Another Legend Gone.

I found out yesterday through one of my Pirates alumni that one of my first acting coaches, Ivan Markota, passed on.

Ivan Markota.

Ivan Markota.

When I first started acting… really acting in 2004, I attended a few of his classes at the Van Mar Academy in Los Angeles for a few weeks.

I liked Ivan and his teachers a lot, and here’s why: He was on the level. He was part of the “Old Hollywood” crowd, where the “craft” of acting meant more than the allure of celebrity. He was very direct, no-nonsense, and in your face with his views and opinions, but when you did well, he made sure you knew that too. And you felt great about yourself when he did, because you “understood”.

Despite the length of time, I took what he said to heart. He taught me about emoting in a moment, finding my mark, just understanding the role I had to play within a scene. It served me well, because I didn’t want to be “that idiot” when I walked on a set. If I was going to take the job seriously, I had to act professionally. I’d like to think it served me well over the years.

Whenever I write about “the old days” when I first started acting, it does take me back to that time in my life of living in Los Angeles. That experience was simultaneously one of the best and worst things I had ever done. I was never happier than being in an acting class or on a film set somewhere. I loved walking down Hollywood Boulevard, looking at all of the autographs in the cement walkway of Mann’s Chinese Theater, and being excited that I was a part of, however small, all of that life now. Those moments really pulled me through a difficult time in my life, when I didn’t exactly know where my “next step” was going to take me. It was a shame part of that early experience got compromised by a sociopath, and another with a penchant for self-destruction. In any case, I’m content to say that Van Mar and Ivan were most definitely one of the “good” things that I’ve kept with me over the years.

2013 has been far too much death of good souls for my liking….

The rest of “Since We Last Left Guy….” has been working at a convention helping with set-up/tear-down, etc. Not too different from my E3 days, except that I have no idea what this convention was about. It was not unlike a flea market or discount mall, filled with toys, clothes, decorate house things that you might have in your house if you didn’t have to pay for them… and bongs. If anything, the selection was more than diverse. The work was easy, the hours were long, and the pay was respectable. If I actually hadn’t been hit with a massive bout of insomnia last night after a 12 hour day, I might actually be more alert, but today is simply just a “mush brain” sort of day.

Oh, but I did create a Tumblr page this week, full of enough eccentric images to make my relatives shake their heads in confusion.

I Am A Geek.

I never got to really update this blog the way I wanted to when I started it, as I was too busy backlogging the last five-plus years of stories, and then Junie died as I reached the end of my older stories. I didn’t have a lot in me to really get into personal writing… and then I got busy with some freelance writing gigs, which turned into me not really wanting to do a lot of writing in general.

But I think it’s time now that I level with my readers and come clean about my lifestyle:

I am a geek.

It all started during my childhood, where I was grew up on Star Wars, Star Trek, Atari 2600, comic books, Lord of the Rings, and Masters of the Universe. While I had friends to grow up with, I was often the most happy in the realms of imagination and adventure.

For some people, “geekdom” is a hobby. For others being a geek is a lifestyle.

I’m more than happy to say that I’ve been a professional geek for the last 18 years. I started out with Midway Home Entertainment (then Williams), where I was paid every week to not only be good at Mortal Kombat and other games, but to master them inside and out. Working as a professional video gamer was great for a lot of reasons: I got to see and influence games months in advance before they ever hit the store shelves, I had to travel around the country promoting games and going to conventions, and I got to meet some of the most legendary of designers and writers that helped to create the industry. My group was often referred to as “The Animal House” (somewhat debatable that it always had the most positive of associations), but considering how my friends and I practically lived at the office, it really was like a college dorm at times.

When I transitioned over to acting, I was still very much a “geek”: I’ve been body scanned for video game characters (never did fully break away), stayed up all night playing zombies in constructed Spanish towns and cowboys in the Old West, swam with robotic sharks, dressed as aliens and Spider-Man, worked with pop stars and country musicians and beauty queens, and was cast as a member of the Black Pearl and Flying Dutchman crews in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. I even flew out to Kauai to audition for the fourth Pirates film. And let me tell you, spending a week in Hawaii was one of the best business trips I’ve ever taken.

My at-home geekery has also influenced its own share of life-changing adventures. I’ve met Ghostbusters and crewmembers of the Enterprise-D, and the voices behind Eric Cartman and Kyle Broflovski. I had dinner and a movie with a a good number of the cast from Star Wars when The Phantom Menace came out. Granted, the movie wasn’t great, but when else are you going to hang out with the people who play Boba Fett, Lando Calrissian, and Chewbacca? I’ve hung out at a party with Mark Hamill. I’ve been to numerous video game and comic book and sci-fi conventions. I’ve been to Disneyland so much that it’s practically a second home to me. I’ve been to one of Tim Burton’s garage sales. I attended a Conker’s Bad Fur Day promotional event in New Orleans sponsored by Playboy. I’ve been to a handful of movie premieres in Hollywood. I’ve taken part in professional ghost hunts. I’ve worked in museums. I’ve dug for fossils. I spent just last Summer at Burning Man racing across the desert in a car shaped like a triceratops while listening to Towa Tei.

And honestly, I’m not bringing this all up to brag about the things that I’ve done with my life. It’s only a section of me. There are also plenty of sections where I forget things, run into walls, fall down stairs, have lost my glasses in the ocean…. The real point is that I simply haven’t been afraid to live the life that I wanted to.

A lot of people don’t get that. Candidly, in fact, one of my relatives makes a regular habit of calling me “weird” at every possible turn they can, like they are trying to ridicule me with the title, or add an element of shame to my behaviors. The same goes for past jobs I’ve had, relationships, even strangers. But it’s irrelevant to me, because I don’t regret any of it, and I’ll tell you why:

I’m not afraid to love things.

Ray Bradbury himself taught me that during a conference, to find the things that we love. We spend so much time worrying about what other people think, or even having to hide the things we love in order to function “normally” with other people. There’s such an emphasis instilled upon us to “grow up”, yet we spend so short a time being allowed to be think and expand about something more than everyday life, much less act upon it. Responsibility does not have to put an end to daydreaming.

Think video games didn’t change my life? I sponsored part of a career out of it. Think Star Wars was a waste of time? The conversations I’ve had with the actors and the influences the fantasy has had on my writing career haven’t think so. Certainly watching all of those movies over the years had to have led to nothing, and yet I still get recognized from time to time when I’m out, and I still occasionally pose for a photo or sign an autograph. It’s still a little weird to me sometimes, because I’m by no means a celebrity. But I am most definitely happy. And if what I do makes someone else happy, then I’ve made my point.

Dreams, imagination, creativity, spontaneity, individuality, kindness, adventure, humor, ideals, memories, bravery, friendships, love…. That’s the life I’ve built out of all my “flights of fancy” and “wastes of time”. It’s so important to remember that aspiring to be something “different” can open you to all kinds of wonderful, however unconventional experiences, that take you down paths that most people are too afraid to try. I still love movies and video games and meeting unusual people because it is simply a part of my life, and always will be. And those who can’t understand probably never will. I’ve had chances to think outside of the box and live different lives, and it gives me a chance to write, which is one of my other great loves. If all of that makes me “lame”, then I’m okay with that. And the right people will love you despite any quirks. My Dad told me often how proud he was of the things I’ve done (though he did raise an eyebrow and chuckle at a few).

So don’t be afraid to love something. Really love something. Whether it’s Doctor Who, or Adventure Time, or Lego, or Minecraft, or model trains, or reading, or music, or your favorite sports team. There is nothing wrong with having multiple passions in your life, and don’t ever let anyone tell you or make you feel any different. Take an opportunity when you see it. Being “different” is not a “waste of time”, and it’s not going to cart you off to the insane asylum.

I wear my “geek” on my sleeve, and I think it’s made me a better person for it.