since Dad died, at around 8am this morning - April 22nd, 2009. Not that you have the date and time memorized. It’s like a tattoo you never wanted - a tangible something that will never go away.
You wake up the same way you’ve woken up for nearly 26 fucking years and look straight up, staring at the ceiling. It’s grey outside and your stomach is fuzzy from the beers the night before. Your tongue still tastes of nearly half a pack of cigarettes; your jeans on the floor bearing the grim stains of the burrito that fell apart on the way back from the bar. It’s grey outside and there’s a lot to think about this morning.
Like how you’d been drunk for the majority of the last year. Not in a fun way, either. Too many mornings waking up and not knowing who’s couch you were sleeping on that day. Your drinking garnered you a reputation as a bit of a lush, and what a lush! You could drink for America in the Olympics with that liver. Your reputation is pretty low on the list of things you have to worry about. There’s emails to answer and work to be done and you’re not sleeping on couches anymore. These four walls and the ceiling you’re still staring at need to be paid for.
The intitial summer after he died was a total blur and you remember very little of it. You remember South America and the girl you met down there. You’ve still got the gift she gave you. It’s on the windowsill, and the sun is starting to peek out between the clouds, illuminating the wooden dancing ladies forever caught in their dancing moment. You remember dancing with her and how at least for a couple of songs - a few minutes - nothing else in the world other than you and her and the music seemed to exist and for once since he’d died you felt alive and - my god, is that a smile? You remember how everything about that trip carried a fluid electricity. You remember everything. Like watching yourself on a security camera.
You remember Chicago, too, and how the cold reminded you of hard work. Beers with Gus, and waking up in Francesca’s bed in the attic with her cats jumping all over you like a human trampoline while she slept at her boyfriends downstairs. You could see your breath in the air, but it didn’t matter for everything was balanced in that town.
You basically lived your life out in the open for the last year, journaling in public where everyone could read it. It goes against everything every great writer ever told you: don’t show people half finished work. It’s garnered you a bit of a reputation as an attention whore. That was true. But that has always been true. You can take the boy out of Hollywood but you’ll never take the Hollywood out of the boy…
You remember the last time you saw him, at the end of the driveway at your parents house in San Jose. You remember hugging him Goodbye and how when you replay that moment over in your head the sky seems black for some reason, and his face looked pained. You think he knew he was going to die. You think you knew, too, somewhere deep down. There aren’t any negative memories of the man because you both always lived every day together like it was your last. That was it. That was the secret. Now you have twenty five years of amazing memories; it was the greatest gift he could have ever given after death. Twenty five years of amazing memories forever on the marquee of the movie theater inside your head. Come one, come all. Step right up - it’s free admission.
You remember Hollywood; making promises with the moon and the empty bottle that you’d never, ever give up or settle for anything short of success. You remember sitting down to write a book about your Dad not a week after he died, and you remember all the empty cigarette packets that accumulated as you sat and wrote and wrote and wrote until the morning all summer long. It’s been a while since you’ve written in it, but 130 pages down. Not too shabby.
You remember the last time you talked to him, standing at the corner of Eagle Rock and Colorado Boulevard waiting for the light to change. You remember saying Goodbye to him the same way you always had, father to son, love you Dad thanks love you too, and when you hung up the light took forever to change. You waited and waited and waited and pressed the button a hundred times. “Come on”, you said “Come on you fucking thing, I just want to get home”. You cursed and kicked the gravel. Sometimes putting one foot infront of the other can be the hardest thing to do.
Then the light changed. Best foot forward, now… sometimes putting one foot infront of the other is the only thing you CAN do.
i haven’t talked about Dad in a while.
he hated - well, hated is a strong word - the fact that i had a blog and would share so damn much. its not something i expected he’d understand, and to his chagrin, i still don’t quite understand it. the way in which this went from “scene kid” notebook to “writing for a living” is something that i’ve come accept only pretty recently, but i digress. he never understood it. he didn’t like Los Angeles. i can see why. you’re not supposed to “like” Los Angeles. that’s sort of the point of the city. the moment you “love” Los Angeles is the moment i’ve always believed you should just move to Santa Monica and do yoga forever and eat tofu and call it a day and marry a blonde who thinks Fellini is a type of pasta. but once again, i digress. although the things he said about LA could probably fill a whole quote book probably have shaped how i feel about the place. it’s not fun. it’s not particularly enjoyable. i tried to tell him multiple times its the ultimate in human study - living in a city that is more of a grand idea than a place. once you accept that, you can almost see the road clear out infront of you, up to “the top”, wherever that is for you. again, for a third time, i digress.
it always angered me how, every time i came to him for advice, his answer would be “its your life, mate”. he didn’t say that in a condescending tone - not once. it was simply “your decision”.
and now, rapidly coming up on a year in April since he died, i’ve had to make some insane decisions. life got surreal in ways i never thought it would. and every time i’ve had to make a big decision i’ve hemmed and hawed and had a few whiskeys and shed a few damn tears - not “we’ve run out of ice cream” tears - just shitty man tears that last 30 seconds. i wished he was there to talk to. i wish he’d give me advice. i wish he’d tell me “get out of there, move to New York, that’s where you’re supposed to be, i’ve never seen you happier than you were when you were there”. and its true.
i went to New York about a month before he passed and i was walking down 6th Avenue on my way to see Mari, talking to him on the phone, and he said “i’ve never heard you this happy about a place”. and he was right. “then why not move?” he said. “i’m not sure, LA is just somewhere i have to be right now”, i said. i don’t know why i said that. the sentence came out of the ether. LA is just somewhere you have to be for a point in your life, if its calling you. its inescapable.
i wished almost every day this year that i could just call him up or sit and have a beer with him across this kitchen counter i’m writing on right now, and stay up until 1 waxing about this and that. i wish that more than anything, anything, anything.
but i know exactly what he’d say, that “its your decision”, and “its your life”. it’s the most perfect way to raise someone, and he did that so damn well. when i was coked out of my mind in Chicago for those months after breaking up with my fiancee i called him and told him about the drugs, and how ashamed i was, and how sorry i was - there was never a moment of “SON! WHAT THE HELL!” it was all just “well, it’s your decision”. and i stopped doing that point blank right there. abandoned all my shitty friends and moved on.
same thing happened in LA. too many friends doing too many drugs and partying too much without any forethought to any sort of future other than the morning after, but they were friends, whatever that meant. i talked to him about it. “its your life, mate”. i wanted to throttle him for not giving me any solid advice. but the next day, sitting there at the little taco joint, it all clicked. and it was my decision and mine alone, and i stopped talking to them.
it really is the best thing you can say to someone, “its your decision”, and that helped so damn fucking much in my life. i don’t care what your dad is like, mine was the absolute coolest. one of the most affable, funny, most awesome people you’d ever meet. and it was those carefully placed words that got me this far. sure i’m kind of all over the place sometimes, but if you’ve had a Dad like that, it makes that all fall by the wayside.
but really, “it’s your decision” to whether you let shit get you down or whether you can just let it roll off your back like a drop of water on a ducks feathers. to not be worried about your reputation but the content of your character, really, is i think what it comes down to. i don’t believe in heaven or hell. never really did, except for one five month period in 2000 when i became a born again Christian (thats another story for another time). i’m not sure where - in whatever ether - my Dad is. as far as i’m concerned, he’s in every decision i make.
does that make sense? am i oversharing on the blog again? fuck it. he’d probably hate that i’m doing this. another great quote of his was “you shouldnt be thinking while you’re drinking” and i’m TOTALLY going against that nugget of advice right now. but fuck it. maybe some random person out there will read this and think twice about their Dad and how damn lucky they are to have him around, spewing out little nuggets of amazingness that you - in your twenties or what have you - pass off. and you shouldn’t. and if this changes only one persons mind, i can’t fault that.
"Somewhere that moment lives on, and I like to think that somewhere on some plane of being that every moment lives on, forever being played out like grand celestial theater on a grander celestial stage. There you are at sixteen learning to drive. There you are again at twenty one and it’s your birthday. There you are at twenty three puking in a gutter. There you are at seven and it’s your birthday party and all your friends are there. The cake is always being cut, you are always there, in that moment, forever living it as a child of seven, too young to understand the line you’re walking down, too old to be lost in the soup of it all and remain unconscious. There you are, at six, sitting in that chair at the kitchen table, watching your Grandpa take a swing at you. There you are at eighteen graduating from high school. You are always graduating from high school. You are always driving, sleeping, waking, eating, fucking, shitting, pissing, loving, hating, denying, falling, rising, hungry, tired, awake, cold, warm, naked, alone, saturated, clothed, bathing, putting on your shoes, taking off your socks, shaving. There you are having your first kiss, first love, first day of school, first date, first beer, first job, first handshake, first heartbreak. You are in a state of perpetual destruction and reconstruction. You will never, ever, be full, but you will always, always be consuming. You are traveling through time and all the world is finite below you, you are flying over the city, you are laying underneath the ground at the same time. This is always happening to you, day after day, from the day you are born until the day you die. You are nothing, and you are everything. The sooner you realize you’re made out of the same brilliant matter of the stars, the sooner you can relax, and begin to take it all in. We don’t have much time, you the reader, and I, but we have all the time in the world, really.”
writing the book on my dad is fucking tough. fucking mental heartbreak happening every time i sit down to write it. but its helping. its really fucking helping. anyway, theres 60 something pages not dissimilar to this paragraph. i promised myself i wouldnt put any of it up until i was finished, but a friend of mines mom passed pretty recently and maybe this’ll help the guy.
its starting to set in, the death of my father.
today marks the 3 week - um - “anniversary”. tears come and go. it’s still so soon, but it seems so far away - it doesn’t feel like 3 weeks, it feels like a year. everything, i mean EVERYTHING has changed. how do you find yourself?
the worst part was last thursday, after the interview, when i knew that i had nothing planned. i’d spend all week working on the proposal and all the other things i have going on and i knew that as soon as i got home and closed the door it would be just me.
what do you say when you have nothing to say?
and i procrastinated coming home, too. i spent an hour in the supermarket going up and down the aisles. buying whiskey and beer. buying whatever. just not wanting to go home. and then carrying the grocery bags back in, setting them down, you can feel it come from the base of your spine, the grief, the guilt, the ants making their way up your vertebrae, up to your neck, and then just losing it.
because what do you say when you have nothing to say? what do you think when you have nothing to think? blank. tuned between stations. just let it take you - just this once - let it take you over and make you keel over and make it hard to breathe. the instant gratification of knowing that you’re simply going through the pain makes it easier to handle.
there wasn’t a single bad day with me and him. there simply wasn’t. we were like brothers sometimes more than father and son - joking around more than advice giving and the like - and to be honest thats what i find comfort in the most. there was never a FUCK YOU DAD moment or anything even close in the nearly 25 years i knew him. it was all pure. and it was all good. and i’m so fucking glad that i was his son.
you really need to sit there and think, though. could i have been a better son? what could i have done? and the last three weeks i’ve had my bouts with that guilt - that particular strain of guilt - the cancerous one that wrecks great minds - the “what if” - the “if only” - and, to be honest, it was all so perfect. and it ended so perfect. there wasn’t a long intensive hospital stay, there wasn’t a last goodbye, there was just a hug and a handshake and a wave from him on the front lawn.
when my best friend died when i was 11 i remember like it was ten minutes ago waving goodbye to him on the front steps of our house in Saratoga. Geoff died later that day. and all i could think about was waving goodbye not eight hours before. it wasn’t much, but it was fitting. an expression of “goodbye” with a dash of “i’ll see you again”. that’s how i left it with Geoff.
and now i can see my dad on the front lawn waving goodbye, like it was just another day, like he was going to see me very soon, like it always was, like nothing wrong is going to happen. no last goodbye or final embrace. just doing what people do. there was no final “i love you, dad”. he knew. just a wave is all i needed to know. keep it simple; you’ll find beauty in the tiniest things if you know what to look for.
you’ll see them all again. whenever that next embrace is, it’ll be long awaited.