She defines grace.

But wait!

Holly Golightly, while amazingly beautiful and enviously thin, is unemployed — yet she snagged a New York apartment, has awesome dresses and alligator shoes? I’m a little confused.

Then I find that the way she does it is a once a week visit to a dude in prison who pays her a hundred bucks to (unbeknownst to her) tell the underworld (in code) where the drug cartel plan to drop the next load.

Good enough, but one visit to the guy pays for one alligator shoe. What about rent (not to mention the other shoe)? Garbage pick-up? Cab fare? The darling little sleep mask? The electric bill? Smokes? The vodka for the party where Meg Wildwood shows up with two rich guys in tow? And c’mon, are you really going to tell me that Holly snagged all those dresses at Goodwill? Even her powder-room proceeds can’t clothe her in the manner she’s obviously become accustomed.

Then in a most creepy way, Jed Clampett shows up to whisk Holly back to Texas.  Texas?  She’s got an English accent — Holly Golightly can’t be from Texas!

Then there’s George Peppard, pre-Banacek, a handsome bachelor with a thing for Patricia Neal–whom in today’s world, would be far more likely  featured in one of those scary “Why you should never smoke” commercials than a Maxim Coffee ad. He’s a catch who, too, lives in New York as a kept man on a meager advance from a book that ranks low on Amazon.com and is print-on-demand at three bucks a pop.

But it’s fun and romantic and reeks of soggy cats and soggier boyfriends with great kisses and happily ever afters.  Audrey Hepburn did Cinderella one better, she brought sturdier shoes. Alligator trumps glass every time.

Cinderella stories have been around a long, long time. It’s just the shoes that change.

I think I’ll sleep on that—in search of the next story with distractions right around the bend, complete with a happily ever after.

While I’m no Siskle and Ebert, they’re in that great viewing room in the sky, you might just have to deal with me.

Did I just hear you yawn?


Posted in Breakfast at Tiffany's, Film, Movies, screenwriting, Uncategorized, writing | 7 Comments

Dad II

My father passed away today. I’m a little nervous about his first day in heaven. It’s reminiscent of my daughters’ first days at kindergarten. Did he get along? Did he eat lunch? Did he miss me?

My father was a love maker, he took most any situation and somehow turned it into an opportunity for love. I loved that about him. See what I mean?

He died peacefully in his home surrounded by those who loved him – many who could be there and many who could not. He had left the nursing home only days before – primarily because his room was a fire hazard with standing room only and the threat of a mosh pit…so we took him home.

My father was the kindest man I’ve ever known. He was a giver of many things, but love, trust, compassion and encouragement were the silver lining of his pockets and he gave generously to all he met — and the recipients were forever grateful.

I have no idea how I’ll live without the sound of his voice, the touch of his hand, the music of his laugh and the warmth of his soul—I will have to keep you posted on that. In the meantime, those who have read this poem in previous posts, please forgive me for the redundancy. Those who have not seen it, save it — it helps when the time is right.

I have shared this so often, I think Henry Van Dyke owes me lunch.

Gone From My Sight
by Henry Van Dyke
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side,
spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck
of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone”

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast,
hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
And, she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me — not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, “There, she is gone,”
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!”

And that is dying…

I found this poem quite by accident as I had sent it to a treasured friend who was on the brink of loss. Little did I know that I would need it first. I take comfort in my fit of jealousy for those who wait to welcome him. I so want to be a guest at that party — but his voice says “No. There is work to be done. Writing to be shared, hugs of encouragement to be given in as selfless a manner as you can muster.”

And so my friend asked I share a piece I wrote for him while he was very much alive, huggable and loving and my own – very, very, very special Dad.

I miss you so very much. Save me a place.


There are only a handful of scents that send me on a journey straight back to my safe and content seven-year old self. Among the most powerful? A real Christmas tree, freshly mowed summer grass and Aqua Velva – Ice Blue.

Monday through Friday I woke to the smell of what I imagined only a perfect day on the ocean could rival, and the sound of the morning news as it streamed from my parents bedroom. Not the “…and now for your entertainment” type news we get today, this was the real stuff; Viet Nam, the height of the crisis in the Middle-East and civil rights.

The scent pulled me out of bed Pepe Le’ Pew style and floated me down the hall where I would catch a glimpse of my father getting ready for work, as he listened to Harry Reasoner tell tale of the crumbling world around him.

The smell of Aqua Velva lingered long after he was gone to win the bread to ensure we continued to feel safe in a chaotic time.

He wore suits.

My favorite was the navy blue. He looked so handsome in his Rob Petrie tapered slacks, crisp shirt and carefully chosen tie. The vision combined with the smell of Ice Blue let me know that despite what Harry Reasoner said, all was well with the world. At least for me.

For him? It was a different story.

He watched the news less to find out what was going on in the world around us, and more how the world around us might affect him on that very day. Born in 1931 near Jaffa, Palestine, he was well aware that all eyes were on the Middle-East. The six-day war had dimmed his hopes of one day returning to the home he had been forced from at the tender age of 17, just 3 years after the sudden loss of his mother and 1 year after losing his sister.

The morning news often clued him in on how he might be received at the office where he served as vice president. A retaliatory move by the Palestinians might mean a few cold shoulders were in the immediate future, a hit by Israel meant a few puffed chests around the water cooler. No matter, he went to work with shoulders squared and Aqua Velva chin held high.

I remember a morning in June of 1968. I rounded the corner of his room prepared for a hug and a whiff of Ice Blue, but was hushed by a vision of him with his hands to his horrified face and the image of Robert Kennedy on the floor of a Los Angeles hotel kitchen on the TV screen.

A Palestinian was involved. I think he stayed home that day.

I’ve often wondered how a man who lost so much at such a young age could understand how to navigate a foreign land, marry a Danish beauty, have four children and face each day with the grace and faith required to get through it and get up the next day to do it all again.

He never let on that the losses took their toll.

No matter how taxing the day, or brutal the Dan Ryan Expressway, he pulled into the driveway at 6:30pm with his tie still knotted and a hint of a shadow on his chiseled chin. He kissed his bride and hugged his kids before trading in his suit for something more appropriate to inspect his roses, fruit trees and tomatoes, or take a paintbrush or screwdriver to the home he was so proud of.

He taught us to ride two wheelers, fly kites, lob tennis balls and play cards. He forked out $1.26 every Sunday for six cones at Baskin Robbins. I remember the Sunday it was $1.32 – we were stunned.

He was kind to every single person he encountered (still is). Women found him handsome (still do), men found him inspiring (still do). He taught us the importance of God, a good sense of humor, loyalty and integrity.

He taught us our heritage, but let us blend into the world of the American teenager, because he knew it was where we would feel most comfortable. He took us to London and Paris and Egypt where my breath was taken by the great Pyramids and the powerful Sphinx. It was as close as we would get to his home in Palestine.

I learned that true fatherhood was less blood and more a desire to teach children well at any opportunity. A trait I find noble and necessary to this day. He embraced our friends as if they were his own, worried about them, ensured them they always had a second home. Rescued them when needed, but not without a two-minute lecture stressing the importance of good judgement.

There’s only a few I know who can carry this off with a certain kind of grace, they are invaluable and they know who they are.

My father has given us countless gifts. Gifts you can’t stuff into boxes in the back of closets, these are gifts, that once you have them, you carry them with you forever.

They linger. Like Aqua Velva-Ice Blue.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thank you. I love you.

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Surviving the Hood

The good news is that our writing/editing business is brisk, we’ve scored clients coast to coast and we’ve managed to capture more than our fair share of rave reviews and repeat business.   The bad news is it’s becoming rare that we can steal away for an afternoon in a tucked away movie house to lose ourselves in a few hours of laughter or fantasy.  Or, like today — reality.

As screenwriters, we love to keep an eye on much more than the glitz, glamour, chaos and scandal of Hollywood.  We monitor the business.  What gets made, what scores big at the box office, what gets the nods and statues in the early months of every year, who penned the scripts and how they managed to get them read, bankrolled, cast, shot and wrapped.

A search for a distraction from a tedious task led to a quick peek at Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 Movies of 2014 and spiked my curiosity.   “Boyhood” was number one with a score of 99%.  Don’t get me wrong, there were many movies made this year that scored well into the 90th percentile, in fact the first 35 on the list scored at or above 90%.  It was that #1 slot that captured my attention.

It was a date – the 4:20 show in an air conditioned theatre on a day where the California temperature rivaled the current address of Jeffrey Dahmer, Osama Bin Ladin and Jack the Ripper was too great a temptation.  My on-line writing group had mixed reviews on the movie, my response was “…worst case we’ll make out in the balcony.”  Everybody wins.

Two 1/2 gallon jugs of Coke Zero, a tub of unbuttered popcorn and a pack of M&Ms pushed us into the “expensive date” zone, but we hadn’t indulged in a while, and so we entered the theatre prepared to have our questions answered — why was “Boyhood” the number one film of the year?

If I were to describe this film, I would say it would not be unlike the experience of being invited to a stranger’s house in middle-class America.  They might offer you some semi-stale potato chips and a glass of warm root-beer before sitting you in the front room with a stack of photo albums and insist you start with the one on top.

The oldest — the beginning.

There are many cringe-worthy moments in “Boyhood”, but only because you have lived them, witnessed them, said them or heard them.  It’s about love, the lack of love, the want for love, the search for love.  It’s about acceptance, the lack of acceptance, the want for acceptance, the search for acceptance.  It’s about change, the lack of change, the want for change — are you seeing the pattern here?

The thing that makes this movie unique from other movies that cope with the dynamics of family is that it was made over a period of twelve years — twelve years with the same cast.  We actually witness the players evolve, mature, grow, learn and come of age.  Every one of them, no matter what their age.  Their arcs are subtle.  The miracle lies in the fact that the entire cast was around, interested, ready and willing to regroup every year for twelve years to resume the film.

There are no tragedies, no magic moments, no rare diseases or natural disasters.  The tension of the film lies in our uncomfortable familiarity with the situations, it lies in the angst of a broken family, in being the teen and in raising the teen.  Being the parent and pardoning the parent.  Being the adult and becoming the adult.

Number one?  I’m not sure, I have seen so little this year to determine if it’s worthy of that elite place on the list. I think the enviable score of 99% comes more in that it’s likely 99% of those who reviewed it were a little freaked out that Richard Linklater may have wired their home, car, phone, thoughts and conversations to use for his script.  In fact we’re pretty sure our kitchen was tapped for the scene about rinsing the cereal bowl and seeing it all the way into the dishwasher — we have that conversation down to perfection.

“Boyhood” might have just as well been called “Girlhood”, or “Parenthood”, or “Couple-hood”, or “Un-Couple-hood” for that matter.  It is about surviving them all — and then continuing on to one day go back and visit memories in dusty photo albums over stale chips and root-beer, or a bowl of cereal.

Just make sure you rinse the bowl and — well, you know.


Posted in Boyhood, family, family life, Movies, screenwriting, writing | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments