pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out

20 June 2015

On the festival trail

So I can only give you a trailer.

But, trailer!

15 June 2015

Bath and breakfast

Malibu Lagoon State Beach
Malibu, California
15 June 2015

I rarely venture as far north as Malibu, mostly because it's an extraordinarily painful drive from where I live (left at 6:30 this morning, arrived 8:45). But the spouse had a meeting in Malibu this morning and needed carpoolers, plus we had a house guest, so going to Malibu for breakfast sounded like a good idea.

The daughter, my mother and I breakfasted, and then wandered across the street to the state beach. Lots of neophyte surfers, lots of birds, lots of fog.

Monday morning in June in So Cal.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000. I used to go to Malibu a lot. A friend's father had a house on the beach, and we'd visit. I know: sounds quite ooolala, but I was usually writing term papers. Yeah, on the beach. Okay, sort of ooolala.

13 June 2015

Change my life again


New Orleans, Louisiana
22 May 2015

Friday morning, the morning after the daughter's graduation, I got an email from one her counselors.  "Preparing for empty nest syndrome," it read.

I sent the son off to university three years ago, which has been fine most of the time. Yes, I worried when he was locked in his dorm during Hurricane Sandy. Yes, I worry when he is stressed or ill, but so far, things have mostly gone well.

I was preparing for an empty nest as the daughter's college acceptances started to roll in. In fact, I was already highly involved in my own personal happy dance--travel! Piano lessons! Deferred maintenance on my house! Move to Ireland!--when she announced that she'd decided on the college closest to home.

So I adjusted my expectations slightly to include the idea that I'd probably be in Orange County for another 4 years. Not my idea of a great time, but after 17 years...

(I was horrified to realize that I now have lived in Orange County longer than I have lived anywhere in my entire life. I still feel like a stranger here. I always will be a stranger here.)

Like me, the daughter is practical, and it's practical to save $15,000 a year on one's college education by living at home. I can't fault her on this and I don't. In fact, I will rather enjoy having her around. It's the state-enforced bondage from K-12 that drove me berserk. I always rather liked my children.

And it's possible to take piano lessons in the OC.

She asked me tonight if I would go back to work. I know that she is rather concerned about what I will do next. I think she is afraid I will miss her. I think she is afraid I will abandon her. Her perspective on her growing up is, of necessity, different from mine, and she doesn't understand yet that this is a process. That I have been pushing her out the door, letting her run out the door and missing her for 17 years, and college is just another step in that process. I've told her that while it's unlikely I will walk her to the door of her first college class, I am not averse to meeting her for coffee on campus periodically if she'd like to.

Will I go back to work? I don't know, I told her. Maybe I'll write short stories all day. Or take photos every Wednesday. Someone will still have to cook, grocery shop, do laundry and clean. It may not be me. I need to find a surgeon who is committed to putting me back together again before it's too late. All this remains to be seen. I am open to possibilities.

I haven't yet found it in my heart to be sad about any of this. I've watched the son become very aware of how precious and unique his family is as he's lived away from us for years now. Perfect parent? Hell, no. I've made plenty of errors including, I'm sure, the ones I don't even see. But we all survived. I think they'll do okay.

Empty nest syndrome? I've always maintained some semblance of a life of my own (see also Week in Texas and Louisiana), and I'm really ready to make that my full time job.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000.

10 June 2015


Last trip
Santa Ana, California
10 June 2015
The whole drive down, I kept telling myself, "FOUR YEARS. It's OVER. You won't have to do this again."
I tried to feel something. Elation? Regret? Maybe I'll miss it a little?
But nothing, really. I suppose it will sink in later. Or perhaps, in the way of my life, I will simply move on to the next thing, and this will just be a memory.
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. The odd part is that I don't remember it being so cloudy, so maybe there was sunshine in my brain.

01 June 2015

Part 1: What do you think you're doing?

Hiking trail
San Antonio, Texas
15 May 2015

So, last week started here.

I looked at the tour schedule, and hey! Show on my birthday! Time to run away from home. D. and I conferred and a series of increasingly hilarious emails between the two of us ended with this:

That week looks clear, so we could do Austin, Dallas, Houston and Nawlins. What a hoot. And L is screaming that she wants to go to NOLA. And I'm screaming NO. And I just found out she has the day off because it's a four day weekend. *eye roll* 

But dayyam.

I wouldn't mind some time without my beloved family.

I didn't just say that.

As D. pointed out, I went there, and it was all over. Four shows in a week. I was leaving home for eight days. Unprecedented. That was in January.

Just a few problems, of course. We had tickets for Austin. She had tickets for Dallas. No one had tickets for Houston. And I'd gotten some pretty awesome tickets for New Orleans (seriously, birthday luck, because I couldn't even pull up tickets for most of the shows I wanted to see). And typically, we're both swamped with work and family and stuff. Then it's suddenly April, and I don't have airline tickets, hotel reservations, a plan. Or tickets for Houston. Or Dallas.

Or a PLAN.

Right around May 1, we start planning. Which leads to hilarity and me authoring threats like this:

I was planning to drive back to San Antonio with you on Monday so I can bake you a cake on Tuesday. I can keep you awake by singing loudly for two hours. Unless, of course, you don't want me. That's okay too.
San Antonio to New Orleans is an 8 hour drive. I know you like driving and all, but driving. I just checked Southwest, and they have a round trip for $200. Or I could stay put in Houston and sing to you for FIVE HOURS from Houston to New Orleans. Lucky girl.

So our escapade was shaping up. Except that come May 8:

I still haven't figured out Houston or gotten a return ticket.


And I was in the midst of mounting panic with end of the school year things looming like parties I was supposed to be planning for the conservatory, and workflow I was supposed to be coordinating. Stuff.

And all I wanted to do was leave.

Finally, May 14, rolled around and I was the picture of controlled disaster as I packed and did laundry and sent emails and left directions. I pretended that I'd be on a conference call the following Wednesday, knowing it was quite likely I'd be in Houston, even if I didn't have tickets.

(There are ways. I've been going to concerts since I was 12. There are always ways.)

I woke up, sheer panic, at 3 am on May 15. I had the alarm set for 4 am, but there it was and I was awake--on two hours sleep. I showered quietly, fed the cat and waited for the car I'd hired to arrive.

I got to the airport and did airport things, which included getting a cup of milky coffee. I stared blearily out at the lightening sky, and thought about all the times I'd watched the sun rise from this airport--and from airplane windows and other airports.

What do you think you're doing? I asked myself with something that might have contained a tinge of despair.

Though, of course, the answer is that I was doing the same thing I've been doing for the last 13 years. Carving out a small amount of time for myself in a world full of crazy.

Just before they closed the plane door, I texted D.

"On plane to San Antonio. See ya soon."

And off I went.


Today is June 1. It's Monday. That means there is Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Then Saturday (ugh. But. Last. Time. Ever.)

Then comes Tuesday again, and Wednesday.



Miles to go and all that, but afterward...I don't even dare think.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.

30 May 2015

Shooting into the sun

Balboa Island, Newport Beach, California
31 December 2014

I don't have brakes.

I really don't. I go and go until I drop, working with dogged determination, playing with equally dogged determination, though not nearly so often.

Last night was the last night the daughter will screen a film at her high school. The screenings are required for their production classes; every student screens twice per year. And basically, one of my jobs for the last two years has been to help to run the event, four nights a year. Which doesn't sound like much.

Until you do it.

We knew last night would sell out the 430-seat theater, and it did. And like my counterparts, I was running between the desk and the theater, counting seats, slowly releasing tickets, praying we would find the balance between "sold-out" and "we can get a few more in."

And we did.

Last night was the last night I will work the event, and I made sure that my presence was no longer needed out front so I could go take my seat inside. Usually, I sit out at the front, and deal with late comers, do other work, take photos of blimps.

But last night, the daughter was screening her senior project. And I'd already seen it hundreds of times, vetted cuts, looked at dailies, done shoots and reshoots. Figured out locations. Fed cast and crew. Was stunt driver, camera operator, boom operator, script supervisor. Transported hundreds of pounds of equipment in the back of my car.

(Which finally needed the struts replaced. No big surprise, really. It's 18 years old. And it's been transporting Arri light kits for 4 years. Cranes. Cast and crew.)

I also wrote the story the film was based upon. It had a very specific genesis, and filled a very specific need. The daughter and I had discussed every particular of the story in great detail: the motivations of the characters, the set dressing, the clues to what was occurring, the back story for certain props. Colors had meaning, placement of items had meaning, presence and absence had meaning. The two main actors had taken their characters and made them their own. One had brought such intuition to the role that it was almost breathtaking.

So, I wanted to see it on the big screen.

It had been decided by the person who decides these things that the daughter's film would close out the program and the year. The story is sad, but affirms the power of love--and does it a lot faster than Interstellar did. I teased that they'd better provide boxes of Kleenex. The daughter had already had nearly her entire class and some of the teachers in tears just watching the cuts.

There's a lot of talent in her class and it was fun to watch the films a lot of these kids had produced. I've known most of them for all four years. They've shot films in nearly every room of my house and my back garden, and I've supervised their shoots elsewhere. I've gone to see their bands perform. I take a proprietary interest in them and really want to see them succeed, and it's been fascinating to see them discover their niches and interests and run with what they love.

So the daughter's movie played and I listened to the audience. The silence was total until close to the very end of the film. There were gasps and murmurs at the final reveal, and I watched the people around me wipe their eyes as the film faded out.

Mission accomplished. Her story made the emotional connection with the audience that was intended. It was done with elegance and subtlety. It gave the audience something to think about.

I ran back out to the front, and helped with final clean up as the students and the audience gathered and talked about all they'd just watched. When I was done, I made my own rounds, and talked to some of the kids I knew best and whose films had impressed me the most and told them how much I'd enjoyed their work, wishing them the best in their future endeavors.

One said to me, "You wrote that story? Can I get your contact info? Because maybe you have some more stories? I want to do stuff over the summer..."

For a moment, I was too taken aback to even feel flattered. I do what I do, and I always do it. I've been doing it since before I started kindergarten. I do it for me, and this time, I did it for the daughter because she needed something, something that maybe only I could give to her.

But she's always been after me to do more with my writing. And mostly I recoil in shock and horror because I can't even imagine allowing people to read what I write. It's just not good enough in my view.

And when people said to me, about this film, "but you wrote the story," my response has been one of puzzlement. Of course I wrote the story. That's what I do. I write. And I always have.

Slowly, possibilities showed themselves, and then I did feel a little flattered, and I said, "Sure, ask L. She can give you what you need. We'll see what we can do."

When I woke up this morning, I realized for the very first time in this whole process that a story I wrote had been adapted into a film. It was such a weird and alien thought, but rather pleasing.

I do so much in my life that bucks every trend, breaks every rule, goes against the grain. And I'm not talking about things that are illegal or hurtful. I'm talking about filling needs, doing stuff that I like to do--traveling like a mad thing, going to concerts--and raising my children to be themselves. Writing a story for my daughter because it was the story she needed.

Every camera maker and camera manual will tell you not to shoot into the sun. But I do, carefully, because if done carefully, it can create a very artful photograph. And in some ways, it's really a metaphor for my life, the way that I raised my children. Don't do this, I was told, don't do that. And I watched and I listened and then I let them grow the way that seemed right, the way that looked most moral, and would give them the greatest chance at successfully being who they are. Carefully, I shot into the sun, and I shot for art, for good, for right. And because I did, last night, I let 430 people have one of my stories, for the first time ever, and I didn't even notice or have a moment to feel self-conscious about it.

Which may be a virtue of having no brakes.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.

29 May 2015

And a blimp flies through it

Last night
Orange, California
28 May 2015

I stepped off the plane on Saturday and right into the crazy.

(In at least one case, dealing with someone who may well be literally crazy. Not looking forward to one more week of that.)

So last night, another event. On the front lines. Smile firmly pinned place. Pretending I'm fine with talking to masses of strangers. Which I'm not. I don't like that sort of spotlight.

Next week, there will come a moment when I am called forward to accept thanks, but I will have disappeared. Afterwards, there will be a hiss of disapproval--"Where were you?"--and I will evince surprise and offer an explanation, mention a job that needed to be done, preparations that couldn't wait. I will neglect to say that I made good my escape via the service elevator, or a back door that I located in advance. I don't want to be thanked. I want to be finished.

But last night isn't next week, and in the lull, after everyone had been ushered away and tucked into their seats, I sat in the quiet, made notes (serving spoons), watched the sun set, and caught sight of the blimp out the window. It inscribed lazy yet purposeful circles in the twilit sky, red light on its crew cabin visible then invisible.

How like my life.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. This time last week, I was in New Orleans. What wouldn't I give to be in Virginia.