Disneyland’s Silent Gift

ResortThere is this time when you are staying at the Disneyland Resort Hotel when you can have it all to yourself.

It’s quiet, with the faint hint of music playing in the hotel lobbies in the background. I first discovered it when I offered to grab my wife one early morning a coffee at the shop in the hotel. But the moment I exited the elevator (and the haunting overture from The Jungle Book was playing in the speakers), that I realized I had discovered something unique.

It was still dark outside and I was alone.

I walked along the pool, passed the Tangaroa Terrace restaurant (with its fireplace still ablaze). There is a smell to Disneyland that I have yet to put my finger on, but the blossoms around the hotel and the restaurant added to its intoxication.

It was so peaceful that I almost felt a tinge of regret when the coffee shop finally opened at 6 AM and I had to make my purchase and return to the room and the excited kids. Dawn was approaching, a new day of adventure. Holding sweaty palms, wondering about bathroom breaks, and taking a lot of pictures.

That pre-dawn walk became a little ritual for me during my stay, and I picked up a coffee for my wife every morning at the same time. She always said thank you, but she didn’t need to.

It was for both of us. Continue reading

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The Night I Stopped Being a Model

ModelsFrom around the age of 8 to about 13, I was a model. Yes, I once worked it.

Before anyone gets overwhelmed by images of catwalks, raining money, national commercials, and maybe bulimia, this was all local stuff; the work was not even unionized. And, to be honest, even locally I was not very popular. My brother was the popular one. He even had an agent before me. He is six-years younger than me, did a lot of local theater and had cute long curly hair.  He played the camera, I stared dumbly at it.

So in a way, I was the twofer. “If you need an older brother for the cute kid, we have one ready for you!”

The first ad, I ever did was for a holiday commercial for Meijer. It was around GI Joe action figures, and for some reason they had me and this other boy dress in matching camouflage (because boys did that, coordinate their clothing with their toys). And for about 15 minutes, this stranger and I played with army toys on the ground (that was turned into less than five seconds on TV). Knowing me as a kid (and now), the image of me dressed like that playing with that kind of toy is kind of hilarious. That’s acting, that is!

Most of the work I did was around print ads, I would be brought into a photography studio, put on shorts or a shirt I would never consider wearing and pretend to laugh with strangers. Then on Sunday, my family and I would grab the newspaper, and scan for the local ad and image…. That would be followed by phone calls with family, pats on the back and then the ad being cut out for a scrapbook.

I didn’t like being in the spotlight (still don’t to a certain extent), but I liked the check. Sometimes I would buy a toy or book with it, many times I put it in an account (I would use most of it later in high school to buy a new alto saxophone). It was all a perfectly fine arrangement… until the night I decided I wouldn’t model again. Continue reading

The 3 Mes: 22 Days Until 40

Number 3I’ve become very self-centered over the last few months.

Not in a “I’m going to be rude” kind of way. No, this is more like I get lost in thoughts, staring off into the distance. It’s like…

I’m sorry, I was someplace else right then. I’m back now.

A few posts ago, someone commented that I was going through a mid-life crisis. At the time, I brushed it off. Me? No!

I didn’t have any of the signs we all know from television and movies! But… now…  I think this might be my version of it. An exclusive and unique mid-life crisis. Sounds like something I would do. And to get through this stage in my life, I thought it might be “fun” to document my thoughts and feelings. Capture this moment. As a writer, you never know what will lead to inspiration and right now all of my focus seems to be on this, this shift. It is new, it is different, and it won’t happen again.

Okay…. Oddly, at this time (22 days off from life’s halfway mark) I feel splintered, broken into three different versions of myself.

There is the present me, the future me, and the past me. And I can see them in the mirror, they haunt me. When I get dressed in the morning, I sometimes wonder which one I am dressing like, which one I am going to be that day. This may all seem very dramatic to some, but I am a writer. It comes with the territory, drama is in the DNA. One of the great truths for all three of the mes. Continue reading

Radio Days or When I Was a DJ or Finding Voices

Claudius was hereI used to have nightmares because of Latin class.

I took Latin when I was in school for three years, between 7th and 9th grade. I was drawn to the classes, not because of it being a gateway to other languages, but more because of its literary history.  See, by this point, I was reading everything I could get my hands on, and usually my focus was on the classics, not what typical junior high kids were devouring. “No, thank you. You can keep your Stephen King, I’m re-reading Hemingway this week.”

Latin was a tie to great mythology, it was a connection to those random quotes in a novel that I had no idea what was being said. In a literary sense, it felt like the opportunity to dig around the base of a tree and see the root underneath.

The teacher of the classes was Mr. Black, and looking back over those three years with him I still can’t put my finger really on his personality. He could go up and down pretty quickly, did he like to teach or hate it? Did he even like us or hate us? Now I almost wonder if he was bipolar, and that could explain the oddness of the experience. (He would also show us I, Claudius in class, if you can believe it. He would run up with a big piece of paper to cover up the screen whenever the “naughty bits” would come on; of course, most of the time he didn’t get to the TV in time.  Yes, he taught kids like me all about the history of Caligula.)

Mr. Black would have the students recite and speak Latin in class, and while I was basically average in reading Latin on the page, I couldn’t do it aloud. It was too much for my tongue. It is those moments that used to haunt me, standing up, hands sweaty, all of the eyes on me as I tried to recite a passage perfectly. The other students would sometimes hide their laughter, many times they didn’t. And there was Mr. Black in the front shaking his head, frowning, with almost a mocking smirk hiding behind his eyes. Continue reading

Toto the Spy: Dealing With My Little Brother

TotoThere is a legend around my brother’s beginning that may or may not be true. But really stories like this are best with partial truths, so I would rather not know how right this may be.

I was in preschool and my friend Gabe Gaddy (Yes, that is his name; I may have misspelled it though) brought his little baby sister in for show-and-tell. The reaction from the kids in the room and the teacher hit a nerve with me. Maybe it was jealously, I’m not sure, but when I went up for my turn I announced my mom was pregnant and I was going to have a little brother.

Yeah, I did that. Made up the entire thing.

Here is where things get a little muddy, either the story got back to my grandmother (who was head of curriculum for the school district) or it was the teacher calling my mother to congratulate her (I always like to imagine the story making it to my grandmother and her reaction), whatever the case my parents heard, putting them into a little bit of a pickle. Either they break the heart of their only son and have him announce his mistake in class (something that surely would have been memorable), or…

Less than a year later I had a little brother. Continue reading

The Issue With My Clock or the Post With Breaks

The Broken ClockMy clock has switched.

I’m not sure how this happened, but everything is upside down and it is the new norm I have to accept. I’m Alice in a world where the ceiling is now the floor, and that is just how reality will have to be. We are all mad here.

Let me explain this better: When you are young you are always counting up to experiences.

  • When I am 16, I will learn to drive a car.
  • When I am 18, I graduate and go to college.
  • When I am 21, I can drink (well, I don’t like alcohol very much, so I watch my friends drink…. I just have never liked the taste or smell of beer or wine. Okay, I do admit I drink a little but the stuff I do enjoy, the mixes, usually involve chocolate or fruity flavors and they can come in glasses that some would find embarrassing. Well, just the color would be embarrassing for many to be near. So I keep to the soda when I am out in public, because I like to believe I have a certain swagger in my step and a coolness that I aim to keep, and the fruity drinks don’t help).

More counting! Then there is a wedding… and a house…the first baby… and a second… And suddenly, right there, when you have reached your limit on kids, and they begin to age out of diapers and clothes… everything turns.

It’s like in one of those cartoons from the 1940’s where the clocks have a face and the hands are attached to the nose and they spin in a strange fashion. Well, that is my internal clock, and now with 40 fast approaching, I feel the face’s confusion.

I have begun counting down to things… The outcome at the end, I don’t want to even imagine.

(I need a break, just a second. I have a soda around here someplace.) Continue reading

Growing Up in the Neighborhood: Mr. Rogers to Daniel Tiger

Mr Rogers and DanielThe Then

I had a spare grandparent. And this grandparent visited me every day, was interested in what I was doing, asked me questions, talked to me about my feelings and told me the coolest stories that involved a land of make-believe…

He also taught me how crayons were made.

For many, it was always easy to make fun of Mr. Rogers and his show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, but I never could. Even as an adult, I look back on it fondly. Yes, I loved Sesame Street, Saturday morning cartoons, Donald Duck, Looney Toons, but Mr. Rogers spoke to me… directly to me.

I think one of the reasons I felt so close to the show is that my grandmother was a very popular kindergarten teacher. No, popular doesn’t do it justice, she was a celebrity in her hometown. When we would visit stores together we would have grownups of all ages approach her to say hi and give a hug. And my grandmother, with a skill I cannot imagine having, could always see the child behind the older eyes. She never got a name wrong, never.

When I think back on conversations with my grandmother, it always feels a lot like how Mr. Rogers speaks during the show. That patience. That unblinking interest. That humor that seems to hide behind the wink and smile. Continue reading

The 1996 version of me is alive and well, thank you very much

10520_1168666669474_4075184_nIn 1996, I was about to graduate from college and with diploma in hand I was preparing to take on the world. Oh, I had so many plans in play!

First, I was going to disappear, six week or so, into Europe, solo. Then I was going to apply for graduate schools around the country. I wanted to study literature while focusing on my writing (the end game being either I make it successfully as a writer or I end up as a Ph.D. in English Literature). I could see it all in front of me, so solid I could have touched it.

The strange thing is that this year is I seem to be having a lot of flashbacks to that me, that time in my life. It’s like I can’t escape that guy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that version of me. Yeah, he could be a little too over the top in his sarcasm and his opinion of himself, but he was still me.

I’ve been trying to pinpoint exactly where this began. The obvious answer is my high school reunion last year,  But to be honest, that really didn’t hit me that hard, I would have rather just spent the weekend someplace with some of my friends than take part in what felt like an awkward reunion special for a TV show.

Maybe it could have also been the death of our first Beastie Boy last year? From the first time, I heard the Beastie Boys, they represented something for me and my friends. We didn’t listen to them all the time, but when we did it was because of a certain mood or a certain feeling about being young dudes we wanted to capture. And now MCA is gone, so when I listen to the music now (which is a lot) it feels like unbottled memories, and the energy is a shadow. A great shadow, granted, but a shadow nonetheless.

Or maybe this is all just related to the fact I turn forty this year. The possible halfway mark. The turned corner. The end of youth. A whole new smack of drama I had not considered before. It’s like in politics when a president starts their second term and the newspapers start talking about how the president needs to think about legacy.

That’s me… I guess I am on legacy time now. Continue reading

My Awkward Relationship With Winnie-The-Pooh

The Original WinnieI’ve always had an awkward relationship with Winnie-The-Pooh, starting as a child and even reaching to now, the grown author with a blog.

Above, this post, in my cover image, you have a collection of items representing my interests and writing (some of my novels and scripts, favorite books, the all-important pretzels) and in the middle is Pooh bear. He is a part of my life, a part of what drove me to write and be who I am, but still an awkward member of the company.

I can’t begin to tell you how many visitors’ eyes are drawn immediately to that silly old bear. Every time people reference that image to me, they bring up the old bear (I have yet to have anyone ask about that pile of screenplays which makes me sad). And, not surprisingly, I’ve had people taunt me because of him; bringing back to the surface that feeling we all had in elementary school when teased by a bully. (You think you forget how it feels, you really don’t, it just goes into hiding.)

So why is he there?

Shouldn’t he be out stealing a pot of honey or something?

Well, it’s complicated. As Pooh would say, “Think. Think. Think.” Continue reading

The Five Books That Made Me

CompassOur lives are filled with landmarks. And just like the sites that dot our landscape, these moments dot our lives, creating the definition of who we are. For me, I can see them like a map spread out in front of me from movies to TV shows to experiences to relationships to plays to books… oh… a lot of books.

I was the kid who would come home with a pile of library books each weekend, who later would take his bike out to only ride to libraries, having three in my vicinity to choose from with a separate card for each. If I could have had a collection of cards with aliases I would have done it. See, I would lose summer days just wandering through the aisles like visiting old friends, allowing my fingers to grace along the covers as I walked past, secretly hoping that a book would reach out and grab me.

I always get a little sentimental when a book is released (A Jane Austen Daydream). I can’t help it. This is a new kind of landmark; I’m adding to my own landscape now. And if I am lucky my work might find its way on to another’s map. See, that is the thing for me. It’s not about money, it never was.  It was always about the love of a good yarn, with surprises and new adventures.

When I look back at my life there are five books that stand out the most in inspiring me.  This is not to say they are my favorites, or what I consider the greatest works; no, not at all.

They are just the ones that grabbed me just when I needed them to. Continue reading