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  • Life in 7 B&W Photos

    I was challenged recently to post seven black and white photos of my life, with no people and no explanation. Here’s what I came up with.

  • 10 Years Later: I Miss You, Dad

    Ten years ago today, I wasn't there. I'd left Texas City the day before and returned to Virginia, hours after my father waved goodbye to us and slipped into a coma.

    Losing my dad, without question, was one of the most difficult things I've gone through in this life. I viscerally remember the multiple flights back and forth from Virginia to Houston after his final diagnosis. Falling behind at work, I remember working on a piece for a magazine while staying with him one weekend in the hospital. I remember the nights he was in such pain, as I simultaneously wished for it to end while selfishly hoping he wouldn't leave us.

    I didn't make promises to higher powers about changing my life forever if he could be spared. I walked around the hospital after that final goodbye, playing Alejandro Escovedo's "The End" on my iPod as loud as I could bear. I started working on a slideshow of dad and his grandchildren that I would show at his funeral. And I started thinking about the future, not knowing what it would hold.

    Often I've said I became a better father when my dad died, having recognized belatedly that life is finite. I started paying more attention to family instead of career, and began to chase after that elusive creative muse. What I learned most is that life is not about the things you have. It's about what you experience with those you love.

    I love you, Dad.

  • Dear 2016...

    11:33 p.m., December 31, 2016

    Well, if all goes well in the next half hour or so, I can say we survived. And then some. (Given the rash of creative talent that has passed away this year, "and then some" seemed like a proper qualifier.)

    It's truly been a year of great highs, lows and transitions: 20th wedding anniversary, high school graduations, moving kids in and out of new homes, Broadway, a movie, First Lady shout outs, college, new jobs, travel to 18 different states (some multiple times), Paris, Zurich, new business, old business, stressful business, deepening friendships, learning opportunities, missed opportunities, sinus infections, the flu, global uncertainty, and the love of family.

    As my kids move into rapidly into adulthood, I've tried to be a better father, in as much as my role is shifting from professional schlepper/caregiver to advisor, helper and confidant. As our home moves to a (mostly) empty nest, Jill and I have gone on a series of adventures that I hope will continue for many many years to come. It's nice when you can do that with someone who is both your best friend and the great love of your life.

    I'm increasingly aware of how the traits that our parents passed on to us are being forwarded to subsequent generations, and how a seemingly innocuous incident that occurred decades ago can have long-term effects on your life. (Spoiler alert: This is not a new revelation caused by binge-watching "This is Us," although the show is highly recommended.)

    And, I'm increasingly aware of how fragile life really is. How short it is in the grand scheme. How much we need to live it for as long as we can in a truthful, caring, and loving manner as possible.

    I was born 17 days after the Baby Boom era ended, which means I was part of the Generation X transition plan. This year, more so than any other, we saw the loss of so many people who were part of the fabric of my life from birth.

    A partial list of those we’ve lost in 2016: David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Abe Vigoda, Gary Shandling, Patty Duke, Doris Roberts, Prince, Anton Yelchin (Chekov in the new “Star Treks”), Gary Marshall, Marni Nixon (voice of Deborah Kerr, Natalie Wood, and Audrey Hepburn in three classic musicals), Gene Wilder, Curtis Hanson (director of “The Wonder Boys”), Merle Haggard, Leonard Cohen, Florence Henderson, Alan Thicke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds.

    Hell, even Nancy Reagan didn’t want to stick around for the possibility of a Trump administration.

    And tonight, scanning the last-minute headlines to make sure Betty White was still safe, I saw that we lost William Christopher, who played the loving, bumbling Father Mulcahey on M*A*S*H.

    Say what you will, but I'm glad to see this turbulent year gone. Like many, I'm concerned about what the future holds, not just here but around the world. I'm also concerned about the lack of empathy our society — not everyone, I swear it's not that blanket of a statement — shows toward traditionally marginalized populations.

    So if you're lucky enough to give a significant other that kiss in a couple of minutes, take a second to think about love, what it means, and what you can do to spread it around.

    Thanks for reading my latest rant. Here's to a better year in 2017. Let's live it up...

  • Transitions, Creation, and Evolution

    As a writer, I pride myself on transitions, leading the reader in the process from one thought to the next. As an editor, there is nothing worse than reading a story where the transitions are the equivalent of shifting from fifth to first without hitting the clutch.

    Transitions are part of life, the chapter breaks in our story. Sometimes they make sense, a natural progression. Others come all too abruptly, with little rhyme or reason.

    For the past month, I have mulled this entry over in my mind, as our family embarks on yet another in a series of never ending transitions. And every time I have sat to write it, the words just don’t seem to come.

    One reason I hesitated in starting this blog was that I didn’t know if I would have enough material to write on a regular basis, knowing full well that the fall of every year brings so much to light that I could chronicle things by the hour without a loss for words.

    There’s something about winter, however, that makes us burrow under. The post-traumatic stress disorder of the holidays is followed by the cold snap — some would say slap — that January and February bring. In our Virginia subdivision, we rarely discover our neighbors until the spring, or so it seems.

    One month ago today, “Ragtime” closed. Instead of pulling up stakes and heading home, we decided to stay with the back-and-forth commute so Ben could finish the school year in New York. It just made sense, although the wear and tear on us has only been exacerbated by work and family demands and a climate shift that has left us buried by record snowfall.

    As I posted to Facebook earlier this week, Mother Nature definitely needs some Depends.

    ••••••

    The little bullets you see above this paragraph are another form of transition. Perhaps I’m taking the easy way out this time, but a random thought crossed my mind that I’ve wanted to write about for some time, so why not do it now?

    Recently I started a blog entry titled “Creation vs. Evolution.” (No, it wasn’t my attempt to wade into that debate, although anyone who knows me — and my politics — would know which side I come down on without giving it too much thought.) But like several entries I’ve started and aborted recently, I just couldn’t get it out.

    “Creation vs. Evolution” was talking about the process of working in an art form. In this case, and this one only, I definitely come down on the creation side. There is something about making something out of nothing that always has fascinated me, whether it’s the process of reporting and writing a story, putting out a magazine, or putting on a show.

    To me, creating is the fun part; I’ve always said that rehearsal is much more fun than performance. Once the paper is put to bed, or the show is up and running, it’s time to move on to the next challenge/project/ thing.

    For the first 13 or 14 years of my career, I never stayed in one job more than 36 months. I went into each new position determined to learn as much as I could, knowing I would give it everything I could. (It’s one reason I call myself a workaholic in a 12-step program.)

    Once I mastered the task or the job, it was on to the next. For me, boredom was (and still is to large degree) the equivalent of a slow death. It represents a life without fun and interesting challenges.

    When I left newspapers in 1996, I changed careers and went into communications. It was time for a change, and the 4½ years I spent in that job definitely set me up for the position I’m in now. 

    I didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into when we moved to Northern Virginia in 2001. I certainly didn’t think I would be at the same company almost nine years later.

    But fate, combined with some fortuitous timing, intervened. And over time, I’ve been lucky enough to move from one position to the next to the next, each one presenting me with enough challenges to keep that dreaded boredom at bay.

    Also, as I’ve gotten older, patience has slowly come to be a word I use without rolling my eyes.  Mature, I know, but I prefer to think of it as appreciating the nuance of evolution. Over time, I’ve learned that if you’re patient enough, you can watch the arc of your personal or professional life extend beyond the immediate gratification we all desire.

    As much as I love theater, I never understood how some actors could go to work and do the same thing day after day after day. It wasn’t until I saw “Ragtime” over a period of months that I realized the actors’ performances were slowly, subtly evolving into something far deeper and more satisfying. It’s a shame that the evolution can’t continue.

    ••••••

    So here we are in a state of transition again, not just for the purposes of this entry but as a family. Sadly, we won’t get to see Nicholas this weekend due to the weather that has buried the Mid-Atlantic region, making the roads treacherous from here to there and points beyond.

    Things do seem to come full circle in our little world, however. Nicholas is trying out for “South Pacific” this weekend at his school; ironically, Ben went to see his good friend in the show here in New York tonight. (See the Musical Obsessions and Circle Backs entry I wrote on this for more instances of irony.)

    And, thanks to a break in New York City’s school schedule, we do get to spend the weekend and all of next week together as a family in Virginia. I have a new employee coming into work next week, and it’s less than a month from now that Ben starts rehearsals on a show at The Kennedy Center. (Another circle back.) Things are evolving amid our transitions.

    Now that my writer’s block has ended, I pledge to return to this space more often as well. Creating a blog, I’ve discovered, was fun. The challenge, I’m learning, is how it will evolve over time.

    Stay tuned…