Finding My Voice.

To say that my life is a little more subdued these days is an understatement.

As mentioned in my last entry, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes, but I’m not ready to talk about that just yet until it really takes off. What I can talk about is my own present path of self-discovery that I’ve been working on right now.

It’s taken me nearly a year to find “my” writing voice again. Everything that I had written for months on end sounded disjointed and without passion. I’ve really started looking back at my writing over the years, both written and online. There was such a sense of adventure to even the most small of things, coupled with a sense of “present tense” dialogue, and wry observation of my settings. My life, as I’ve noticed, really has made no sense. What has been “normal” for me probably does come off as a little alien to my readers. Maybe that’s part of the appeal. I’ve spent my whole life building up and collecting experiences, finding myself in one situation after another, and then eager ready to share them with my audience. It’s not meant as a “braggart” lifestyle (at least I’ve never intended it as such). I just love telling stories.

It’s those stories that sometimes put me on the outside to the “normal” relatability of jobs and life. Thirteen years on film sets and stages can do that as much as ten sporadic years of pulling off finishing moves on digital warriors can. Watching Richard Curtis’ Almost Time movie last night allowed me to rattle off cheerful stories to Jen of working with Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy during various early points in my career.

And I thought about that. I have all of these stories, photos, experiences of my life collected in various print and digital volumes, and I find that it may be time to start sharing those stories by writing one of my own. I have (as I once saw best described in some meme somewhere) lived the karaoke version of a rockstar lifestyle. I’ve never headlined my own film, but I’ve had the experiences, and those “present” collected moments reminded me of how lucky I’ve been to take part in something special for so long.

Deadwood sketchings from my old journals.

Deadwood sketchings from my old journals.

The hard part, of course, will be in sitting my easily distracted self down to compose all of these stories, and do a travel guide, and start working on children’s stories that I’ve drafted, but never published.

So with changes come a shift in priorities. I’m not going to stop “living” to document all of the old times, but I need to do something with them before they are lost to time or circumstance. I’m regaining confidence in my “conversational writing” again, I’m really thinking about what my personal values are, and how I can use that to help, or even entertain others. I read Carrie Fisher’s last book The Princess Diarist, and marvelled about her humored candidness. I’m trying to put myself back out there as well, after admittedly shutting myself off for a while. There’s a lot of “noise” out there. I’m learning how to shut that out instead.

“Holy shit, I’m forty-one years old”, I blurted out to myself in the middle of a parking lot, while putting away my groceries. I, of course, got a few strange looks from passers by during that admission, but my observation wasn’t for them. It sort of finally hit me that I’ve come this far in my life, where 30 once seemed impossible, and 40 didn’t even seem feasible. Good God, 50 could even conceptually be an actual thing in my life at some point, but not for a while. Let’s not jump on that train yet. I have too much to do in that between time, and I just just as easily be killed by an ostrich between here and then.

I’m eccentric and frustrating to some, but I know where my strengths are as well. I’m anxious about what’s coming next, but is it also part of that need in me to tell a story. But I have to reestablish my place as a central character.

So here I am, sharing this journey, sharing this “next step”… knowing where the destination is, but as it’s been said before, the journey is often more important. If you like the travel and seeing the process of how I’ve chosen this path, fantastic. Otherwise, you can wait for the Cliff’s Notes version, and fill in the blanks later.

Such is life. Or not.

Chapter 4.

And with the writing of this line, a new chapter of my life begins today….

That’s not my latest attempt to add a bit of literary flourish to the beginning of this entry, that is an actual statement of fact.

I’m finding facts to be so much more important these days, especially in an admittedly unpredictable landscape that we all find ourselves in, no matter what we stand for or believe in.

It’s been a difficult journey, one where longtime friends turn against each other and discard friendships like any other disposable item. We have in some ways turned our basic human connections into metaphorical Kleenex. We need it at the moment, but have become premature in discarding these moments, these people that we shared some fragment of our life with.

And sometimes, when those ideologies sharply contrast to the point of the greater world around us, it needs to happen. It’s shaped a lot of my thinking the last few days.

But I’m getting off topic.

So what is this “new chapter”, you ask? It’s an ongoing project, so some answers will be provided as things fall into place. While I can already sense the hands of exasperation being thrown to the tune of “Predictably Vague Guy” (which begs the question of if I am so predictably vague, then why are you still throwing your hands up at this point?), I will share with you as I go along, before I reach the culmination of all of this hopefully sooner than later.

In 2014, I started what I called “The Quest For Happiness”, which was well-intentioned, but the fact that I ended up in the hospital for anxiety and depression by the end of the year told me that there was still some work to be done. The year wasn’t all bad. Some travel, new projects, and a return home to my high school reunion set forth what would be one of the key elements of why I can say a new chapter has started.

“Home” was a return to basics. A return to simplicity, and people from my youth that I reconnected with on a different level, one mixed with fond nostalgia and mutual respect. I found an appreciation for my roots on a different level that I had before, and even with my sidetrack, the value stuck. It was that, and a shock to my own mortality (and a more mature commitment to love) that also made me do the “grown up” step of getting engaged to Jennifer (Did I mention the “love” thing already?).

(Yes, we are actually planning to seriously get married this year. This is not an invite to start with asking about children.)

“Happiness” is not definable for everyone in the same way. What makes me happy isn’t going to be the same for you that reads these lines. There are a lot of questions to ask, more than you expect, and deeper than basic pleasures than “coffee in the morning” or “sleeping in late”. Those are great, but there is a need to dig deeper to scratch past the surface and see what really makes us tick.

I’ve had friends say some poignant things to me over the years since I started going about this quest. When talking about mistakes made and then present frustrations that could have gone better, one friend asked “And how is that working out for you?” It’s made me ask that question mid-sentence instead of going fully into a lengthy and “helpless” complaint fest, causing me to break ties with problems easier and faster. Another friend last year called me “nostalgic” and “sentimental” as I tend to look back on my life a lot, trying to take lessons from my experiences. I look back to move forward.

In the time since, my life has put me in situations that have challenged me with more questions. What is trust worth? Friendship? How can nostalgia motivate me to move forward instead of being held back by it? The world of late has caused me to look at the value of aforementioned facts, and my place as a smaller steward of information in this world.

At best, I write in this blog. At least, I make points to a social media driven audience. Is it productive? Perhaps not always. Do I feel better about it? Occasionally. Is it the best use of my time? What on the internet is these days? Most of it is skewed to get maximum clicks, shares and likes. It’s not helping anyone but some corporate algorithm.

And so I am looking for value and meaning in what I write. Am I helping people? Am I being entertaining or making them think? Am I being honest, not only to my audience but to my own values? As another friend put it: “Are the so-called ‘experts’ just winging it?” Aren’t we all in a way?

So things are being put into place into place as to what makes me happy (A point finally materializes). “Happiness” for me boils down to these elements: Connection, friendship, love, facts, nostalgia, sentiment, meaning, value, truth, art, fairness, trust, respect, creativity, adventure, and simplicity. And who am I kidding? I have my “base” needs like video games, movies, food, travel, and crazy wagging animals. Some call them “Dogs”. I call them “The Monsters at My Feet”.

I’ve decided that it’s time to do what’s best for me. To find my happiness. And to be the person that I want to be. I am tired of feeling wearied and uncertain. Sometimes, you have to be a little brave to get there. And in my case, a little crazy. Fortunately, I carry an abundance of both. It’s going to be necessary in a word that is changing and unpredictable now.

So with all of this in mind, I recieved an e-mail during this writing taking that first real step. So starts the second line of this new chapter, for a story that will be told soon.

Make no mistake: The fourth chapter of my life has started today, and I look forward to sharing with you when the news finally arrives.

The Year Without Hope.

As I originally started writing this post, I remembered that it was this time 15 years ago when I made my way to the West Coast to live. I felt that I had outgrown my life in Texas, and wanted to see what else was out there. Thus began my life in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, and all that has come with it. It has been an unforgettable ride.

Under normal circumstances, I would start one of these “End of Year” posts with some message of hope and optimism….

This year, I just don’t have it in me.

2016 was a disappointing and sad year with a lot of loss. The actor, musician, and artist loss still continues well into these final days, from royalty purple to galactic. Personal relationships were severed, from politically to philosophically, one lost to violence over the Summer, to one that I’m not sure what entirely happened. And I didn’t think another former friend would “rip off and skip off” on me this year, but people can be surprising. Two months of the 4th of July can teach you that lesson in ways you hadn’t considered.

2016 was the year where the dangers of unchecked social media became more apparent, and how misinformation and negativity has turned the world wide web from a new digital frontier to a cesspool of poor writing and even more poor attitudes. There is a lot of garbage out there, and rather than further contribute to it, I’m going to look for ways to better train and educate how to make well-written, useful contributions. The same as with human manners and interactions, the time has come to teach the same for online connection. We have the equivalent of a supercomputer in our pocket. Why are we not better for it?

My social presence is going to be changing. I’ll still share blogs and life updates, photos, and little nuggets of humor, observation, or wisdom, but what I create has to have meaning. And I’m simplifying my presence and removing negative elements.

Still, for me, there were moments found within this year: The ACMAs and Billboard are always unique moments in my life, from Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum shaking my hand while telling me I’ve done a good job of standing in for Dierks Bentley, to my friends and I singing along with Madonna and Stevie Wonder during rehearsals for a Prince tribute, I’m so fortunate for these experiences, and no matter what happens, they will always be mine. From seeing stage productions of Beauty and the Beast, to Star Trek and Lionel Richie concerts, to meeting Joey Lauren Adams at Pensacon… then running into her again a month later. I got to experience some “wizarding magic” at Universal Studios. I even met Stan Lee because I held out for one moment longer. I’ve found my place better, and like I was in 2001, I find that I am wanting more.

2016 has changed me. I thought about it while in Dallas last September tending to family matters, and while reunited with my friends from Midway Texas. Life is about lessons, and even in its most perceived “unfair”, I grew up with a life of security, love, and support… a life that I set so much aside to go see what else was out there. In my independence, I have experienced some profound and life changing things, and there’s a part of me that wonders if it’s finally time to revise how I tell those stories.

I realize these days that the world in general is not safe. There are people out there who are only in this “life” thing for themselves, or will try to bring you down because it pleases them to do so, or you didn’t word your feelings in a way that they found “satisfactory”. I worry more now than I ever have before due to a newfound sense of insecurity that’s come from the passage of time and recent events. There are few things that remind of life’s fragility more and the fact that you’re getting older than the loss of one’s heroes. That’s not “celebrity worship” for me. I’ve met and worked with a handful of those that passed this year, and my Dad was also one of those heroes for me. 2016 was not the leading cursed or supernatural shareholder of loss, though I and others felt that in many ways.

For that reason, there’s going to be some changes. Not for the world, but for me. Jen and I have some big plans coming up. We’re putting all else aside to finally get married. No more delays. We’re focusing more on family, and I’m allowing my sense of nostalgia and sentiment to guide my path more this next year. I’m going to start fighting back and defending the helpless more, support the needs of my friends and family, and work to be a little more kind to people. We’re all going to have to be a little nicer to each other to survive the coming changes. But I’m going to be so less patient with injustices.

And changes…. Once we get a few things going, 2017 is going to be a very different year. It’s time that I do more of what I love, where I love, with who I love. That announcement will come in about a month or two once we get a few things confirmed. I’ll be excited to share those plans with you when that time comes.

I have lived a very fortunate life, and I reflect on that often. Am I as “famous” as I once wanted to be? Still not yet, but my life has compensated me in so many other ways. I’m still looking for “my” moment. But a lot of soul searching and searching with the soulmate tells me that there’s more to see. And time’s a wasting otherwise.

So no, I don’t have “hope” or “optimism” starting into this new year. I do however, have “support” and “resolve”. And love. 2017′s going to find that I am a tough son of a bitch to knock down, and I’m not quitting until I say that it’s time to. I still have a few “life goals” to attend to.

Love each other. Be kind. Be understanding. Be human.

Be more.

Review Time: NES Classic.

It was my 12th birthday in 1987 when my parents surprised me with the “Deluxe Set” version of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Among the games in my birthday hoard were Gyromite, Duck Hunt, Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins, and of course, Super Mario Bros. – It didn’t take long for me to dive into the 8-bit world with my friends as my gaming companions, playing all-night marathons and creating strategy guides. I read Nintendo Power and watched Captain N: The Game Master every Saturday, wishing that I could be so lucky. For a kid in the mid to late ’80′s, life was all about Nintendo. Or at least it was to me.

Systems have come and gone, and I even fulfilled a lifelong dream in ending up in the video gaming industry for about a decade. I was fortunate enough to have taken part in the waning era of the “pioneer days”, long before every single release of an multi-million AAA title would either make or break a company.

Classic game emulation is nothing new, whether purchasing a gaming anthology, playing on a digital download service, or even making use of an emulator. “Mini systems” that look like the consoles of old that house a handful of games are nothing new either. Nintendo finally got around to trying one of their own,

Enter the NES Classic.

The system is tiny, roughly about 5 inches wide (or the length of the original controller). Aesthetically, it’s well-designed, instantly creating a sense of nostalgia, and the controllers are completely accurate reproductions of the original controllers, which are responsive and feel great. I was initially surprised to see how “tiny” the controllers seemed, but the size is accurate. It’s the gamers that grew into bigger hands. The only real issue with the controllers are the exasperatingly short two foot controller cords, that were shorter than even the original cords. I get the idea of recreating the “sitting around the TV” feeling, but you need controller extensions if you want to play on your couch.

The system features 30 classic games from the 1980′s-1990′s era:

Balloon Fight
Bubble Bobble
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong Jr.
Double Dragon II: The Revenge
Dr. Mario
Final Fantasy
Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins
Ice Climber
Kid Icarus
Kirby’s Adventure
Legend of Zelda
Mario Bros.
Mega Man 2
Ninja Gaiden
Super C
Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros. 2
Super Mario Bros. 3
Tecmo Bowl
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

It’s a great selection of games from not only Nintendo, but companies such as Capcom, Konami, Namco, Square, and Tecmo, some of Nintendo’s best third-party offerings. There are some notable omissions in the line-up, such as titles like Rygar, Blaster Master, and Metal Gear, a few missing games from the featured series (no Mega Man 1, Double Dragon 1, or Castlevania III), or expectedly, no licensed titles like Batman, DuckTales, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They could have put 60 games on the system, and still not have covered all of those favorites on everyone’s list. Sadly, there is no option or ability to download new games, so holding out for Ice Hockey or Rad Racer isn’t going to happen here.

And yes, this is the Punch-Out!! sans Mike Tyson.

From a graphics and sound standpoint, this is the best that Nintendo has ever done for emulation. The original Wii stretched out games, and the Wii U inexplicably made games look dark and sound muddy. Here, the visuals are crisp and vibrant, looking better than you remember, and giving you a chance to really soak in all the pixelated details. The sound is full and and rich. There are also three video settings: Pixel perfect (recommended), one that stretches the games to fit more of your screen, and a CRT mode, to emulate what games looked like on old non-HD televisions.

Challenge wise, they are exactly how you remember, both good and bad. Every profanity inducing patterned respawning enemy that is perfectly placed to launch you into a pit based death, one hit kills, limited continues, restarting back at the beginning of levels, lost progress due to powering off the system, and of course the obtuse puzzles and “Engrish” translations of Castlevania II. Today’s kids might not “get” it, as there’s no tutorials, or convenient Nintendo Power strategy guides to page through. Fortunately, the system offers four save states for each game, so no forced overnight sessions until the sun rises to beat Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins… only to find that there is a second playthrough. *throws controller*

There is a downside to accessing the main game and settings menu from the “Reset” button on the system, which is an annoying walk over or reach to the system. But… authenticity.

I get it that it’s not “cool” to own mini systems like this, and one may as well turn in their gamer card if they don’t still own their original systems (which I do), or choose to access every title via an emulator on a PC. But there’s also something about a feeling. Something about that red light on the front of the system, or the feel of the original style controller in your hands, or how great these games look on a 60-inch screen, or how it felt to talk games at school, after school, or during sleepovers while eating Nintendo cereal, despite it tasting like fruity sawdust. This is something for people who lost their old NES system along the way, or for those who really want to see their games looking the best they ever have, even though your memory will tell you that they always looked this good.

Chances are (and hopefully), they will continue the trend with a tiny version of the Super NES and Nintendo 64, and until proven otherwise, something is telling me the new Switch might not support Virtual Console, and this may be Nintendo’s end-all outlet to (legally) access classic games. In any case, $60 is a fair price for 30 games, when Nintendo would otherwise charge you $150 for all this on their digital services, minus the controller and system.

It’s an enjoyable system. It’s going to be stupidly hard to find due to Nintendo’s perplexing underestimation for demand and limited distributions that they mandate. I may be missing the point of doing it the “proper” gamer way, and may have to turn in my card to the detractors before this run is over, but I’ve certainly had fun with it.

I wonder which side is truly missing the point of this after all….

Revisiting old friends.

Revisiting old friends.

(Dedicated to Aaron, Jeff, Jeremy, and Rondi.)

Actor’s Studio.

Did you know that I was once in the pilot for a reality TV show?

It’s true! About 2-3 years ago, I got cast as one of the leads for a “limo adventures” show based in Las Vegas on a popular cable network, but the show never aired past an initial promo clip (long since removed). I was one of a group of guys (all local hires) that were cast as a bunch of tourist/convention goers that was visiting the Strip and looking for a fun and crazy night on the town that only Las Vegas can provide.

There is no “reality” in reality TV. At least, not in the way you may think. It’s not a “one take and go” in some Ed Wood-style brush of spontaneity. There are characters. There are settings. While largely unscripted (think something akin to doing improv), there is a purpose to the scene and motivation. Even American Idol, with its seemingly “live” feel was the result of multiple takes and multiple “TBD” winner announcements during rehearsal. The winners are selected even before the show has started (the aired show, however, is one run through where said winners are actually revealed).

Each actor in our group were no different than the other, all on the same hierarchy level and chosen from a list of selected casting submissions. While we had just met and were getting to know each other, one guy was chosen as our “leader”. I was chosen as the “wing man”. The other two guys were there and contributed commentary, but weren’t as focal as the leader and I were.

At one point, we had a selection of limo drivers that we were to choose from for our night out. Even though we went through the same “What can you do for us” spiel with each one, the actual limo driver we’d use was already chosen for us: This very pretty, buxom blonde driver. While we could relatively say whatever we wanted to during the course of the conversation, there were a few key lines that we had to recite to move the plot along. We did multiple takes, trying to get the best and most dramatic delivery of our lines, but as much as it would have been televised that we were deliberating our best options, our female driver choice was already pre-selected.

The did “B roll” of our time at an arcade. They focused on me here due to how well I played video games. Later that night, the leader was to get a tattoo at a popular Vegas tattoo shop, which was really a professional quality “peel and stick” that he could remove later after we wrapped. During the drive around, they filmed us and our conversations the entire time to get the best sound bites and catch phrases. At one point, production admonished the other two guys for breaking character and talking about when the show was going to air, and how it compared to other shows. We were suggested by production to flirt with our driver, which the latter took to going into great detail as to how they’d like to spread her legs and bend her over. They were definitely unscripted here. During one break, I apologized to her for their behavior, as you could tell it was going above her level of patience, and her cheerful smile was becoming more forced as those comments continued. She appreciated me saying something, and said she was used to guys like that. I was embarrassed that they thought this was appropriate behavior, even for “acting”.

We later made our way downtown, where we met and picked up a selection of attractive “party girls” from a bar (also local hire actresses). Production supplied us with drinks in our limo to loosen us up as we drove multiple times around the block for the best takes of driving past some of the iconic casinos. After a while, we pulled over, did our “final thoughts” of our completely spontaneous and crazy night that definitely only happened one time, then went home back to our normal day jobs and to wash off tattoos. The hangover that I had the next morning, however, was real.

The characters that we portrayed on TV were not a real representation of our actual personalities. They were characters open to our interpretation, yet driven by several scripted key moments, dramatic deliveries, bold camera angles and cuts, and I’d assume equally powerful music to enhance the scene. To the viewer, you’d think this was an actual night. For us, it was a lot of takes and multiple hours on the editing floor to create the personas that you would see (and hopefully enjoy) on television.

I’m not a party guy visiting Las Vegas while attending a tech convention. I only play one on TV.

Last night, a friend texted me that my Dad is currently rolling in his grave. I’d have to believe that he absolutely is.

A Moment To Relax.

I find that’s more important these days, what with the state of the world being the way it is. I’ve still adhered to my “no discussion of politics and religion”, as it’s always been the socially advised thing to do, but I also like providing a “safe space” for friends visiting my little digital corner of the web where everyone can feel comfortable regardless (though I think my thoughts are fairly apparent).

In any case, it’s a tough place to be right now, the state of the world. There’s only so much to be said about politics, and no matter where you stand, it’s a total mess. World matters aren’t much better, and having to make decisions for the sake of global relations is perhaps my own largest consideration. Dad always taught me to think of the “greater good”, so no pressure there, right? A lot of people mad at us, both externally and within. We need to sort that out.

The reason I bring any of this up at all is that it’s fair to say this is weighing on everybody in some form right now. I’m guilty of pouring over news sites, and dredging through comment sections (and not liking the answers that I find there – Holy shit, people, really?). It wears on you, and as someone who dreads stressful situations, I have to build a shield from it, and step back. This is a tiresome election. To date, I’ve not lost any relationships over it, but I’ve needed to step back a few times. It’s not an election. It’s a superbowl.

I think my 40′s are starting to change me. I’ve been talking about “simplicity” a lot, and needing a slower pace. Jen and I had a few dinners with some friends of ours from New York this week, and he referred to me as “nostalgic”, and “sentimental”. It was meant kindly, and I took it as such, but he is right: I do look back a lot.

We all have our “Good old days” when things were “great”, and you know, sometimes, it really was. Other times, our perspectives may be skewed, remembering things a little differently, or only positive for us. I grew up in a household that, while there were problems at times, was governed by love. I ended up at least twice having a “dream job”. I’ve taken trips all over this country, living in some prominent areas, and visiting what has defined the engendered good feelings that we have about “home”. And I’ve met a lot of people, from the more profound influences and world-changers to just cool, easy-going folk that do their day to day the same as everyone else. We don’t need people to tell us how the world is or isn’t. That’s something that we should leave to ourselves to decide.

My past is my building blocks to create the kind of future that I want. I consider myself fortunate that I still have opportunities to revisit, albeit updated. It reminds me what I want out of my own life, and it doesn’t “trap” me. It inspires me to do more to add on to those events. I don’t believe that anything should be a “one off”. If you like it, revisit it and make it more.

I’m in the third chapter of my life now. I have started thinking about things like mortality and legacy and all that comes with those phrases. Mom passed when she was 53. Dad was 70. I figure that I’m likely somewhere within that median. So it becomes a question of what do I want to do with this time? It’s why I’ve made some changes in my life, and why I’m planning to make more soon. I’m not good at routine. I may want simplicity, but there’s still so much more that I have to see out there, and so many new people to meet. I love stories, and I like hearing others as much as I like telling my own. But my fourth chapter is calling right now, and I’m setting up plans to answer it.

I mentioned the phrase “relax” in my header. A few entries ago, I talked about “resetting”. I have a lot of things going on right now, but I am still making times to do things that take my mind off of more pressing issues: Jen and I are planning some travels soon. I have plenty of afternoons where all three dogs curl around me to either nap or get belly rubs.

I read, I watch movies, I still play video games. I’ve been starting Star Trek Online, and “playing that straight” in the sense of being a hero, a diplomat, and explorer. I’ve been playing Lego Dimensions as when I’m stressed, I build Lego sets (I have a lot of Lego sets, by the way). It gets my mind focused on something creative, and my imagination sated (How can I say “no” to a Beatles set?). At my sister’s behest, I started tinkering with Pokemon Go (not “Poke Mongo”, much to my disappointment), as it adds a little something extra to my walks (even if it took nine attempts to catch that first stupid Pikachu).

2016 has been a disturbing “angry” year, and it is so easy to get caught up in that. While there are a lot of external elements that affect your own life on vary levels, it’s important to keep the focus on what’s going on in your own day to day. I take breaks. Not because I’m “lazy”, or “unmotivated”, or “lack coping skills”…. I just know better. It’s another perspective my 40′s have given me. I don’t expect to slow down and stop doing eccentric things. I just plan to bring more elements in that are positive to me, and start pushing the other things out to what they really are: Background noise. There is no prize awarded for being outraged at everything you can’t control, don’t like, hate doing, working around the clock, sacrificing time with family and friends, missing out, putting up with garbage, and so…. I have to do what’s best for me and mine. My two year “Quest For Happiness” has reminded me that what I’m searching for has already been a well established part of that journey.

I have plans. They’re crazy, they may make sense only to me at times, but they’re mine, and I plan to take it in stride. The fourth chapter is about to start, and I’m at peace with those initial decisions that have taken place to get it there. I’m not out to win marathons anymore. I’m just here to enjoy the race. I’m looking to build a better world to enjoy.

Beach Bridge

What do you enjoy? How do you relax? Do you make the time for both?


A little less than a week ago, I turned 41.

At this point, it just sort of happens. Rather than running from it, or trying to pretend it doesn’t exist, I’ve come to accept who I keep becoming, and all things considered, it’s not too bad.

My journal has made some shifts from “wacky adventures” to more personal introspection, and honestly, that’s not a bad thing. I still have plenty of adventure in me, and in the upcoming months, that reputation is going to define me more as I take some new steps out of my comfort zone. But I still have my moments.

September was a busy month. I had to address a “family emergency” in Texas with my sister, and take on a caretaker role. Besides being family, my sister and I have a long history of being really good friends. Oh sure, we were Hell to each other in our younger years, but we worked as well together as we did against, and as she entered her 20′s, and I entered my teens, we became friends that grew together in simply hanging out. It’s my sister that helped me to get my sarcastic, footloose, “save the world” attitudes, and even after my move to the West Coast, we’ve always worked well when paired together. So when my partner was down, it made sense to answer that call and give her a hand. In her case, more of a break, as she never stops moving.

So I did the “family” thing, and helped where I could. In the meantime, I was left to my own devices during down moments. While I didn’t have much time to see my friends, I did decide to revisit Dallas in a more familiar way.

Dallas in the 1990′s really was my personal playground. Weekends, and even after work meant that my friends and I would drive there to hang out, watch movies, be mallrats, and film pre-Jackass stunts via my camcorder that used actual VHS tapes. Mockingbird Station needed some work, as it looked a fair bit less lustrous since “our time” there, where we did kung fu routines by the tracks, and snicker immaturely as DART police would tell us to stay away as “those trains will suck you off”. But the neighborhood was otherwise unchanged, from the video store that’s been there forever, to the parking lot where I’d go every morning to ride the DART Rail into work at the West End. But it was that night that I decided to return to Deep Ellum.

I spent a lot of time in Deep Ellum growing up. A lot of time. It’s the basis of a lot of my own Bohemian attitudes and beliefs, from walking the neighborhood with friends and checking out shops and venues, to taking part in the film festival that ran there for years. Deep Ellum was my “home”.

The neighborhood’s had its up and downs, and for a while, definitely had a “down” period, but it’s been improving over the years, so I decided to walk the streets as I had once done. One of the most outstanding elements of this last trip was the cataloguing of smells. Certain places have a familiar scent that trigger a flood of memories, and the smell of grime, barbecue, and other substances felt right upon walking the neighborhood again. Minus the absence of friends by my side, the neighborhood looked and felt welcoming again. A little edgy, but comforting. I got a coffee at an old familiar coffee shop, and noted the improvements that are coming. Nights of art, and film premieres, street bands, and watching the Barenaked Ladies play in a tiny venue before they “made” it here flooded back. A reminder of friends that came with me, and those found on the streets. So long a time away, but exactly back where I belonged.

The old homestead.

The old homestead.

Corsicana’s brief visit was the same. I visited with two of Dad’s old colleagues, caught up with them, and found that both are retiring soon, thereby effectively ending “Dad’s era” of teaching at the college. It was a nice hour of conversation, then once they left, I wandered the halls of his old building.

It has never changed, that building. Familiar scent once again took hold as I ran my hands across the tiles of the stairwell. I can still feel my Dad there, his time, and it was a momentary comfort. The same held true for visiting the old Tradewest building, and running into the family that’s owned that little business lot. I did a small drive around town, finally going to see one of the town’s legends about the tightrope walker.

Honestly, I had never seen the grave in all my time living there, so I decided to find it. It was a humid day as I drove to the Jewish cemetery, and sweat was already dripping from my nose as I explored the grounds. I did run into an older woman who was probably in her 80′s and ran the place, where she led me to the grave, and told me in full the story of the walker. That’s the thing about small towns: They know and love their history, and they love sharing stories with their returning children. As I’m getting older, history and storytelling are becoming more important to me.

I visited my parent’s and grandparent’s graves, and said my good-bye, spending the rest of my time with my sister and family before returning to Vegas.

A week later, I found my way to Anaheim as one of my old friends invited me to the Gamestop Expo. – Conveniently located next to Downtown Disney, so I excused myself to those grounds (and Tiki bar) until the show began. The show itself was like the old days when I worked at Midway: A lot of games, though mostly focused on virtual reality these days (it was admittedly badass playing as Batman). I not only saw my friend Paula, who had so graciously invited me, but Melani as well, and even ran into Ed Boon, making it more of a “Midway reunion” than I had expected.

I do miss those “old days”. I sometimes wonder if the industry has progressed to a point where I wouldn’t as easily recognize it, as those earlier days had more of a “pioneer” feel to them, breaking new ground between 2D to 3D gaming, from pixels to polygons. It was, admittedly, a very strange ride for me, but a ride that I’ve grown more grateful to have had all the same.

Weeks passed, and so came my birthday. I turned 41 at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant at the Paris Casino. Jen treated me to a full dinner there, and we had a full window view of the Bellagio fountains as the sun set over the Strip, a reminder that Vegas still has its moments.

Level Up!  HP increased.  MP increased.

Level Up! HP increased. MP increased.

It was a few days later that my friends Tim and Amy came to Vegas to show off Tim’s latest paintings. Tim and Amy have been friends of mine for 15 years, and due to their ever busy schedule, we’ve not seen each other in a few years, but given this chance, I had to go. They are perhaps two of the most timeless, ageless, and gentle souls that I have encountered in my travels. The reunion was brief, but it was a momentary return to those days that I would go to the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego on the weekends, and spend an evening talking to Amy (and sometimes Tim) in the gallery.

I am starting to believe that the number of reunions that I’ve had in the last two years are all leading to something larger. It’s opened up new feelings… questions in me that I now realize that I have to answer. I think it’s also coupled with this point in my life, and my need to see what next adventure lies ahead. I’ve found my answers here. It’s time to address new ones.

I’ve humorously commented that my not laying every plan out in full detail has been a source of infuriation for some people, and…. Well, that’s not changing. Not yet, anyway. What’s the point of a story if I tell you the rundown of the next chapter before it’s even begun? I have to lay it out first, create it, and then I’ll share when the time is right.

But I can say this: I try not to ask for a lot. I don’t expect anything if I can’t will it to happen myself, but right now, I would appreciate some encouragement from here to there. Right now, I need to stay true to my priorities, and it’s going to take some time. Be patient with me. I’ve come to the conclusion that our lives are a story that we have the control to write, and whatever happens, I want mine to close out to my satisfaction.

Now I have to finish writing out this chapter….

A full photo story of the last few weeks can be found on my Instagram.

The Reset Project.

Playing With Power.

Playing With Power.

As my next birthday looms around the corner in the next few weeks, I find that I am at another series of milestones. I was incredibly vague in my last post about some “changes”, and while elusiveness can be one of my defining traits, I usually don’t announce things until I have either finalized plans or said plans have already taken place. It drives people crazy, I know, but you’ve stayed with me this long, so I figure that you’ve grown to accept that by now.

It’s no different these days. Plans are in the works right now, and when the time is right, I’ll reveal them. What I can say that I am planning the next stage of my life, and changes are coming. To save people from pounding their heads against the wall, I wanted to discuss how I’ve been doing of late, and some of what’s next for me.

Whether you may or may not know, I sometimes struggle with depression. It’s not all the time, and yes, there are moments that I do feel happy, feel joy and excitement, pride, love, and all that as per normal. There are also days where it feels like an act of strength and bravery to get out of bed. And some days, it is. Sometimes, it internal. Sometimes, it’s situational. But it’s something that I’ve come to accept, and can work with, or just wait it out.

What I’m working on now is eliminating situations that cause me to not feel my best, not like something about myself, things that need changing, and things that aren’t working.

So in taking a long look at myself, here’s what I’m planning to focus on:

Spend more time with family.

Before anyone asks, yes, things are fine with Jen and the “Trilogy of Terriers”. I’m talking about my family at home in Texas: My sister, the kids, uncles, aunts, cousins…. Basically whatever family likes spending time with me. But that extends to long-time friends as well. Those I gave up calling “friend” a long time ago, and refer to these days as more “brothers” or “sisters”.

So that means spending more time with those I love, because those relationships provide me with a sense of contentment that I’d like to foster more in my daily life.

Be a better friend/Put aside those who are not.

What I plan to focus on here is being more mindful about what’s going on in the lives of my friends. I can be wrapped up so much in events in my own life that I fail to look outside of my personal “me” bubble from time to time. So I’m going to work on being better about remembering things like birthdays and anniversaries, celebrating life milestones, and supporting and promoting my friend’s personal/professional projects. I need to be more involved and proactive than simply “Liking” something on social media. I deeply value my friendships, but I feel that I need to show that more. Talk, give feedback and advice, and share through meaningful communication that’s not entirely found on a screen.

At the same time, I am also too patient and forgiving to the wrong people. Some people who have called themselves “friends” have not done their part in our relationship. People who have been blatantly unsupportive, lie, take advantage, scam, steal, bring drama…. I can’t do it anymore. It’s too much energy with too little benefit. Differences of opinion and the occasional argument? No real friendship is always gummi bears and rainbows 100% of the time. And oh, my friends and I have come to words and silent treatments at times, but value of relationship and sentiment of built history win out. I take after my Dad in the fact that I’ll sometimes growl loudly, but immediately feel badly after, and try to fix things. But I’m not going to further cultivate relationships that aren’t supportive and respectful of me in return.

Be more spontaneous.

No one has ever accused me of not marching to my own beat. I’m the guy who will do a roadtrip at the drop of a hat, met more celebrities than a season of The New Scooby-Doo Movies, or try anything or meet anyone at least once, but there are also moments where I get into “life ruts” or wrapped up so much in myself that I don’t focus on the adventure that I not only love, but has also been one of my more defining traits.

I’ve been doing better lately. Everything from a day trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to seeing the Cabazon Dinosaurs, I’m trying to get out there and see things that break up the routine and give my life a little jolt to remind me that most of our “ruts” can easily be broken as long as we are willing to take that first step out the door to change it.

Actually, due to recent events, this instance will be discussed a little later in this post.

Read more.

And not via a computer screen or pad. Actual physical books. For the longest time, I’ve been wanting to read the “high school books”: The classic books that we were required to read in school, but this time sans the prospects of book reports and pop quizzes. I want to explore the classics for myself as an adult and with more experience under my belt. But I also want to read new things. New narratives and stories. Read character development. I’ve been wanting to get inspired so that I can actually work on that one book I’ve had saved for nearly a year now, and finally get past the first chapter. So whether it’s something I pick up from Barnes & Noble, or the latest issue of Batman, I want to put more new stories into my collective imagination.

Watch more movies.

I’m going to be upfront: I loathe reboots and remakes. As much as I love acting, I think a lot of the creative ideas coming out these days are collectively lazy due to not bringing new ideas to the table. Look at how many ideas and properties that we were introduced to in the 1980′s and 1990′s… and now we’re getting the exact same stories again instead of building new ideas. Like high school, I’m going to draw inspiration from my time in film school, and start wanting more independent films, foreign films, documentaries, and movies “before my time”. I want to feel something and get inspired. Enough to work on some ideas in this medium that I’ve been mulling around.

Disconnect from social media.

One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned in just the last few years is that social media, if used improperly, can become a toxic place. Everything from demanded scripted responses, fluff pieces like listicles (I don’t consider this entry one, as I’m not having you click through 30 pages to get to the damn point), skewed news stories without fact checking, faux “outrage”, comment sections, and sometime… the actual real world news happening is enough to make me push my computer away and say “I’m done”.

I’m not learning new things from hashtags or food photos (unless there’s an accompanying recipe). Any link that takes 30 pages to make a single point aren’t going to get my desired “clicks” anymore. I don’t like my reading interrupted by ads for car insurance or how “#7 was so shocking that you’ll lose control of your bowels”.


Will it really?

There’s a whole big world outside. I don’t want to be stuck reading “clickbait” stories when I have too many of my own stories to make.

Mind you, that’s not to say I’ll be shunning all the social sites as I do like the connection with people I otherwise couldn’t stay in touch with easily, but I want to better control my influence with social media rather than having it control me.

Get back into writing.

Writing is one of the things that I do best. There’s boastful egotism, and there’s accepting that some things simply work well. I have been able to affect people with my writing, and I like using my stories to reach out and connect with other people (hence this blog). The problem is, I feel my writing has atrophied over the last two years without good direction, and I’ve lost a lot of my personal style. So I am working on getting “inspired” again. Everything from the aforementioned reading and traveling, to adding more life new experiences and just sitting down to write for myself, as myself. I’ve been taking notes for a novel, as well as wondering if it’s finally time to write my biography. I’m wondering if I should write it as an anthology of short stories. I’ve also been wondering if I should write it as a comic book.

Eliminate physical clutter.

I am a king of owning things (though not a candidate for Hoarders). I have a lot of stuff, from collections, things that I needed at the time, to things that I needed to sort out, but never got around to. So in light of future plans, I am looking through my various collections of film props and memorabilia, travel artifacts, trend based collections, and more to see what I can do to simplify my life and provide less clutter. I plan to keep family antiques and heirlooms, leftovers from childhood, gifts from friends, and a few other special “moment” pieces, but it’s time to dig deeper into my collection of things and start letting go.

Media (books, music movies, games) is a tricky one from me, as I tend to largely shun digital in favor of showcasing a library. One of the biggest problems is my video game collection. I wanted to really have this massive collection, but I think I’m going to pair it down to beloved classics and still played games. After 35+ of playing and 10 years within the industry, this is going to be a challenging one for me.

Digital clutter is on the “remove” list as well. Delete old e-mails. Unsubscribe to unwanted groups and forums. Eliminate the spam that comes into my life so I read more personal/business messages, and less junk.

Eat better/Get healthier.

I’m getting better. I have to. My body has a tendency to reject “crap” these days. When I eat well, I have less “old people” upset, so I am trying to note what works better for me. Primarily, having a more seafood and “finer meal” diet are the most successful, and I’ve toned fast food (especially McDonald’s) down to a handful of visits each year, primarily out of necessity. While I still retain my smaller frame, if I don’t exercise, I get that “middle age pooch”, which on me, looks as bizarre as it sounds. I don’t think I’ll even turn “vegan” either. I eat salads. Let’s celebrate the victories where we can, okay?

Work towards being happier.

A few years ago, I tried the “Quest For Happy”, which was a noble goal to strive for. The thing is, “happiness” as a state is not a permanent one, nor when you reach it, it doesn’t mean that “problem solved” and you can focus on other things now. Happiness is something that you have to work on, whether it’s trying a new experience, planning a family member’s birthday, or just letting someone know that you love them.

It’s also about setting realistic goals. People bring up my life, and honestly, it wasn’t any set plan. I just got “lucky” with all of it. In the right place at the right time, and determination to see some things through. And for that, I feel like I’ve at least lived two lives. It doesn’t always take moving around all the time or being in front of a camera. It’s what we surround ourselves with, from home life, to job, to people. And if it’s not making me happy, then I can’t justify its place anymore.

I still think of that hospital stay two years ago, which was a combo of stress, depression, and anxiety. I realized that if being “sad” can do that, then it’s an illness same as any flu, and negativity is a poison. I’ve done some neat things. But those are only moments in trying to reach a larger goal. I need to work on something more encompassing. People may not always like my plans (and they’ve let me know about it in the past), but the thing that I wish I knew then is that as long as I’m not hurting myself or others, then it’s my life to lead as I see appropropriate. I need to live my life in a way that is more in tune to the honest and genuine version of myself, without compromising to do so.

It’s funny….

I say that a lot. Sometimes in the genuinely humorous sense, other times with a sense of irony, a culmination of experiences that have brought me to today. With my birthday coming up, I see the age that tells me what I am supposed to be, and yet sometimes, I still feel like the kid that spend so many lazy summers and uncomplicated days in my hometown. I’ll be having a chance to explore that again this week, as family matters have unexpectedly called me back to Texas for a few days. While my intended goal is primarily family time, I’ll be taking a few moments to reconnect and revisit where it all began for me. A “You don’t know where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’ve been”, sort of thing. But as I said, family and love come first right now. I’ll figure out the rest of the details later.

In the meantime, I still can’t help hitting the open road from time to time, sometimes revisiting old favorites. After all, if you can’t enjoy an Arizona campground that features life-sized statues of the Flintstones from the 1960′s, then it’s not much of a life worth living, is it?

Yabba Dabba Doo!

Yabba Dabba Doo!


This post has been milling around in my head for weeks and never written due to being so busy, and not knowing how to really talk about things. Welcome to “Ironic Hell”, a place where a writer is unable to put his thoughts into words. Simply put, I needed some downtime.

This summer has been a series of lessons for me. I feel like I have learned a lot about both myself as well as other people. And a lot of it has been in regards to the importance and value of respect. I can honestly say that I haven’t really lost anyone to heated political debate this year (so far), but I’ve had some “stepping away” moments ranging from reaching out for years and never getting back, one turning a willing blind eye to me when I was being treated unfairly because it was simply easier for themselves, and another took me for a fair chunk of money and was completely okay with not delivering what they promised. Or people getting pissed at me for not having a PR team to voice my thoughts in a scripted form to their apparent and idealized satisfaction. And one… I’ll never truly guess the motivation as to why we parted ways, but only the necessity required to do so. It’s easy to be lectured about how people are capable of doing things like this, but you don’t expect behavior like this from people you call “friend”.

I think my biggest reason for “quiet” of late have been due to the violence in the world. It’s harder to “crack wise” with so many shootings and so much injustice. Of those shootings, the one in Dallas hit closer to home for me, as a childhood friend that I’ve known for years was one of those victims. Things change when “daily news” hits more on a personal level. You stop looking at the lists of names as simply that. You genuinely begin to grasp that each individual name has dozens of people mourning that person, and watching news sensationalize, hound people for more info., you realize how cold news is. I watched long-time friends that have grown into my own family through time suffer from the shock, but held together. My hometown came together in a way that reminded me of my love for small-town community. I mourned for friends, and I mourned for this way of life and the loss of a good person just doing their job. The sad part is, that nothing is learned from these events. Another one happens, and more lists of people are created, each name again having dozens mourn those losses. A month later, I still have no answers. I do know that things will not get where they need to until we stop treating people and their lives as disposable.

We have a long way to go in ever getting close to reaching the “Star Trek future“.

With a busy month of my current job, Jen and I took the last day of July to visit Universal Studios, and their new Harry Potter world. The section is incredible, feeling like you’ve stepped into the movies and books. It was no coincidence that I chose to buy the eighth book there (and their main ride within Hogwarts is incredible).

Well worth the day trip.

Well worth the day trip.

Universal is also home to a lot of memories for me. One of my first dates with Jen was there. And in the background, I saw the studio where I shot those Flying Dutchman scenes for Pirates. I still chuckle at the Jurassic Park ride memory where a group of pirates and I merrily sang “A Pirate’s Life For Me” as we were assaulted by dinosaurs. The ride there and back to the park also had us drive past Disney Studios. I smiled to myself quietly each time we passed. That moment was a lifetime ago now, but has always remained a part of me.

Working for oneself allows plenty of time for thinking. Some of the thoughts I’ve had have ranged from roadtrips over the last two years, my last birthday, my high school reunion, my time at Midway in Texas. It’s been strange because I’ve dreamed often of them, almost like trying to piece together some sort of connection, and how all of it connects to now. Coupled with experiences here, ranging from award shows to donating a ton of photos to the Neon Museum recently to help preserve Vegas’ “history”. That also leads into coming back into my own writing again. And how I titled this entry “Lessons”, because I have learned a lot this summer. How life is short, and the valuation of people. I better understand the effects of lacking respect, or changes you don’t agree with. The valuation of history, both from a world view, and within oneself.

One of my favorite childhood books has been The Hobbit, due to how the call to adventure can start just beyond one’s door. I feel the call, and it’s deeper this time. Different. Jen calls it a “Reset”. I call it a “Restoration”.

Life is short. From losing friends and classmates to actors who took part in shaping your childhood, I understand better than ever that everything provides some level of meaning, and there comes a time when you need to celebrate and explore the more meaningful aspects. For every disappointment, I’ve been reminded of the people in my life who structured my life into the person I am today. I’m going to spend more time working on those structures and let what hasn’t gone to plan go.

I feel that the next few months are going to open up some new ways for me to grow, and I’m not going to be sitting around anymore letting things pass me by. If all goes well, I’ll be taking my next few steps on an all-new, but very familiar path soon.

That Whole Life Thing….

So here I sit on my back patio, taking a break before I continue on some work things that I have to take care of. The 4th of July weekend (now in its second consecutive week) was busy with people booking, cancelling, last minute bookings…. Six dogs in a neighborhood that puts on a more hectic light show than the Strip and Fremont Street combined makes for a crazy evening.

The dog business has gone well. I share my blogs on social, so I don’t want to get too “dog-centric” here. The business is getting there. Slow start, my first customer conned me, having to rewrite rules and constantly meet people…. It’s getting there. The client base is getting more in line of what I’m looking for after a rough start, but it’s alright.

It is funny, though: I still get “Why all this” questions when I say that I started this line of work. I’ve thought about it, and “Why” exactly. There’s the want of independence, not sitting in an office, not having to delay ideas that I think are good and should be captured in their immediacy. Acting’s been slow. While I reported to a production and director, I was still able to find my own sense of independent purpose in that, and even if I didn’t like a production, it was over in a few days, and the pay was worth any slight inconvenience. There are other reasons, of course….

Have you seen the news lately?

It’s hard not to get caught up in the flood of seemingly endless bad news: Brexit. Shootings. Police brutality. Religious conflicts. The whole political climate this year (I choose to be party to “Team Cryogenically Freezing Myself For 4 Years, and Perhaps 8, Depending On How Things Go”). Even personal irritants from the current heatwave, overly “patriotic” neighbors presently blasting their sound system, paid Strip parking…. Tragedy, irritants, tragedy.

In retrospect, it makes more sense as to why I’d want to surround myself with animals all day long. Among the worst I deal with in that is picking up extra poo in the backyard.

There’s a reason why I rarely touch into subjects of politics or religion, criminal injustices, police cruelty, opinions on what you believe in, what you look like, or who you can love, and so on. I absolutely do have opinions, and I’ll discuss things when asked, but for the people that think I’m interesting enough to follow, I try to provide a “safe space” where everyone can come together and get along if they so choose. Believe me, a few of my opinions would be unpopular among some (because a lot of the stuff that happens out there is just outrageous and unjust bullshit), but why irritate people in my splinter of the digital domain when there are so many other online resources that can be easily found to do just that? Then again, the fact that I’m not posting “hate” against a specific person, affiliation, or belief should be a clear enough stance on where my beliefs lie.

I can be divisive. I can rage against things that I can’t fix. I can post things that uphold my beliefs. But I do remember that people think differently from me, have different backgrounds and struggles, and while I don’t always agree or even like it, these are people that I’ve called mentors and friends over the years. Why would I “invite” people into an area that may make them feel stupid, judged, or unwelcome? How many times can the same opinion piece be posted repeatedly without coming off as “No really, I ‘get it’ on how you feel” (unless it’s three weeks worth of fireworks – That struggle is real)?

Maybe that’s why I post about dogs and video game stuff. I don’t need everything in my life to be “complicated”. I don’t need hourly news recaps. I’d like life updates. And I need a break sometimes. It’s not that I don’t care. I care too much about things going on, and that’s my problem. I hurt when my friends hurt.

The weeks leading up to, and in presently being my own business has given me a lot of time to think. I’ve largely led a “charmed” life with all the experiences I’ve sought out and been exposed to, and for that, I’m lucky and grateful. But it always hasn’t been easy. Or happy. I try to share that as well, because as much as I love one of a kind moments, I can still be a dumbass that manages to slam his finger in a door.

I really didn’t have a point with this post after all, but a morning where I can disconnect on a porch working with a bunch of dogs around me is a willful disconnect that validates my own decisions on how I choose to face my days.