grief

The Things You Keep When Clearing Out

JaiEarringsCleaning up / clearing out your space, no matter that space, challenges you to think hard about what you want to keep and what you truly don't need. We packed up most of our personal belongings when we went left for England this year. (Friends were renting and we were making space for them.) Upon our return, we pulled out the essentials from their boxes and left the other stuff to get around to.

I finally got around to a big plastic bin of random t-shirts, bathing suits, work out clothes and my jewelry. "My jewelry" sounds fancy, but really it's a bunch of cheap and cheerful bead bracelets, glass earrings, etc. Nothing upscale at all. I just hadn't wanted to take two sandwich sized bags of stuff with me. 

Since we've been back I've had only what I had in England: four pairs of earrings, five necklaces and one ring. And it's been plenty.

While unpacking yesterday, I made a pile to give away and cut down my jewelry load by 1/3 or so. That feels good.

But these. These will never go. Never ever. 

These were made by a dear friend I knew from high school. She died in a house fire with her two little children in 2003. Devastating.

You could never put Jai in a tidy box. She couldn't be defined. Quirky gets close, but is not quite enough. She was an artist and made lovely jewelry. These are the only things of hers I own and I will keep them close. 

If you've seen the tattoo on my right ankle, that's her website logo design. She's always with me. 

Cleaning out stuff always brings up memories and emotions and joy and pain. And so much to celebrate, even in grief. 


Trip to Yugoslavia

DotAndFriends60sor70sKurt's mom Dot died three years ago this month. She was about to turn 97. (That's her, the blonde on the far right in the fabulous teal ensemble, enjoying drinks with the girls*. Please click for best big-hair viewing.)

After she died, there was the usual, exhausting grief-filled process of emptying her apartment and deciding where everything should go. Much of it went to charity, some we sold, the well-loved pictures and knick-knacks went to Kurt's brother and niece and to us. And her dear cat Dynamo came to live with us, may he also now rest in peace. The remaining boxes filled a small storage unit nearby until we could figure out where to put it all. 

Time has a funny way of flying and now, three years later, we are finally unloading that storage space to sort through those remaining boxes and make some final final decisions. To do that we had to also clear out a ton of stuff from our own garage storage area and man, that was satisfying. We hadn't cleared out old bills, papers, household stuff since before Harper was born. I ended up taking 170 pounds of documents to my favorite shredding place

Kurt has done a heroic job of reorganizing our garage storage. He's been unloading his mom's stuff in stages and the first part was mostly old files of her own. We kept the tax stuff and shredded the rest, keeping only a small box of things that relate to Kurt and his brother - grades, certificates, clippings, older family stuff. There were boxes of vinyl records and CDs, all classical or jazz. We have a turntable so we may keep some of it, but most of that will go to charity or maybe we sell to Amoeba records. 

The hardest part of it all is the photos. There are photo albums galore, many of them are Dot's, some are her sister's (all three are long dead now as Dot was the youngest) some are her parent's. There are also boxes of loose photos. But what to do with them all? 

Dot took a trip to Yugoslavia in 1979 when she was 61. There is a whole photo album for it. It's heartbreaking to look at because it means nothing to us, not even Kurt as he doesn't know anything about who is in the photos and wasn't part of the trip. What is the point of keeping it? It's kind of historic, but really, who would ever look at it again?

Yugoslavia doesn't exist. 

It's so sad to think that the entirety of your life gets distilled down to a few dusty boxes of pictures no one cares about. Okay, maybe that's a bit dark, but it's not far off.

Of course your life can also be continued in your children and their children, and that is wonderful. There are stories to relay and some of the photos to look at. But Harper won't remember Gamma Dot. Later it might be fun for her to look at pictures of Kurt and his brother as kids, but that's maybe one or two photo albums out of twenty. Do we simply throw the other photos away? It seems brutal to do that. We have become the recipients of all this history as we are the youngest children of the youngest children in the Frey family. Many of Kurt's cousins have died and there aren't a lot of kids in any of those families. 

It's strange to be the caretaker of a family history that nobody is around to appreciate. It's a trip to a place that doesn't exist. 

We'll probably keep most of it for a few more years, then move on. 

 

 

*Who the girls are, what year this is and what the event was, we will never know


Grief and Growing Up

My sister Jen's father John died early this morning. He was my mom's first husband, they had my sister, they got divorced, then my mom married my dad and they had me. My sister's dad got remarried and they had four kids, none of whom are related to me. (Are you with me on the super branchy family forest?) Anyway, I know them all, we are not family but we are family. My sister's kids, my niece and nephew, came down last weekend to visit and say their goodbyes.

Jen died nine and a half years ago. Feels like a week ago. The day she died, I had to call her dad and tell him the horrible news. This after calling my mom to tell her. How did I do that? How did I have the strength? How does anyone.

I heard that Jen's dad was on hospice and near death a few weeks before and have been kind of wrecked since then. I didn't know him very well, we weren't close, but I've known him my whole life, he's my sister's dad. But it shines a bright light on the grief and loss of my sister. And I feel so much for her family as their mother died about ten years ago, Jen, their oldest sister, died nine years ago and now their dad.

In "By The Shores of Silver Lake" by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the book starts a few years after "Plum Creek" ends, and it's a brutal beginning. The family is in debt, never recovering from the locusts, years earlier, oldest sister Mary almost died and now she's blind, they have to sell out and move west and just before they do, their loyal dog dies. The chapter in which he dies is called "Grown Up" and Laura realizes that she, at 13, and small for her age, has to be grown up, has to take on a lot of responsibility. The very first time I read this book I sobbed. The last time I read it, about a week ago, I sobbed. 

My stepfather, Jack, was in the hospital at death's door when my sister died. My mom was going through a lot with that. My sister had cancer and was going through 2nd rounds of treatment but her death came as a surprise. (We are 99% sure it was a blood clot.) The sound of my niece's voice on the phone that morning will haunt me forever. Then my phone calls to my mom and Jen's dad I barely remember except that I couldn't get a hold of either of them for a while and the waiting was excruciating. 

I flew up to northern California that morning and took charge as everyone was shell-schocked, including myself, but it was easiest to be busy and do what I do best - organize, be a producer. I was really waiting for my mom to arrive so that she would be in charge and know what to do. This was a horrible time and I just wanted my mommy. When she did arrive, a day or so later (I can't even remember) she was not really my mommy. She was a mom, devastated and blown apart by the sudden loss of her daughter. (On top of what we thought might be the eminent death of her husband of 25 years.) Mostly I remember that she slept a lot. 

It was my time to be grown up. I had to be the mom and dad and sister and auntie and daughter to everyone. I saw a need and was so grateful I could be all that. In that horrible time it seemed like a gift I could give. In those days and weeks, I took it all on as best I could, a box of Kleenex with my name in big letters by my side. 

Grief is messy and beautiful and horrible and can be a lonely time. Everyone understands and no one understands. 

Grief can transform you into a person you never thought you could be.

 


Today Is A Day

Today is my sister Jennifer's birthday. She would have been 54.

She's been gone for almost nine years and memory is starting to play tricks on me. Was she here when we were talking about having kids? No. What did she think of Obama as president. Oh wait, she died before he got elected. Blows my mind to realize how much time that represents. And all of Harper's life, she has not been here for and she would have been such a fun auntie, now that her kids are grown. I have false memories of being pregnant and talking to her about it. In my mind I just assume she was there and then have to specifically remember that no, she was not.

We were so different. She would not have been into Hamilton and maybe concerned that I let Harper listen to it with all the swear words. Or not. That was the Jen I knew nine years ago. The whole election would have been a potentially challenging place. We were very different politically and while I can't say who she would have voted for, I know we would have had very different opinions. I wonder where we would have found common ground. It's a mind game to play, every day. What would Jen have thought?

There is always so much to say about this. And yet I don't want to say it anymore. I'm a pouty kid, grumpy and stomping my feet "It's not fair!"

Life's not fair, kid. Life is life.

 


Geysers And Minefields Of Grief.

Grief is a constant companion.

Once Grief comes into your life, it is always with you. Not always in the forefront, but always there. There are daily (hourly) reminders of what you've lost. Sometimes the reminders are sweet and funny - memories of experiences you had, pictures of younger selves. And you can smile, feel nostalgic and sad, but mostly warmed by a good memory. Some reminders are bastards that come at you with force, knocking the wind out of you, making you wonder how on earth you've gotten this far, for this long without the person who died.

Fucking Grief.

Many things have brought Grief up lately. Our neighbor's mom died recently. She was 98 and her end was comfortable and good. As good as any unwanted end could be. I also had a conversation with Grace around that time about Jen and thinking about what we've all lost - we lost a mom, a sister, a wife, a daughter, a good friend, a kind person. My neighbor, whose grief is raw and new, talked with me about how it feels like a roller coaster, a minefield, a geyser. If only it were a geyser like Old Faithful, when you can anticipate the blasts of emotions and schedule around them. It's really more like a minefield.

When someone is ripped from your life, not only are they gone, but you get sent to Griefland without your consent. It's an alternate universe that looks exactly like this one but is full of mines. You pick your way through - sometimes you are blown apart, sometimes only mildly bruised. Though admittedly the "mildly bruised" part comes a long way after the initial arrival in Griefland. When you first arrive, you are simply blown apart the whole time. It takes a while but eventually you can put pieces of yourself back together long enough to withstand the next blasts.

Patton Oswalt is an actor and comedian I admire. His wife died a few months ago, unexpectedly and way too young. They have a seven year old daughter. He's in the desperately-trying-to-breathe-there's-not-enough-air-in-here phase of grief and he wrote an essay that starts with "Thanks Grief." (Read the full piece here.)

If you spend 102 days completely focused on ONE thing you can achieve miracles. Make a film, write a novel, get MMA ripped, kick heroin, learn a language, travel around the world. Fall in love with someone. Get 'em to love you back.

But 102 days at the mercy of grief and loss feels like 102 years and you have shit to show for it. You will not be physically healthier. You will not feel "wiser." You will not have "closure." You will not have "perspective" or "resilience" or "a new sense of self."  You WILL have solid knowledge of fear, exhaustion and a new appreciation for the randomness and horror of the universe. 

There is no "closure" when it comes to someone you love dying. They are gone and there is no coming back and you have to live with it. How can you close that loop when a giant piece of it is missing?

I'm obsessed with the Broadway show Hamilton. In the second act, there is an unexpected death and in the aftermath of it is a song called "It's Quiet Uptown" with these opening lyrics:

There are moments that the words don't reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
The moments when you're in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down
The Hamiltons move uptown
And learn to live with the unimaginable

"It feels easier to just swim down." Lin-Manuel Miranda knows things.

When I first heard this song I was still reeling from the previous song in which the death takes place, so I didn't really hear this one. After a few more listens I just lovehate this opening verse. It's so beautifulawful. (I can't listen to this song unless I'm alone and not expecting to see anyone for a while so my eyes can recover from all the crying.)

The best advice I got about grief was "the only way out is through." Grief is pain and suffocating. Grief knocks you down, literally. Grief is confusing and messy.

Grief

You have to feel it all, experience it all, every day, one foot in front of the other. You can't suppress the feelings because they will wait and fester. You can't push them away and expect them to be gone. Those brutal feelings are never gone. It does get easier less hard. Later, eventually. In your own time. 

It's been eight years since Jen died, 10 since my dad died and 23 since my GrandmaJane died. Even now I still have pieces of grief I express about my grandma that are leftover from 1993 because I would not let myself feel those shocking horrible feelings. They are like pieces of shrapnel that work their way to the surface of my skin and finally come out.

The grief I have been working with lately is about not making any new memories. My analogy is that we are all in our own boats, sailing along together and at some point those who have died drop anchor. You can still see their colorful sails, but they get farther away. The memories will always be there, but without the person you shared them with, there is not a constant refreshing of those experiences, the laughter, the anger, whatever. You know what? I don't know what the hell the sailboat analogy is about. Except it's about desperately trying to make sense of something that you can't makes sense of. And I'm startled, sometimes daily, to realize my memories of Jen will fade more quickly then they should over time because she's not here to help me remember.

I'm still learning to live with the unimaginable. I'll never stop having to learn.

I wish for all of you that you don't get a ticket to Griefland for a long long time. If you are already there, walk carefully, but keep walking.

 


Eulogy For An Old Cat

DynamoLastDaysDynamo belonged to Kurt's mom, Dot. He was born in Texas in 2001 and we met him when he was a teenage kitty, all legs and a ball of energy, hence his name. He grew into a large handsome tomcat and eventually grew out of his name as he mellowed. Every visit to Texas was made more enjoyable by this big lug of a cat who would come in and plop down on his back so you could rub his belly.

When Dot moved to Los Angeles, Dynamo was in the car with she and Kurt, a big road trip to mark the new beginning. Dynamo rode out the long miles on the floor of the Buick, not happy, but never complaining.

Dynamo adjusted to being an indoor cat, chill dude that he was, after years of roaming the neighborhoods in Texas. He grew fat and lazy, but always loving and sweet. He was such a comfort to Dot and was with her when she died.

He moved in with us a few days after Dot's death and adjusted well. We called him Big Mo. Willoughby was not happy, hissing and batting at him all the time. Dynamo let Willoughby do her thing, even though he outweighed her by a good eight pounds and could have really put her in her place. The best part was, he could go outside again and he loved it. With all the backyard roaming and different cat food, he soon lost his bowling ball like looks and became the sleek cat he had been, strong and regal.

My favorite thing about The Big Mo was his cold wet nose that he would smoosh into yours at night, followed immediately by a big head-butt. He pile-drived his love to you. He was an under-the-covers sleeper, like Bunny was, mostly attaching himself to Kurt's side, usually having walked over my head/pillow to get there.

Willoughby eventually mellowed out around him, though they still never were pals. More like indifferent roommates. IMG_2262

We thought he'd be around for a few more years, Kurt and I both having had 18 and 19 year old cats in our lives. Fifteen is old for a cat, but not nearly old enough for us. Dynamo suffered from kidney disease, which is treatable and we were doing the IV fluids routine for the past few months, then his heart gave out, poor sweet thing.

We are fortunate to be able to call in a vet and do what needed to be done at home. No cold sterile room with dogs howling in the back. Harper was at preschool when it all happened. Easier to tell her after the fact.

Bringing a pet into your life comes with the knowledge that you will need to escort them out of their lives at some point. You are their caretaker and have to make the tough choice. Even when you know it's the right thing to do to avoid suffering and distress on their part, it's so hard.

Dynamo died in his favorite kitty bed in Kurt's lap, with lots of petting from me. After he was gone, the vet left us alone with him for a little while and we just talked about his long life with Dot, remembering when we first met him and his long road trip and his short time with us. We both were so glad he could have his outdoor life again before he died. The picture above at left was taken the day before he died, outside in the sun. We have been in a rental while we remodel our house and haven't let the cats out in our temporary neighborhood. When Kurt texted me this when I was at work, I burst into tears. Dynamo hadn't been outside for 3 months and I was so glad he could do a bit of basking again.

Our house has a hole in it again. I wonder how long it will take me to stop checking under the covers for Big Mo before I put things down on the bed. I miss his wet nose and his concussive head hits. I'm so glad we got to care him, knowing how he cared for Dot. When we told Harper about his death, she thought for a moment then said, "Well, is he going to come back as a shadow?" I hope so, Harper, I hope so.

You will be missed, Dynamo.


Ten Years, Man! Ten YEARS! (Part 2 of 2)

IMG_1495The first half of 2006 had been a fun year, jetting to Paris and up and down North America. And by the way, if you ever get the chance to hang in the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in Montreal, take it! We got to relax in the business class lounges for all of our travels because in 2005 I was supposed to have worked on a long term project in Virginia. I would have been flying twice a month from LA to Richmond for about eight months so my work partner and I decided to spend the money on a United Red Carpet club membership. Then that job got cancelled but I still had the membership. Silver lining? I suppose. I would have liked to have worked on that job.

So July. The job in Mexico had gotten into a smooth rhythm. We had some adventures on our weekends. Then I got a call that my dad had taken a serious downturn and would probably die in the next 48 hours. And he did. My dad had been in a nursing home facility for years as he had alzheimer's. He also had heart issues and was 83 when he died, so it wasn't entirely unexpected, though a death is always a shock, even when you know it's coming.

100_1265The team in Mexico was supportive and helpful, of course. At the end of July, I flew back to LA for a night, then Kurt and I flew to the Big Island for a week, helping with the funeral plans and reminiscing. We stayed at the hotel at Anaeho'omalu Beach, which was perfect. It is the beach I know so well on the Big Island, have known it since I was so little, where we used to go before there was a hotel. Also, let's be honest, so happy to be in air conditioning. Waikoloa is H O T in August.

It was a fascinating time, learning more about my dad, hearing others talk about him, people who knew him in a totally different way than I did. We all told stories and looked through old pictures all while playing the Keola and Kapono records, shouting out the words to Mr. Sun Cho Lee. (He got plenty lychee!) 100_1288

It was also surreal to be with my sisters and stepmom and nieces and nephew in dad's house, all there without dad. All the emotions were heightened, of course, the grief hitting us all in different ways. There were tears and laughter and plenty of shouting and hurt feelings, all the usual family stuff. At one point Dor turned to me and said, "How can you be so calm?" I just shrugged and said, "That's what I do. That's what I've always done." Then added, "Hand me another beer..."

There's my dad. The Don Draper of Honolulu. (Who later moved to the Big Island.)

The day after the funeral, we scattered his ashes from canoes at Anaeho'omalu Bay. The water was calm and the experience quite new for me on a variety of levels.

Then a big aloha to Hawai'i and back to Mexico for me. I was really glad to have two overnights in LA on each side of that trip. Nice to sleep in my own bed and pet the cats.

There were three more weeks of the shoot in Mexico and I enjoyed the hell out of them. We went to Puebla for a few days as well as Cuernavaca. We had various locations that were a refreshing break from the sets at the abandoned quarry/mall. A friend from LA came down to hang out for a long weekend and we timed it for the two day weekend that had been scheduled (we were working half days on Saturdays). It was so nice to be a tourist with a good friend.

100_1460A giddiness started creeping into the crew as we got near the end. We were all still working hard, but laughing more and taking more pictures of each other. The crew went out one night for drinks and music and that was our non official wrap party and it was a blast. Then the real wrap party came and it was nice, but not as much fun. On the last day of shooting, when the first AD called "That's a wrap!" I, of course, burst into tears. What a long crazy summer it had been.

Adiós Mexico! Adiós Diana, my favorite statue in Mexico City. Hello LA...

Home. But not for long. At the end of September I'd be off to London to work with the VFX team for a few weeks, handing over the information from the shoot to the new producer. But before that, we were invited to a friend's beach house in Santa Barbara for Labor Day weekend. A wonderful few days of good friends and sitting on the beach and looking at the ocean. Soothing.

London. I got good at figuring out the bus schedule (cheaper/easier than the tube) and my little neighborhood in Clerkenwell where I stayed in the Zetter Hotel. Quite hipster cool at the time and so expensive that when my work was done and Kurt and I were staying a few days more, we found a cheap and therefore TINY room elsewhere. We played tourist, my favorite day being the one at Hampton Court Palace. (I love a good audio tour!) 100_2347

Then for fun and also because you can, we took the train to Paris for three days where again, our friends were staying in their apartment and we spent a lot of good time with them.

Paris twice in one year? Man, that is a good year.

Home at the end of October. I was exhausted and charged with emotion and restlessness since I had been moving practically non stop since April.

There was one more trip and that was to Maui in early December with Kurt's family. They had never been so we enjoyed many touristy things, trips to Hana, up to Haleakala, ziplining, snorkeling, big hotel Luau, the whole nine yards.

Then home. HOME. A quiet Christmas on our own here in LA. Just us and the cats.

2006 was a roller coaster and I loved it all. I know that sounds strange since my dad died in the middle of it, but loving it all is just embracing all that life throws at you - the good, the bad, the easy, the tough - everything. I'm proud of that year. I doubt I'll have another quite like it. But I hope I do.

Ten years, Man! Ten years.


Ten Years, Man! Ten YEARS! (Part 1 of 2)

IMG_0669The other day I was pouring coffee into this mug and thinking about when and where I got it and realized it was ten years ago.

20th Century Fox had hired me to work on The Omen (6/6/6) and the offices were at The Lot on Santa Monica Blvd. The job itself was not too intense and the crew was great, mainly the woman who ran the whole office, Emily. Technically she was the Production Assistant and had only recently graduated from university, but she really ran the place. She and I had many fun conversations and now, ten years later, we are still friends. We haven't seen much of each other lately and that is something I promise to remedy very soon. (Oh and I got the mug at the Starbucks at the corner of Santa Monica and La Brea on a slow work day just before Valentine's Day.)

 

TEN YEARS! This is my favorite moment from Grosse Point Blank. I love Jeremy Piven.

 

But then I started thinking about what a nutty crazy year 2006 was. Come with me...

January through mid April - working on The Omen, met Emily. Learned how to really set boundaries at work. Didn't let the outrageous screaming guy get to me. I was quite proud of myself.

In April I got a phone call asking if I could come and work in Mexico City for the summer on a movie, but due to work and vacation schedules I had to turn it down as they needed me to start right away in April. (But pay attention to the name of my blog...)

SpidermanI got another phone call asking if I could work on a movie for two weeks in Cleveland at the end of April. This actually worked out as The Omen was just finishing and I arranged to leave and work on a 2nd Unit shoot for Spiderman 3. It was the wildest/wackiest two weeks. The shoot only happened in daylight (best kind of filmshoot because once it gets dark, you are done.) AND our hotel was literally on the street where we were shooting. No 45 minute bus rides to location.

And because my hours were not too nutty, I also moonlighted in the evenings redoing vfx shot breakdowns for an HBO mini-series as new scripts came in. Hey, why not make a few extra bucks on the side? We had a trip to Paris coming up...Cleveland was fascinating and OMG SO COLD. I loved being downtown where there is a football stadium, a baseball stadium and the basketball arena and all the historic buildings from prosperous days gone by with names like Carnegie and Rockefeller sprinkled about.

The crew on the job was fun, though we had a local PA who was none too bright, I'm sorry to say. Hopefully he had other strengths. The best part was that while none of the actual stars of the movie were there (only stunt versions) the crowds came out to see Spiderman and the production company let Spidey meet all the kids who came to see him and take tons of pictures. I snuck one in myself.

 

I got back from Cleveland and almost immediately we jetted off to Paris in May.

20120706-110844We were in Paris for two weeks and rented an apartment about two blocks from Notre Dame Cathedral. We spent almost every day with Pranab and Kate who were in their apartment in the 12th arrondissement. It was relaxing and lovely and I'd like to do it like that again. The highlight for me was the day we walked along La Promenade Plantee - the original Highline Park. It was magical to walk up above the streets of Paris, looking into apartments and offices, through lush gardens. At the end we found a place to sit and have a refreshing beverage and just enjoy the city.

We walked so much on that trip, eschewing the metro every time we made the 2.5k walk back and forth to their flat. We always went to them as they had a large indoor market plus boulangerie and lovely wine shop all within two blocks. Heaven.

We have not been back to Paris since then and we need to remedy that soon.

Grace graduated from high school in early June and we were all there to celebrate that fun day. While there I got another phone call from the Mexico City job asking if I were available now. I said, well, I'm in No. Cal for an event then going to Montreal for a wedding in two weeks. After that, I said, I'm free. So on the phone I got the gig as they still needed a producer on the ground. They asked if I could come down for four days between trips to get a lay of the land, have a few meetings, etc. Ummm. okay! Hooray for Hollywood.

So after the graduation trip, I hopped on a plane to Mexico City with a script and not a clue what it would be like or even who in the world I would be working with! I have amazing guardian angels because I got to meet and work with Paddy and Steve. Two kind, relaxed and funny guys who made my quick pre-trip to Mexico easy and fun. We stayed at the very colorful Camino Real hotel and it was a whirlwind trip. I said "see you soon!" and hopped back on a plane to LA.

Montreal! An old family friend Paul married Dee in her hometown. Paul's whole family had come to our wedding five years prior and when his older brother Matt got married, we were not able to make that wedding (with great regret). So I vowed to be in Montreal. Kurt and I spent a lovely long weekend there. The wedding was beautiful and the receptions and parties after were a blast.

100_0761Then back to LA for a minute, wash clothes, buy specific Mexico City gear (including the infamous BFH) 100_0949pack for three months, kiss the cats and husband good-bye and back to Mexico City.

Back to the Camino Real, back to the wild main set built next to the abandoned shopping mall down in an old quarry, back to the fun crew and VFX team. My spanish got better and I learned a lot of very specific spanish words that are not normally taught in high school: pentalla verde, for example.

It was all going well. Trips to see pyramids at Teotihuacan, adventurous dinners out around town, just driving through the city every morning and evening there was something new to see. Finishing the work day in the bar, having cocktails, doing paperwork and emails with Paddy and Steve. Seeing other film crews arrive for other movies (clearly the Camino Real is THE place to stay).

 

 

Then my dad died.

 

More to come....

 

 

 

 

 

 


David Bowie Can't Die

Zoolander was the first movie we went to after 9/11 happened. It seemed the no-brainer choice -- total escapism. I was having a good time, laughing an enjoying the ridiculousness of it all.

Then.

Then came the moment where the two models have their "Walk-Off" and they need a judge. I knew, I KNEW it was going to be an amazing cameo by someone huge and I was so excited SO EXCITED to see who it was going to be. Then this:

Davidbowie_zoolander

And I felt like nothing bad could ever happen again. David Bowie was there.

It was not dissimilar from the scene in Extras where Ricky Gervais' character is in the VIP section and tries to connect with the genius who is David Bowie. I'm sure I did a spit take when Bowie just launches into singing with "Poor little fat man..." Then a bigger spit take as he swivels round to the piano and just launches in to the full song.

 

I don't know Bowie's music very deeply. I don't relate to Ziggy or The Thin White Duke. I was about Putting Out Fire With Gasoline and China Girl from Let's Dance. I could probably sing all the songs by heart if you played it for me right now as it came out when I was in high school. I have fond memories of listening to it at Lisa's house in Makawao. I do know all his greatest hits, though, and have been surprised this week to realize just how many there are.

Of course I knew who he was and that there was a big important history to him in the music world. And yet, I truly fell in love with David Bowie in the movies.

Now you are going to scoff at me because having said that, I will confess I've never seen The Man Who Fell To Earth.

I know, I know.

I think I first heard about David Bowie in any serious way from my friend Jai. When I knew her she was just Karen. But she came to Seabury from Honolulu with a stack of records that blew my little Maui mind. She might have had Bowie, I don't remember (Adam and The Ants stood out to me more). But she talked about Bowie and about The Man Who Fell To Earth. This was back in the day when you couldn't just pop over to the video store and grab it, much less download it. But the way she talked about him and the movie and how much she admired him really stuck with me. It's almost like I don't want to see the movie because it might not live up to what I heard about it from Jai.

Jai died in 2003. I miss her so much.

There were two movie theaters in close proximity to me on Maui and I lived in them. In 1985 a movie came out called Into The Night with one of my favorite actors, Jeff Goldblum. It looked funny and I went to see it. (Probably alone as I loved going to see movies alone!) In the middle of this wacky awesome movie comes this scene:

BowieIntoTheNight

Bowie playing a hit man, out to get Jeff's character. Bowie is suave and smiling and charming and amazing. He's in the movie for about 5 minutes but it made me happy and surprised. I also thought, "How cool that this amazing musician (so I'd heard) was just having a laugh doing a little part in this movie!" (I own this movie and can watch it over and over. I also love it because it is such a loveletter/postcard/snapshot to LA in the 80's for me as I was just about to move there.)

Also in 1985 was The Breakfast Club. That seminal John Hughes movie that defined a generation (I can use that phrase, can't I since I'm that generation?). And what was the opening visual of that movie?

BreakfastClubQuote

I'm not sure which movie I saw first that year (They both came out in February of 1985), but David Bowie just seemed to always be there, always kept showing up. (Let's Dance came out in 1983.) And again, I didn't know much about him, but clearly he was important.

Important is not quite right. Significant. Exceptional. Vital.

One of his last big roles was playing Nikola Tesla in The Prestige.

BowieasTesla

If you know anything about Tesla (and you should because he's astounding - read this from The Oatmeal) you know that he's otherworldly in his genius. I believe he was also kind and open minded and misunderstood. Who better to play this wonderful soul, but another wonderful soul?

And while everyone is posting images of Bowie from the Glam Rock period  -- you know the one with him and the big painted bolt on his face -- I will always remember him like this - impeccably dressed, handsome, gorgeous, enigmatic. Those eyes.

Davidbowiemodernlove

As my friend Laura said upon hearing the news: "Bowie seemed timeless, so his passing just feels incongruous with reality."

Incongruous with reality.

That is the truth to me. How could this ethereal, otherworldly, but oh so human being actually die of something so crass, so low as cancer?

Bowie just keeps showing up on social media this week and I'm glad. I don't want him to ever go away. I want to be surprised by his cameos forever.

Maybe he'll make a cameo in my dreams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Darkest Day Of The Year

Winter-solstice-tree-galleryToday is the Winter Solstice, the shortest and therefore darkest day of the year. It's been kind of a dark December overall and I'm looking forward to there being more light in the world.

December is the month Jen was born so her birthday is a reminder of what was lost. And while the 13th is an especially specific reminder, of course I'm reminded every day of what I've lost, what we've all lost. But as Grace so wonderfully said, it's nice to get special messages on Jen's birthday because we would all be bombarding Jen on Facebook with birthday wishes if she were here. Different than that dark day in April.

This December had the death of my cousin Adam who only found out he had cancer a few months ago. Darkness. Brutal tough darkness for all of his most loved ones. And many more of us by extension remembering him and others we've lost.

Winter Solstice (Yule) is celebrated with fire to symbolize the rebirth of the sun, of hope, of light. But some Decembers it's really hard to find that little flame of hope. But find it we must to go on and on with whatever time we have left, with our families and friends, with our passions and hopes and dreams.

We can never let that fire die out.