Lessons.

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 an “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.

Father’s Day.

I’m not a “Dad” in the traditional sense, but I had one once.

Still do, in a way, though he just resides in memory and heart now. As for me being a Dad, I cater to a trio of wagging, snuffling little furballs. Sure, some people say that dogs aren’t “real” kids, but when you lack the wee humans of your own, those looks of adoration from a little being that depends on you regardless of two or four legs…. It gets to you. The appreciation is “real”.

The hard part about Father’s Day for me is memory. Things aren’t as clear anymore as they used to be. Dad existing feels like a lifetime ago, and sometimes I have to think about how he sounded, or guess what he’d say about a certain situation. He’d shake his head and wonder what the Hell happened if he saw the news of the world today, and how it’s affected people. Sometimes, I invoke him on purpose. Other times, it’s purely instinct that Dad’s mannerisms pour through me. I was having dinner once with a group of co-workers, and during the conversation, they decided to imitate how I talk and motion during conversation. All I saw was him. They were imitating someone they had never met, but it was through me.

I forget about Father’s Day, honestly, until some e-mail or comment jars me into remembering “Oh yes, that’s today, isn’t it?” The hardest part… The hardest part is the fear of forgetting. I can’t remember certain tones of voice, or sayings, or bits of past, and sometimes, there’s no one to ask how to get it back. Watching Finding Dory yesterday hit me especially hard, because in some ways, I have a bit of Dory in me now.

Work has been unique. I don’t regret it. I have ideas, and plans, and some of the crazy stuff that I’m trying to pull off is actually working. I have a level of creativity and direction that I hadn’t been able to enjoy for a while. Being able to move forward on ideas, instead of having them linger in some limbo, or being told that things cannot change. Because they can. Turns out I’m not too bad on trusting my instincts. My ideas may be unusual, but they can work when given a chance.

Though I do wish I could read some situations better. Some new clients have been excellent. I had one client take advantage and rip me off, and I lost my temper. There are more than a fair share of people that use and take in this city, and after one scam artist too many, I wanted to call this recent one out. I don’t like toxic people. They really do poison the people around them, and I realized, in a moment where I wanted to “get back”, I wasn’t behaving much better, however “justified” I felt. So I took a step back, and decided not to be my own poison. That’s not to say that I didn’t take some measures. Word of mouth in the right areas goes a long way, and the idea of “karma” has to take care of the rest (though I’d still love to jump kick the person, just to finally say that I’ve jump kicked a person. That one would be a worthy recipient).

But I have to let it go.

Besides, being in a self-creative environment, I’ve already got my next creative idea in process. Again, it’s borderline ridiculous, but I think I can pull it off. I’ll find the people who “get” my idea, and ultimately my goal is more than running a crazy pet resort in a seedy desert city. It’s about building a whole other community in itself.

I still need to look in the right places.

Chapters.

This past week has marked the next phase of my life. I’ve made a few hints about it on social, but it’s time to talk about the changes this last month has brought about in full.

But first, a momentary detour, as is my penchant to never get directly to the point.

I did the most recent Billboard Music Awards this past weekend. My sixth year on the show, and like the ACMs, there’s always a few stories that go with it.

This year's variant shot.

This year’s variant shot.

People have asked me what working these shows is like, and it’s hard to explain, as it sounds so surreal to mention well-known artists in a casual context. But I work with these people, and we work as professionals. I see these artists as most don’t: Doing rough run throughs or restarts of their songs. Wearing sweatshirts and jeans or no make-up. It’s far more personal, and interesting, and it really gives a unique insight to their creative processes. Sometimes we say “Hello”, and get a chance to talk and joke a little. Other times, we just watch their work, while lining up for our next mark. Sometimes I’ve announced huge names before a performance, though it’s never been televised. Whether it’s watching the Go-Go’s, or D.N.C.E., each story ends up being a moment.

And sometimes, they’re just really awesome people….

Behind the scenes.

Behind the scenes.

Ariana Grande actually took this selfie. I had asked after rehearsal, and she said that she’d take the photo with my phone (and honestly, how could I say “No” to that?). That girl has an amazing voice for modern pop, and a very friendly and energetic attitude. She looks like she has fun on stage, and it translates well to her music.

The other highlight was Madonna’s performance during a Prince tribute, which was apparently more controversial that I realized (There was a change.org petition to stop her – Seriously, people?). She did a cover of “Nothing Compares To You”, which was followed by Stevie Wonder walking out onstage to duet on “Purple Rain”. During the rehearsal, Madonna pointed to our little group and told us to sing along, and it… was an emotional experience. There were a lot of tears and hugs during rehearsals… hard to believe that Prince has performed just three years ago, the same as it’s hard to believe that it’s been over a month. This was an average work day, and while sometimes I take Jen to see the televised shows, it’s moments like this that make it an experience that becomes something else entirely.

In the end, it becomes a moment, and my life is defined by “moments”. This collection of random memories and experiences that have defined my life, and it’s only been more recently that I’ve been able put everything into some cohesive connection. They’re chapters. And Billboard became the countdown factor to this next one.

It’s no secret that I had struggled for a few years. Becoming lost. Experiencing loss. Becoming broken. Recalibrating myself. And all of it has led me here, and put me back on my path, with a chance to honor a promise that I made three years ago.

When Junie died, I promised that one day I would devote myself to the well being and betterment of animals, and it took me a while to get there, struggling as a square piece trying to fit into a round hole. My life’s broad nature comes with, in technical terms, compatibility issues, and I don’t always fit in someone else’s “vision”. But the funny thing is that you can work with all sorts of people over the years. Some work to be a “leader”, acting as an inspiration that reaches out to lift you up and guide you. Others “boss”, and work to tear you down, in order to mold you to their viewpoint. It’s been my finding that the formers are the ones that provide the actual knowledge and experience.

But the last few years have left me standing with a new purpose, and back to charting my own path. So I became a business owner, now working to creating a themed pet resort experience for vacationing animals, and later opening my home as a “foster house” that will help animals in need so that they can be adopted. The opportunity presented itself, and I chose to take it. Another “moment” in my life, and I could finally make good on an overdue promise, and help others like I did with Junie when they need it most. That is how I ended up with Frodo and Stardust, after all.

So it’s been website building, business card designing, house changing madness for the last month, a month that has shifted other priorities, and redefined values of “importance”. Things have to change, and it will leave me better for it in the long run.

I’m back into more of a “gig” lifestyle again, that allows for the continuation of shows, strengthening my writing projects, and the option to explore this new chapter. I feel more centered than I have in a good while. I came to terms with a lot of things on my trip last fall, and as a result feel more acceptant. I’ve inherited my Dad’s knack for storytelling, and my Mother’s affinity for animals. And sure, I feel a sharp tinge in my side from time to time… a reminder from two years ago to slow it down a little, and not take things so seriously anymore. But it keeps me focused on finding a solution that fits me.

I sat tonight on the patio, the wind on my face, and Frodo in my lap, and I’m getting used to this being my new reality. This new chapter will allow for more new moments that will blend into everything that’s come before, and further define my own story. For a moment, I allowed myself to feel a sense of peace.

“It’s a good life”, I quietly mused to myself.

Good enough….

We Are….

I got a book in the mail today about my old college called We Are Navarro. While my old college was part of my younger days in my hometown, the need to buy the book took on a deeper meaning for me:

My Dad taught there.

For about 35 years, actually (though closer to 40 as he went part time in his later years). My Dad taught state & local and national government classes. He was a long-time fixture at the school, and I grew up on campus. I once ate almost an entire bowl of coffee creamers out of the teacher’s lounge when I was five. I sat in his office and did homework during his night classes, wandering around campus when I was bored of studying. I worked with him to introduce SimCity to his class on Super Nintendos that the college bought and then later flew to Washington D.C. with him and the family when he won a teacher’s award for it. The faculty members always visited the house, so I grew up with them as well, knowing them all on a first name basis (something I struggled with, not knowing what to call them when I actually did become a student). I got all A’s in my Dad’s classes. Not because he was easy on me, but out of fear. I screwed up on a test, I heard about it over dinner or the weekend.

I found out my Dad was mentioned in the book, and so I ordered a copy. I saw old faces, friends, remembered a lifetime growing up on that campus, and how even recently just last fall, Jen and I walked the campus on a cool September night. My Dad was on page 52. I felt a rush of emotion and tears as I read through the pages. Not quite sad, but something deeper as I saw a part of my life in book form as I realized, perhaps more than most, that “I Am Navarro”. That school affected me deeper than most places ever will.

I heard recently that if you come from a small town that in order to really love it, you have to hate it first. And I think for a brief time or two, I did. When I left for San Diego in 2001, I felt “over” my life in Texas, as things had changed so much. When Dad passed in 2008 and I left our family home for what would be the last time, I thought that was truly the end of my life there. I returned once in 2009, and it felt more like a museum to me, a life that I used to be, and that I couldn’t return to.

And I didn’t return to Corsicana until 2014, and that was for my high school reunion. It was there that I reunited with so many people that I grew up, and felt the pride, and community, and friendship that I thought was “over” for me, but it really wasn’t. My friends and schoolmates restored my faith in a life that wasn’t “over” anymore. It was just different now, and I could find something of solace in that as well. Last year’s visit reaffirmed that my hometown will always be a part of my life, and all the things I’ve done now could never have been possible without that time there.

So tonight, I shed tears for Navarro, my friends, and my Father, remembering my childhood there, and an autumn night’s stroll with my fiancee a few short months ago.

I realize now that I’ve had a shift in my priorities, and the importance of “roots” and “legacy”. Someone recently told me that I’ve done enough to have filled three lifetimes, and perhaps there’s a truth to that. I love adventure, but I don’t need unnecessary fast pace. I save that for the moments that are worth it. I’ve relaxed in some ways. I don’t need dramatic spectacles, and I don’t need to discard friendships and burn bridges to prove some short-term point or over some superficial “slight”. And people are far too quick to make other people “disposable”. I’m not interested in this line of thinking. A “time out” does not mean “forever”. I was reminded of that with three friends in the last year that I haven’t seen in 10-20 years. We lost touch, we reconnected, and it was just picking up from last time.

I also realize that in a society of “extremes” everything is either “all or nothing”, which has caused me to step more out and away from some topics. It’s one of the biggest reasons that I never really discuss political or religious views. It’s not that I don’t have beliefs or opinions, I just don’t need to polarize my relationships with all of my various friends. Right now, my more prominent goals are: How can I help people, and how can I be more kind. Life’s too short to antagonize. Everyone deserves a fair shot at this thing called life, and it’s not my place to disrupt another’s journey. I’ve also removed a lot of “clickbait” sites to help me better reconnect with people. There’s a tinge of loss in the pioneered simplicity of the early days of the internet, something I’ve been researching in my spare time. I even found my old Geocities site, which was another unique online chapter of mine.

And perhaps it’s those “multiple lifetimes” that cause me to be more reserved these days. I’ve seen a lot, more than the stories that I love to share. And I certainly haven’t run out of things to do. Jen and I visited Utah a week ago on the grounds that we’ve never been, and that was enough incentive. We drove through St. George and saw a Dinosaur Discovery Site museum that was built over an in-progress dig. The locals apparently don’t like them due to the whole “evolution” thing, so I donated a few dollars and told them to “keep up the good work”. You have to defy convention sometime. It’s how we keep discovering. Jen and I continued our drive to a tiny trading post in Virgin, Utah where we petted tiny bossy horses that wanted carrots in a petting zoo. And then we continued on to Zion National Park, which I’ve seen enough rocks to last me a lifetime out here, but this view… was well worth the drive.

Welcome to Utah.

Welcome to Utah.

As always, those travel pics are found here.

I’m at an interesting crossroads of realizations and waiting for things to line up. Perhaps stepping back has been good for me. And I think perhaps my priorities are changing to where I am finding my own sense of peace, and that means shifts in interactions, and avoidance of stressors. And I’ve found some unusual affirmations. I ended up beating a fairly difficult video game last night, and it felt good. Despite some changes, I still have some skills that aren’t going away anytime soon. As Kevin Flynn once said: “It’s all in the wrists”, and those first and early days of Midway treated me well. All of these lifetimes still reside within one person. Thing is, I’m now ready to accept it all.

While I don’t think I’ll settle back in Texas anytime soon, I think my story there still has a few more things to say.

After all, if my Dad’s story can still continue on, so can mine.

Purple Rain.

I was planning to write today, but now I have to mark today….

Today is the day that Prince died.

I was fortunate enough to see him during the 2013 Billboard Music Awards, and while my mention of him was brief, it’s something that you don’t forget.

As part of any of my awards shows, I and my colleagues are fortunate enough to have front row experiences to watching the artists rehearse. Sometimes, right in front of the stage, and sometimes, on stage with them. It’s an experience that’s hard to describe, but certainly not easily forgotten.

I watched Prince rehearse a selection of songs, and the set ended with his classic “Let’s Go Crazy”, complete with that guitar solo ending. Bear in mind I’ve been doing these shows for 7-8 years now, and I’ve been fortunate to see some legends up close and personal, from Stevie Wonder to Dolly Parton. But Prince…. That man had an energy about him. I don’t use phrases like “electrifying” in normal conversation unless I’m writing some descriptive show review… but he was.

We were probably about 10 feet away from him, and the hairs on my arms set on end when he went off on that guitar. And I knew that I was seeing something special. Being a rehearsal, we got to see it a few times, and each time was just as solid as the one preceding it. I viewed watching Prince perform as one of my “life goals” back then, and even before I heard the news this morning, it still was today. I took this news hard. It’s hard to sit writing content all day while trying to stifle back tears.

I don’t get starstruck often, nor do I really cry much when a celebrity passes. Michael Jackson, Steve Irwin, Harold Ramis, Robin Williams, Leonard Nimoy. Those, I did. Prince, I just struggled with silently all day because I wasn’t really able to absorb that moment. I’ve listened to my Purple Rain record tonight and just reminisced. In 2013, I also said he was a God. That too still holds firm on my opinion of him, and I’m so grateful to have had that moment.

Purple Rain

Purple Rain

What’s funny is that I was going to write about award shows tonight anyway. My mind’s been going back to the ACMAs, and the people I work with. It’s a special group of people to me, as it’s always the same core selection of actors, and we’ve built years of these experiences together. The first day at the ACMAs really stuck with me as someone commented that I seemed more mature these days, like I had grown into myself. I’ve thought about that, and overall, I suppose it’s true. My priorities have changed so much, especially in the last two years where I was at my worst and my best. Seeing both sides of the spectrum in so short a time really sorted out a few priorities that I needed to.

These days, I focus more of my time on kindness and generosity, and I’m more wearied of fools and those that take advantage. Or those that idolize the trivial. I’m less eager to please, because I’ve seen the effects of telling people what they want to hear, and making promises that never could be delivered on. Misguided priorities and neurosis. The fragility of life and the relationships around us. And how burning bridges can be so easy to do if someone hurts us, but it’s not always the right decision. You don’t have to forget, but you can change the interactions… or in some cases mend them.

I feel a lot more at peace with myself now. More certain of my talents, and where it is that I want to be. I’ve finally come to accept that I am that square peg that people sometimes try to force into that round hole, and try as hard as they can, neither of us are going to end up happy. The thing is, I am okay with that. I’ve accepted who I am, and at the end of the day, it’s not so bad. If people can’t understand the talents that I have or fit me into their box, that doesn’t make me “stupid”. I don’t need to “save the world” anymore, but I’ve figured out how I can help all the same. I am more interested in contributing and making an impact. After all, who are we if not a summation of our memories, our experiences, and the risks that we are willing to take?

I’ve done what I’ve needed to survive for so long, and I’m at a point to where I don’t have to be afraid anymore. Afraid of surviving, or making mistakes, or not meeting up to someone else’s expectations. I’ve thought about “what next”, and where that’s going to take me.

Funny thing is, I realize that some of those answers have been right in front of me the whole time….

Mr. Waggins.

Mr. Waggins.

But that’s a story for another time.

Life Again.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a month since I’ve last posted, but long lapses usually mean that things have been happening, and happening they have been.

My friend John came out from the old hometown for a business trip/visit. The last time he came out, Jen and I had been house hunting, so he finally got to experience the fruits of our labors with our home. (I also had to do a fair bit of cleaning in the guest room to turn it back from a store room).

The visit was good in that I got to play “tour guide” for a while, going back to the Pioneer Saloon for the first time in months (blessedly as just a bar fly this time), the Pinball Hall of Fame, and both of Vegas’ Tiki bars. Let me tell you: Packing back umbrella drinks from both Frankie’s and Golden Tiki in the same day is a new level of Liver Olympics that only the brave should experience. I weathered through, but it’s not a journey for the faint hearted.

It was, however, a very enjoyable visit, and John again proves why he is my rock. Our friendship is a very comfortable experience.

After being a host, the week turned out to be a rough one: Two friends lost their beloved pets, and my friend had lost his Father, all within a day of each other. I certainly can’t compare my own feelings to theirs, but it was a rough week for me, grieving for my friend’s pains as well as the sense of loss from each passing. While I don’t need any further examples from the subject, it remains a reminder that life is so incredibly short.

Jen and I decided to go to Wizard World for the following weekend to relax for a few hours. Honestly, it was very similar to Pensacon in a lot of ways, but some definitely more than others.

I ran into Joey Lauren Adams again.

Chasing Amy yet again.

Chasing Amy yet again.

Two times in less than one month. What are the odds? This time with a quieter show, it was more time to talk instead of a “Hi”/photo/”Bye” experience. Joey’s lovely. I could listen to her talk all day, as in read an entire phone book to me level. But mostly, we just talked about projects and Pensacola, which was pretty cool sharing stories from just a few weeks ago. But it was a very nice and laid back conversation. As we didn’t find any of our friends at the Con, we left early.

Speaking of Pensacola, I launched a new travel site: Pensacola Resident Tourist. I launched the site about two weeks ago, and while I still have some work to do, and photos to scan, I think it has a good start to it. Now I just have to cycle through my list of places to see, and justify another research trip out there so I can hopefully start seeing if I can get some tourism outlet to sponsor it with ads.

Part of the reason I haven’t written any further on the site is due to me being on the Academy of Country Music Awards. Having the production finally come back from Dallas during the 50th show, I was literally back in the saddle again as the rehearsal host.

Tonight's winner is....

Tonight’s winner is….

I do have an affinity for the show. I find it humorous that I grew up avoiding country music like the plague, and now it’s one of my favorite productions to work on, as the performers are just… as we’d say in the South, good people. There are moments where Blake Shelton comes in to mess with you during rehearsals, or talking to Dierks Bentley and just holding a good conversation, or Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum reaching over and shaking your hand, telling you that you’ve done a great job with the announcements, or watching Dolly Parton rehearse, which is about as amazing as it sounds. It’s somewhat weird relaying stories like this, because most people don’t have a similar frame of reference, and look at me like I came from another planet when I describe my average work day.

From the ACM website's rehearsals photos.

From the ACM website’s rehearsals photos.

But it was good for other reasons, most for the feeling of trust that the production puts with me, and the casual attitudes of everyone. I was so stiff and formal when I started doing these things years ago before I found my sense of confidence. Now it just feels like family with a strong sense of gratitude involved for being a part of this madness at all.

Even stranger this is the first year that I finally noticed that the awards are actually little cowboy hats. You see it from one different angle, and I was like “Where did this come from?”

There have been other moments, such as being invited to a Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage concert, and a stage production of Beauty and the Beast at the Smith Center a few days later.

Otherwise, it’s been a rare time in Vegas where the “Sky Water of Legend” (you may call it “rain”, but we call it “Sky Water of Legend” here due to its rarity) actually happened for the weekend, and I took naps, each being more glorious than the last. There was also an Irish pub involved, but that’s a tale for another time.

Also, taxes suck. On a vacuum level.

View Askew.

It seems that the movies of Kevin Smith have been on my mind since my return from Pensacon, and my brief meeting with Joey Lauren Adams. I always had a soft spot for the clever dialogue, pop culture references, and the poignant soft spots that defined the series of movies. that defined the “View Askewniverse”, so I thought I would ride some nostalgia and take a moment to revisit those early films.

I was in my late teens, early 20′s when I discovered the indie world of filmmakers such as Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise), and Kevin Smith (Clerks). While I wasn’t the Texan that spent a day touring Europe with a beautiful French girl, I absolutely was a video store jockey working with one of my best friends, renting Sega CD games, Cinemax level softcore “passion” films and anime, while mocking our unibrowed boss. Clerks really was life for us, grousing as to why any returned Cheech & Chong films always smelled like a mixture of feces and weed, the endless rush of customers freaking out because we never had enough Jurassic Park in stock, the time we kidnapped the store’s video camera to make low-budget Batman films and ran those instead of the in-store PSAs. There was also the time that some customer left an actual turd in the return movie drop box. When Clerks came out, it was like someone had “gotten” my day to day struggles with the retail masses, and I was every bit a “Dante”.

Mallrats was the next film, and while filled with memorable lines, wasn’t as strong as Smith’s first film. Again, it touched on familiar subjects near and dear, such as shopping malls and comic books, but it was here that Smith’s predilection for Looney Tunes-esque slapstick humor began to manifest. From Stan Lee to teaching the rather horrid way of smiting one’s enemies via the “Stink Palm”, Mallrats had its own charm, though the pacing was a little uneven, switching from “real world” to cartoony and back again. I never really thought about it then, but it was more noticeable now on how it was two distinct types of comedies.

Chasing Amy remains Smith’s best work for a number of reasons: The heartfelt dialogue, the perils of jealousy, the depths of loyalty, the wonderful feeling of being in love and baring your soul to another person mixed with the crushing grief when it doesn’t work or stupid things like insecurity and hang ups get in the way of making something work. At its heart, I also think it’s a bit of a fairy tale for men: The story of “turning” an absurdly cute lesbian into a heterosexual relationship. And yet, to say that the message it just that would be doing the story a disservice. It’s also about getting out of your comfort zone to not only find and accept love, even when it is unconventional. “Love conquers all” in some cases, and I think here, that was the lesson that failed to be realized, only to be taught later in retrospect. It’s a very personal piece, and it shows. It also awakened one of my first real deep crushes on an actress, but I’ve covered that a fair bit already.

Dogma is an interesting piece. I am predisposed to having a soft spot for it as two of my long-time friends are running background in one of the opening scenes, but it’s an earnest exploration in understanding religious faith, and isn’t afraid to ask questions. One of the more meaningful exchanges in the film that personally resonated with me was discussed thusly:

Rufus: He still digs humanity, but it bothers Him to see the shit that gets carried out in His name – wars, bigotry, televangelism. But especially the factioning of all the religions. He said humanity took a good idea and, like always, built a belief structure on it.
Bethany: Having beliefs isn’t good?
Rufus: I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier….

Another one of Smith’s “thoughtful” pieces, it still can’t fully escape from juvenile slapstick (such as a giant shit monster), but it is otherwise earnest and philosophical in its execution.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. This is where I believe that the “View Askewniverse” is truly its own reality well outside of our own. You can have love, and catharsis, and meaningful chatter about anything from life goals to Death Star contractors, to in this case, a literal live action cartoon. Jay and Silent Bob can work reasonably well enough as protagonists (see Dogma), but this film is ultimately Smith’s intended send-off to his world, and makes sure to cram in almost every single reference that he can to his previous works (yet, light on Dogma content). The film set out wanting to cheer everybody, offend everybody, and make a cinematic party for themselves. There are still absolutely funny moments, and it released a mere 2 1/2 weeks before 9/11, so you could easily make terrorist jokes and no one really cared, because really, what was there to be scared of?

Smith literally closed the book on these characters, and yet after Jersey Girl was a critical and commercial flop, he ran back to the beginning where he started his work.

Clerks II hit a resonant chord with me when it debuted: I was just into my early 30′s, getting into a then serious (and still going) relationship, and had just gotten out of a job that I had been doing a decade before, and into doing my own thing. Sarcasm, life observations, self analysis with a mild case of mockery still seem to be my forte, and I could and can relate to life changing and growing up. Again, for all the movie’s “life observations”, it still breaks character with an out of universe dance-off, and a “donkey scene that, while it leaves the perpetual horrors of that scene largely to the imagination, could have sufficed purely on the facial reactions of the protagonists. The last 10-15 minutes of the film are poignant and sentimental, and a reminder of the comforts of “home” with the fact that the more some things change, the more they stay the same. Even when you finally have to grow up.

With the universe again “closed” (well, at least until Mallrats 2 and Clerks III), it really became apparent how much of a “time capsule” these films are Video stores, once a weekend pilgrimage, are all but forgotten outside of Netflix and Redbox. The mall was once the primary source of all things commerce. People could greet and see off their friends and loved ones at the airport. Hell, you could walk up to the gate just 15 years ago. The phrase “terrorist” was a joke that no one took seriously, as opposed to some potential threat always lurking on the fringes and making people check your bags at theme parks. I was a video store clerk. I was a mallrat. I too harbored a crush on Joey Lauren Adams. And the “Askewniverse” for all its gross out gags and cartoon silliness, also spoke true for more than a few times.

I hope Kevin Smith finds his way back to that “truthfulness” and candid demeanor that he once held with his earlier works. The majority of his stories these days seem to veer more towards the numerous times he gets stoned these days (an irony in itself, considering that he was a straight-edge in real life merely played a stoner). And I’m not exactly sure what the Hell kind of mood that you need to be in order to watch Tusk (an issue that I’ve constantly had stonewalling me every time that I’ve even remotely considered watching Human Centipede as well. Seriously, what place do you have to be in to watch these films? It’s like “I wonder if…. Nah. I still can’t do this.” Dude. Seriously. I can’t wrap my head around it).

In any case, it was a fond revisit to an older time in my life, with friends both from a cinematic world and from my own personal experiences. And it’s reminded me that I still have some stories that I need to tell, and well, I’m not getting any younger. And there’s a lot to say.

I think it’s time to start finally writing and telling those stories for a change….

Not even supposed to be here today....

Not even supposed to be here today….

Pensacon.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a week and a half since I’ve gotten back from Pensacola.

For those that read my blog with any sense of regularity, I tend to go to Pensacola at least once a year these days. I grew up there for a while when I was kid, and have vacationed there for years since. It’s a place of good memories for me. Something new always happens there, whether it’s a day on the beach, revisiting my childhood home, or turning 40.

This time, it was all about Pensacon.

Cons are fun for me. While I’ve worked with all sort of celebrities over the last 10+ years, it’s fun to interact with them on the fan side as well. To be able to gush unabashedly about how much I love their work, how are they doing, etc. And I don’t really get starstruck meeting said “famous” folk, but there’s a side story to that later.

Getting ready for the convention kept me busy in itself.

Jen talked me into dressing up this ear, which I don’t really do. I was going to go as the Tenth Doctor from Doctor Who as I had the long coat from an earlier Christmas gift that Jen had given to me a year or so back. So I ordered the matching suit…. Which wouldn’t be delivered until I got back. So I opted to go as Mork from Ork to pay homage to Robin Williams. Not too bad….

Nanu nanu!

Nanu nanu!

I even had the buttons ordered with “guaranteed delivery” before we flew out…. But some mix-up had them shipped out the day that I was supposed to get them in. So I had two incomplete costumes , with “Mork” being the more complete of the two.

As the days passed to the trip, I went to meet a friend to see an early screening of Deadpool. On the way to the theater, I happened to duck into this little Disney art gallery at the shopping center, and by pure coincidence (for me) Paige O’Hara (“Belle” from Beauty and the Beast) was there. No lie: I crushed on Belle in my youth, as the bookish, independent girl was my idea of the “perfect” girl that I wanted to date, so admittedly I got a little giddy hearing that voice talk to me, and she was just an incredibly sweet lady.

One crush down....

One crush down….

Finally, the time had come to go to Pensacon. I have to give Pensacola full credit: The whole town gets into it, from the airport, to restaurants, to the entirety of Downtown. It all turns into one giant geeky lovefest. We ended up staying at the hotel we had stayed at last time, in the room right next door to where we had stayed last time. The manager even recognized us from last time. This is why I love small towns, to be honest. Well, that and the seafood.

When not at the beach, we were at the convention. The first day was rough, as we ended up getting there late, and we were supposed to have a photo op with Bruce Boxleitner (Tron). In trying to get to the photo area, no less than six volunteers told us no less than six places where the photo area supposedly was, and none of them were correct. We missed the photo I had scheduled. The last place put us in the place where the convention headliners were, so we did meet Bruce, and after hearing our story, agreed to do an informal picture with us. We also talked Tron for a while, so it was good experience all things considered.

Later that night, we went to Downtown Pensacola’s Gallery Night, which is a big art festival that they do Downtown, similar to Vegas’ First Friday, but larger in scale. The mood was lively, and we were supposed to attend a screening of Mallrats, but again, the Friday gods were not on our side. Friday had some rough spots.

Saturday turned out better. Heard David Prowse (Darth Vader) do a Q&A, attended some writing workshops, and we did have a photo op with the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) and the original Davros (Terry Molloy). “You’re my first regeneration”, I told Peter, to which he chuckled, and noted my Mork suspenders. To fully give a shout out, I have to commend Wolf Studios Photography. I told them about the previous day’s photo clustermess, and how everyone had led us on a wild photo goosechase. As it so happened, Bruce was doing another shoot at that time, so they let us jump in to make up for the confusion of the day before.

What was really weird for me was that while we were waiting, a guy dressed as Jack Sparrow nodded towards my direction, and I nodded back. “You look familiar”, he finally said. “He was in the second Pirates“, Jen replied back, to which his eyes went wide. “Hold on a sec”, I said as I fished out my phone and tried to summon the Facebook fairies. “The wi-fi here is shitty, but let’s see if I can call up my photos”. I found my Black Pearl/Flying Dutchman shots, and showed him “I thought I recognized you”, he said. “I was a little hairier back then”, I chuckled. He got his girlfriend, and introduced her to me, and I and Jen in return. We had a nice talk until my photo op was called. I don’t really get recognized like I used to, but it’s always nice to be remembered, and I do love talking to people and seeing them get excited.

Saturday was far better a day of adventure, which followed up with Fallout and Tron themed parties.

Meeting "Matt"....

Meeting “Matt”….

I also got a migraine that night, but that’s on me for mixing my drinks.

While Sunday was the final lap of the convention, I had one last photo scheduled….

Joey Lauren Adams.

This girl was the very definition of my ’90′s crushes, and I was enamored with her in Chasing Amy. From her cutesy, raspy voice to her big friendly smile, she had basically kidnapped my 20-something heart in the late 1990′s.

And I admit that I was good. I was looking forward to saying “Hello”, and getting the photo to have as the movie once put: “A shared moment”.

And then the curtain parted, and I heard her talking to the person that had been in line before me in that cutesy, raspy voice, and saw her big friendly smile.

All that boisterous “I don’t get starstruck” grandstanding that I had delivered earlier in this entry? Yeah, that failed. After years of Chasing Amy, she was standing right in front of me.

My heart started speeding up in my chest, and I felt that dopey, awkward 20-something twitterpation reemerge in meeting her. To credit, she was very sweet, and I kept myself collected well enough, but damn it all if I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for a while. Jen definitely had fun teasing me about that.

I have a good woman.

Photo ops from Pensacon.

Photo ops from Pensacon.

The rest of the time was eating, packing, shell collecting…. That mental preparation in saying good-bye, which is always hard for me. It was a nice event. Downtown was fun. People were nice. I even saw a few props from Star Trek: The Experience at one of the restaurants, so it was another homecoming of sorts for me.

And then we flew home….

Into the air....

Into the air….

The ride back was rough. A delay caused an extra stopover in our flight home, where some mouth breather coughed and sneezed all the way home, so guess who went all “Outbreak Monkey” after a few days? Nevertheless, I recovered, and I have been inspired to pursue some of my writing ideas again. Likely inspired by the convention, I ended up watching Kevin Smith’s “View Askewniverse” films, where the “Then Vs. Now” changes really hit me about video stores, malls being the primary source of commerce, and even something as simple as being able to greet someone at the airport without it being an issue. Things that are mostly gone. I saw Wes Craven’s cameo in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, and I felt compelled to say a quiet “good bye” to him. He was, after all, one of the first people to give me a chance with my acting career by doing Red Eye, and I felt a rush of sadness mixed with gratitude seeing his face again.

It may be time to write my own stories. To get back into the writing that I excel at. What I do best. And that’s telling stories.

The future’s a funny place. It will be interesting to see where I end up.

Groundhog Day.

Eyes on me, Larry.

Eyes on me, Larry.

Well, it’s Groundhog Day… again….

And so concludes the annual viewing of Groundhog Day, one of my top favorite movies (that’s a whole other entry in itself, I suppose). I tend to find something new and more deep in meaning each time I watch it. It could be age, the stage of my life I’m in, my obsession with Bill Murray, a number of factors, really. But it’s interesting watching the growth of Phil Connors go through his personal stages of arrogance, lack of restraint, self-loathing, depression, self-destruction, apathy, and then one day, while still trapped within his endless day, he goes through a period of acceptance, honesty, self-improvement, and finding inner peace. And perhaps that’s where I am in my stage of life: The day may not change, but I can.

And it’s those last four stages that I am finding myself more in these days. It’s been a long road, but I’ve cleared off hospital and credit card bills, fixed a few things around home, and have embraced my adventurous nature once again. I’ve started reading more. I’m writing things for myself again. Trying to be better. And that’s coming with a lot of personal changes, and seeing that I may have to change a few more things. But at least I can see that path now.

But each weekend into this new year, I’ve gotten back into weekend roadtrips. From the snowy landscape of Williams, Arizona….

Snow of Williams.

Snow of Williams.

To hitting Route 66….

Getting kicks....

Getting kicks….

And visiting tiny towns like Amboy, California:

Amboy

The town has a population of 4, with 15-20 people there at any given time. The town is notable for having “The Most Photographed Sign In The World”, and being the basis of this story.

I personally call “bunk” on this story. There’s not enough grass in the area to hide droves of cultists, much less a singular cult member. The most scary thing there is the $5.00 gas. Would I sleep there at night? Hell no, but that’s another story entirely.

After all, Amboy was merely a stopover to see the Dinosaurs of Cabazon.

ANDY?!?

ANDY?!?

I needed to see these dinosaurs. Needed. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is another one of my favorite “cult” movies (I watch a lot of movies, go figure), so this had to happen. Unlike the film’s depiction of wide open spaces, the area has found itself with a Creationist museum built around it (my thoughts on that can be found here). I am glad that the dinosaurs themselves are still largely accessible, but for someone that worked in a museum that featured a dinosaur gallery and the amount of lectures that I gave students, it made my brain hurt.

Did I mention there were dinosaurs from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure? 1, 2 ,3 ….

This past weekend, Jen, Brenda, and I went to Valley of Fire for hiking adventures, and much orange rock revelry was had:

My sensual "Rock Pose".

My sexy “Rock Pose”.

Nothing like hiding in rock formations to live one’s dreams….

Artsy rock feet.

Artsy rock feet.

I’ve still got things lined up for the rest of the month. A trip to Pensacola is coming up in two weeks, where we will be going to Pensacon.

This cold and windy weather can suck it. I want to hang out on the beach, eat seafood until I explode, and geek out. And maybe not in that order.

There’s a lot to do over the next few weeks. I am looking forward to Spring. But not Summer. And definitely in that order.