film project

I've been MIA on this blog for many months. apologies but I've been super busy with a) tot (which is a time-consumptive enterprise of the highest order) and b) getting ducks in a row for my feature film, the black sea.

I've literally been working on this script for 8 years. Right in the middle of the first draft (2004) I started having the bad headaches and blurred vision that, I learned, were the harbingers of a brain tumor. That's how long ago it was. The script is now done, I've been directing shorts for the past several years in anticipation of this film. I am currently seeking funds on USA Projects.  If for some reason you haven't been emailed or seen me post about this film on some social network or other, then here for your audio/visual consumption is the video pitch

and here is the link to donate/contribute/support if you are feeling like spreading the love.

It's a very small amount we're trying to raise for a feature, particularly since we're shooting on film. However, it's not lost on us that the economy is in the toilet and times are tight. Anything you can do, even if it's just to pass it on to others, is most welcome.


X and Z

from the introduction to Memories, Dreams, Reflections, K. Jung

been thinking a lot of late about the concept of internal narrative, ie the driving and/or defining story that we all use or draw from, unique and distinct from anyone else; the story that somehow got formulated at a very early age and laid the bedrock for subsequent years and how we use subsequent life, living, and/or events and/or actions to support that narrative, ie how the narrative itself becomes self-fulfilling. example: narrative is I am X because I sometimes do Z. action: I just did Z. conclusion: I am therefore X.

Very difficult thing to break out of, this self-fulfilling loop, spanning decades usually. In fact it's quite typical to proceed unawares for large chunks of time. It's easy to. My internal narrative has its roots in early childhood and is very simple and basic (I suspect most peoples are) but once I identified and isolated it I began to see it everywhere - which is disturbing in and of itself, ie how can something so small and benign from a young age ripple through an adult life impacting thought and deed? - in how I speak, how I move, how I cogitate, in what I respond to and who I respond to. It engenders a deeper question: Am I really, truly X or do I just think I am? in other words, can I transcend the narrative I've been living/re-learning for close to 4 decades or will it end up explained by the vague assertion that's just who I am?

Any presumption that the human animal is capable of profound complexity and depth seems to be refuted by this disturbing article from the NY Times magazine, which explores how advertisers exploit the cue-habit-reward loop, and which suggests quite easily that we are not that removed from rats in a lab responding to squares of chocolate.

Still, as I found myself contemplating recently I felt a tingly sense of discovery. Maybe the code hasn't been cracked but that a code has been discovered at all is an auspicious starting place. As I said, every person's narrative is extremely unique, extremely personal so there's no point in me listing all the details and memories that comprise mine but suffice it to say that it deals with me perpetually seeking something from the floor of one particular lake. the wrong lake. Or put another way, I am now trying to keep this principle of Lojong front and center, number 59:
Don't expect applause.
It is exceedingly more complex than that and yet just as simple, sort of like how a well-worn maxim such as 'Be Kind to Others" can be cliched and profound all at once.


Strunk, a brief history of

her name: officially Strunk (after the grammar manual Strunk & White). unofficially, we called her Presh (as in Precious) but i'm not sure how/when that occurred. when we adopted her her given name was Vicki.

origin story: after trading the wide-open redwood tree and banana slugged expanse of humboldt county, ca for a 2nd fl apartment in los angeles in late may 1997 our cat Henry was miserable. He wanted out and slunk from room to room giving a constant low moan, as if becoming increasingly more resigned to his fate. we decided what he needed was a companion. (sidebar: mm was also miserable, also slinking from room to room and sinking into deep depression as she became increasingly resigned to living in los angeles. we decided what she needed was a cat). we went to the humane society on jefferson. there were six or seven kittens available. we narrowed it to two: a sleek and lovely grey kitty and an awkward, shy tortoise kitty. i urged mm to get the latter b/c the former was easy on the eyes and would probably be adopted within the hour and the shy awkward one was not. Her name was Vicki. We had to drive to an ATM to get the money to pay for her and one of the workers came with us (he needed to hit the ATM also). He was a big, burly fellow and since there wasn't much to say there was a cloak of awkward silence in the car as we drove down La Brea. As we pulled into the parking lot he said, You guys will love Vicki. She's a real sweetheart. 

 her identity, as contained/indicated on adoption form dated 7/15/97: DSH, Female, 10 wks, Torti, ss # 27936, Recti A47467

early disappearance story : shortly after getting her home, days maybe, she vanished. In a 900 sq ft 2 BR apt we could not find her. we looked everywhere, in everything, behind everything. the only conclusion was that she fell out the window and perished or went off into the ether. this engendered some interpersonal unpleasantness as one of us (no names) accused the other of neglect because how on earth could a kitten disappear? She was found some time later (a day maybe?) curled up at the back of  a desk. the desk had a slanted top on a hinge wherein you could lift the top and store supplies or paper back there or something. somehow she got back there and pulled herself up. she was curled in a ball w/ eyes open.

later disappearance story: about a year later (june 98) we came home from a late screening of the X-files movie at Mann's Chinese Theater (why i remember that detail I cannot say) to find that Henry was in the apartment but Strunk was gone. Moments later we heard her mewing. She'd fallen out of the window into the fenced in brick patio of our downstairs neighbor. Our neighbor was not there and it was late at night, at least midnight. We were at a total loss. We actually attempted to lower a blanket (me holding one side and m holding the other) and talk her into climbing onto the blanket at which point we could pull her up. Did not work. We went outside on Serrano Ave, to one side of the wooden fence (which was prob 8 ft tall) and attempted to coax, cajole and wheedle her into leaping/climbing up the fence but she was not as able and nimble as Henry. Did not work. We finally decided to go around to the back of the building and climb chainlink fence into our neighbor's yard (hoping no one would call the cops). And when I say 'we' climbed the fence I mean of course that MM climbed the fence. She retrieved Strunk, handed her over and then scrambled out.

oregon disappearance story: in summer 2004 (i think) on 14th avenue, strunk wouldn't come home for dinner. very not like her. (she was a noted and prodigious gastronome). we walked to the front and back of the house clanging on a cat food can with a fork, likely looking like a lunatic. At some point we heard mewing. It was definitely her but where was it coming from? We followed it until we were able to determine that it was coming from our neighbors (The Millers) outside basement door. The same neighbors who were away for the weekend. I can't recall exactly how we got her back but I think we had to leave her there until they returned, knowing that she'd have to sustain herself on her ample reserves until rescue.

traits, bad: a) steady insistent jackhammer-like mewing beginning between 530a-6a each morning, meant one presumes to rouse us and/or alert us that she was up and ready to face the day or more specifically ready for breakfast. b) steady insistent jackhammer-like mewing before dinner starting anywhere from 3:30pm on and/or anytime a human being walked into/near the kitchen c) clawing at, pawing at and/or consuming human foodstuffs, most recently she managed to steal mm's garlic bread right off her plate and bring it to the floor without m or i noticing. she also clawed her way into a bag of hot dog buns. she also once ate an almond that fell on the floor, causing her to vomit for 2 days until she finally passed it (lucky for us b/c we read about a cat that had to have surgery to remove an almond in the GI tract). d) some personal hygiene issues. despite the constant tutelage of Henry she never quite nailed the standard-issue-cat-thing of cleaning yourself.

traits, good a) sweetest disposition in the world b) shyness. it took literally years for strunk to allow us to pet her or pick her up. a couple yrs in she started jumping up on the bed in the early dawn to sit next to our head on our pillow. if we reached for her or turned or otherwise moved she'd jump down immediately. c) lack of daring. strunk stayed close to home at all times (except those times featuring a food imperative, like our neighbors on 80th who left dry food out for their cat which Strunk would happily dispatch herself to help consume)

overall: amazing spirit and sweetness. we miss you xo

Strunk keeps watch

strunk, maxwell,  and henry reunited

Strunk, the sweetest cat in the world, Rest in Peace.


past and present all at once

the day, tues 2.7.12,  began at 640, rising to feed Strunk and Lennie. I got dressed and went for a run. As I was leaving Strunk came outside through the open door. when i returned there she was sitting on the front porch. She followed me back inside. M & N were awake by now so I said hello, then jumped in the shower and drove to the dentist. Had periodontal cleaning (this is a little more advanced than your standard teeth cleaning thanks to my prior bad habits). When I was done I came out to the car and thought for a bit. I could either drive the car home and see M & N and then walk to the bus on Hawthorne or I could drive over to Brooklyn and pick up one of 3 lines at intersection of powell and milwaukie. Since it was after 9 am and since on Mon/Tues we have someone come from 9a-12p to sit with N so M can do some work (be it of the day job or writing variety) I thought it best not to interrupt them and opted for the latter choice.

Drove on 17th and decided to park at Rhone by the credit union b/c i could take the 17 line and what's more at the end of the work day I - fast forwarding here - saw myself walking through Brooklyn at the end of the work day, our old neighborhood.  where we lived when we moved up from los angeles; where we lived through my diagnosis and treatment; where death and rebirth are ribboned together in my memory, intersections on several planes.

I waited for the bus. The bus arrived.

At day job things went normally, which is to say paint-dry boring and mind-numbingly un-engaging. In the afternoon  I got an email from my endocrinologist regarding recent blood draw. It was not bad news (in fact it was expected news) but the mere interaction was enough - as it always is - to send me back to brain tumor world, those sensations and aches pulsing just below the skin, the quake, the blackness, the fear. A reminder - not that i needed it - that I am not as recovered emotionally from the entire BT experience as I am able to convey. After an object is shattered you can reassemble it but it is not the same. Which is to say I carry wounds, despite the ultra-positive outcome. (This is one of those surreal paradoxes of survivorship. Put against the notion of your oblivion how can isolation, sadness, depression be anything but whiffs of smoke? Question: If the outcome is positive would it not neutralize, mollify or mitigate anything as ephemeral as an emotion? Answer: No). The best analog I can think of is soldier, long-returned from combat, wrestling to re-enter 'normal life', surrounded by those who haven't been there, who assume that since the war is over s/he is now well. backpats and whew, dodged a bullet! and what is there to worry about since you're fine now?!

At 5 or so M called to say that Strunk hadn't eaten. Not a huge deal but she had been showing slight lack of appetite the past couple days. As we were talking Strunk began throwing up. Should I make an appointment at the vet? M asked. We decided it best to see how Strunk was doing the next morning. I left work.

At the bus-stop I got on the 19 instead of the 17 b/c the 17 was 10 min away. This meant I had to exit at powell/milwaukie (instead of 17th and Rhone) and walk through the Brooklyn neighborhood. Valentines Day will mark 8 yrs that we moved to Brooklyn from Los Angeles so as I walked I couldn't help but let associations ping-pong through my head, the past and present all at once, the new coat of paint on what i recalled as a decrepit house, the coffee shop once such a large part of our lives now a remodelled lesser iteration, and so forth. Also Strunk was in my thoughts, thinking about how she'll probably be fine but how one day she'll die; about how she and Maxwell (RIP) and Henry (RIP) were part of our family, part of our transition from Los Angeles to Portland, part of the past and present all at once. I thought of all the things we've done, all the life we've lived in those 8 yrs - 4 houses, travel, illness, 2 pet deaths,  birth of our son, and a gazillion stops in between each.

 As I approached our old house on 14th (still the same green paint, the same birch trees) a song came on my ipod randomly that put me in the house in march 2005 between my surgeries, me and M in the basement painting it yellow. I was outside the house and inside simultaneously. Outside, I saw the telephone pole that Henry scrambled up; I saw the house that Maxwell ran to that day he got out of the yard; I saw the Miller's old house where Strunk had got locked in their basement for a whole weekend while they were out of town. Inside, I saw the drop cloths, the paint cans, the spattered radio playing the song I was currently listening to; I felt the low quake again, the black fear i felt then, not knowing what was going to happen, neither M nor I truly knowing if I was going to live despite our positive talk and thought, despite the shiny new yellow wall.

I walked further, past the house, around to 16th Ave, everywhere seeing triggers: there's the house where we ran into Joe H and got the bookcase we currently have in our basement. there's the house that was for sale when George was in town that we all looked at; there's the squat purple house on a hill that we walked by when we took Maxwell for walks. The sky was grey and the streets were empty. it was like walking though an old photo album, a long-destroyed city after an apocalypse, ruins all cauterized and stiff but each humming and vibrating with the imprint and charge of life. These images were not merely triggers for the BT year but also our rebirth and replanting after moving from LA, all inextricably linked together, symbolic death and rebirth fused with possible death and then symbolic rebirth. Strunk and Henry and Maxwell were there for all of it. They were all (save Strunk) pre-N and to that end, like our kids.

I got to the car. I started the engine and pulled away, out of Brooklyn, away from the pulse of so much that i'd forgotten to recall. Traffic was rush-hour terrible. Over to Holgate to 39th to Lincoln to our street. I parked in front and as I ascended the steps I saw M & N in the door window. I presumed they were waiting for me because the traffic kept me away but when I opened the door M said Strunk is dying. She waited for you. It was 5:50 pm.

Moments later I'm in the bedroom, lights off, a candle burning, over Strunk's body. She is near the end, laying prone, eyes glazed, gasping intermittently. My mind is spinning, like i'm sleepwalking, in a movie about the memory of an old submerged dream.  I get to say goodbye to her. I pet her and talk to her. And soon she is gone. Just like that. Added to the tally of things we've done and life we've lived in the 8 yrs since we arrived here. The raw pain of her death another of the gifts I am lucky to savor because I am alive. The steady pulse of everything arriving all at once, symbolic death and literal death fused together in one liquescent moment, here for one beautiful shimmering instant, and then gone. just as quick as it came.



a friend of ours who still lives in humboldt county sent us this recent clipping/photo from the newspaper.


mri results phone call 1.10.11

typically it goes like this: each late november i email my doc (note: my neurosurgeon, not my gp. further note: this neurosurgeon is not the one who performed 2 surgeries in 2005 only the person who is assigned to shepherd my aftercare, scans and whatnots) and remind him that it's time for my annual mri to check on the status of the remaining brain tumor bit in my head. that bit was bbq'ed/cauterized by proton beam radiation and the numbers are very much in my favor but the fact is there's still a bit in my head that could not be surgically resected due to its proximity and abutment to critical structures (here, the carotid artery and the optic nerve) and that bit needs an annual look-see just to confirm that it has not un-cauterized itself or begun to shape-shift or otherwise contort itself into something sinister. each year the doc orders the MRI. i get the MRI (see prev post). And 8-10 days later or so I receive in the mail a copy of the radiation doc's assessment of the images  (note: I don't mind the lag time between scan and result because it implies good news. if there's cause for concern, they find you.)  which has been cc'ed to the neurosurgeon who typically writes 4-5 words on it (like 'looks great" or "all the same, best".)

this year would be different. i emailed neurosurgeon and a nurse got back to me and we got the MRI scheduled. however usual neurosurgeon wasn't available so it would be new neurosurgeon. Did I want to come in to review results with new neurosurgeon? nurse asked. Or would a phone consult suffice? I picked the latter and an appointment was formally scheduled for tues - 5 days after the scan - at 12:30 pm. All morning yesterday it was in the back of my head, looming and portentious, despite my near-certainty that the results would be favorable. As I alluded in previous post, this annual event comes bundled with past/present/future iterations and subfloors, an echo-chambered hall-of-mirrors that it is quite easy to lose oneself in figuratively speaking, looking at a reflected visage and mistaking it for the actuality, mistaking the memory of a long-ago car crash for the visceral moment of the car crash itself,  if you follow that. point being, i was slightly nervous, waiting for the phone call to come at my (day) job at 12:30 and I found myself nervously puttering and muttering and eager to get it all over with.

after a slug-crawl paint-drying, moment-to-moment interminability, at last it was 12:30. despite this being my lunch hour at (day) job i hung around, expecting the phone to ring at any moment. then it's 12:35. then it's 12:42. then it's 12:46. then it's 12:47. then it's 12:50 and i'm getting itchy. then it's 12:53. then it's 12:58 and i'm realizing (since i have things to do) that i can go and just tell my co-worker that -should they call at all - he can forward the call to my cell phone. but i forget to tell him that and then i check the details of the appointment online. the date is right, the time is right but at the bottom there's a phone number. oh fuck, was i supposed to call them?! It's 1pm now and i'm running down the back staircase to the street calling the number and i get the answering message for the nurse who set this appointment up in the first place. I leave her a few words, citing my uncertainty about whether i was supposed to receive the call or place it. I call M and tell her that I haven't heard anything yet. I call my co-worker and tell him that if anyone calls from a doc's office to please forward the call to my cellphone. He says "they just called". Of course they did. He says they told him there was no emergency in terms of returning the call which engenders a ripple of deep-breathing, inner-core sigh of epic relief that serves to make the sky bluer and the air crisper. I've done this long enough to recognize their non-emergency vernacular as confirmation of good news. I finish the set of errands I'm doing and take the bus up 5th ave back to my (day) job. A short time later I'm at my desk and my cellphone rings. It's the new neurosurgeon, delivering into my ear the finest assemblage of words imaginable: everything is unchanged. Despite the now-certain nature of hearing this it is like the first time. It is the bursting sunrise from the mountaintop and the beach with aquamarine waters in early afternoon and the falling-in-love-pit-in-the-stomach and the come-from-behind-upset-win against an unbeatable foe and the winning lottery ticket and the dream-come-true all folded together in one impossibly brief moment of time.

I say 'fantastic'.
I say, 'is Dr. P on leave or did he move on?'
'He moved on'.
"So you're my guy now?" and he says "I'm your guy now".
I say, "I'll talk to you in a year then".
He says "good enough".

This morning, i'm up at 6:30, running in the wind and chill. I'm trying to exercise more. I'm trying to get my shit together again and it's January so there's a few other resolution-fueled runners on the street with me. I feel my energy flag. I recall the words. everything is unchanged and feel something unlocking inside me, the secret code on a video game level. i run faster. i keep going.


annual scan 1.5.12

woke at 640, in car by 7 headed to clackamas, to hospital where i had 1st MRI back in late 2004 that kicked off the whole enterprise. in to the hospital, checking in at one desk in semi-recently remodelled lobby (where i note a stack of those buzzing/flashing your-table-is-ready-now items sitting off to the side, presumably for those awaiting surgery or news of surgery) and then on to another desk where the youngish receptionist asks for my religious preference (i am unclear why this is, possibly something i left blank on prior documentation). soon i am on elevator F going down a floor, down the hallway that this-time-last-year was being re-dry-walled and/or re-sanded and/or re-modified, following placards to mri/nuclear medicine. up to the reception window where i am handed the same clipboard with the same questions i've answered for years ('do you have metal in you body?','are you afraid of small spaces' etc). soon i am in changing bay, my personal items stowed in the tiny porthole with the tiny key. now wearing scrub pants and gown, glasses off, laying down on all-too-familiar MRI bed, being told this will take a longer time than usual b/c they're running 2 tests (unclear as to why this is. my usual neurosurgeon is on leave for some unspecified reason so the order was put in by his substitute. likely some formality or indicative of thoroughness b/c i haven't seen anybody in years - i just show up for these and get mailed the 'everything's a-okay' results but still enough to hand me the low quaky gutpunchy pulse that have affiliated with hospitals for at least 7 plus years.) Into the machine. The Sound. The Sound. The Sound. Impossible to describe without these words: grinding, arrhythmic, pounding, intermittent. I am in the tube for 45 minutes. My mind is ping-ponging between gratitude for the exceedingly good fortune to be alive, soul-sinking sadness for those with less good fortune, sense-memory of black fear seven yrs hence which triggers black fear in present tense. The tech pulls me out of tube and injects me w/ contrast. This is normal. She says "Did you have surgery on the part we're looking at?" This is not normal, to be asked this. I say "yes, two". She says "When was the last one". I say "march 28, 2005". She pushes me back in tube for 'about 20 minutes'. She leaves. I sit immobile, keeping focus on my breath. There's really nothing to be nervous about. I have zero symptoms. All is normal. This is just an annual check-up. Later MM reminds me that Dr. L at MGH said future MRI techs will be startled to see something on scan not realizing perhaps that it's the cauterized tumor remnant showing up on the scan. While I'm in the tube however, my mind and fear are battling. I think of my son and I smile. I am reminded of a million life-is-short sentiments that seem to find their way to lower-grade cinema and greeting cards but which also happen to be one-hundred-percent true. I am reminded of how standing, how thinking, how breathing is this glorious, mind-blowing gift, one that we have to look beyond to actually live and how unfortunate that is but also how understandably human it is. Running around bleating about how short life is is exhausting and also doesn't get you invited to many parties so it recedes. At last I am pulled out of the tube. Handed my glasses. Say goodbye to the tech. I tell her "See you next year". I say "I had a good time". And I am back in the car headed home.



a new year is always a symbolic thing. several big things coming this year already: milestone birthday (ugh), travel, directing a feature film and hopefully lots of joy and friendship filling in all the gaps. oh and the steady white-noise of self-correction and self-improvement be it in the physical, emotional, or spiritual realms. 2011 saw me posting much less on this blog, not for lack of interest but due to a dilution of time owing to a tot and directing a couple short films. one is almost done, one just got done. you can follow them both here if you have that desire. meantime i post semi-regularly here, a few words about whatever the last film i saw was.