Last week my dad and I celebrated his birthday by sitting on his couch and shouting at his Alexa. I’ve never played with an Alexa, I found it (her?) to be unnerving, and cool.
I wanted my dad to hear my new music obsession Tyler Childers. He thought he was okay, but nothing compared to what he’s been listening to – this album where Santana covers basically every epic rock song ever. My dad and I have always bonded over music. It’s like a language of subtext for all the things we can’t say.
I teased him that at least he’s out of his Pitbull phase, which is all he wanted to listen to after getting home from the hospital from his liver transplant. I’d wondered if the human the liver inhabited before my dad had been a Pitbull fanatic, like the man I met in Denver on a cannabis dispensary tour bus a few years before who was following Pitbull around the country with his wife. It had surprised me to learn there are Pitbull super fans, but not as much as I was surprised to have my rock-n-rolling, blues guitar playing father come back from the edge of liver failure death insisting that “Fireball” is one of the best songs ever made.
Dad, on the couch: “Are you kidding? Alexa, play Pitbull!” Within seconds, the rap / sing / shout of the little bald man with the fiery hips reverberates throughout the apartment. “I love Pitbull! I’ve got all his records! He’s Mr. Worldwide!” I groan and tell Alexa to play Santana again. But the truth is I don’t mind Pitbull. I just wanted to shout at the slave inside the tiny boom box with the sorta sexy name of Alexa. On comes Santana, shredding his guitar as Rob Thomas sings.
I remind my dad of the time he took me and Machete (when we were 15 and it was the night before our PSATs) to see Matchbox 20 in Reno, and he made us leave before their big hit (the one that goes “I want to push you around / well I will / well I will”).
“I made us leave?!” He asks, aghast. “Yeah, to beat traffic.” And to be honest we’re kinda stoned because it’s his birthday and his doctors have cleared him to do things like smoke a little weed and he’s no longer sick and we’re together and so we laugh and laugh and laugh, and Alexa doesn’t say a word.
New story out for FLAUNT Magazine, in print and online. Like, actually on newsstands HOW COOL IS THAT?! Glad to make lemonade out of a fat lemon time of my life with this story. Topics discussed: when your boyfriend’s in a wheelchair, Cuba’s social revolution, rum like honey, Diplo, a cool old Buick, sorta buying a hotel, how to decipher a scam from an opportunity. Read it here in print, or here on the Interweb.
My official Moon Manor writer/director portrait taken on set December 2018 by @thisheartofstone. Looks like a back-to-school picture, and that’s how it felt too. Excitement, exhaustion, glee. We’re deep in post production. Magick is brewing. http://www.moonmanormovie.com
New PRINT story!! There’s nothing quite like holding your words in physical form, especially when that form is pretty as @flauntmagazine. Other than #rossbutler being such a nice dude, the highlight here was getting a teensy bit of redemption for the car accident I got into driving to the interview. Full story on newsstands and online: http://www.flaunt.com/content/ross-butler.
Gig of a lifetime!!!! Thrilled and honored and stoked to say I’ll be joining the @sol.selectas journey to Morocco as the caravan storyteller!!! All those years writing about my travels on this blog are paying off, no one was reading it (except my sister, love you sister) but I was finding my voice and now that translates to work and pinch me how is this real life?!! There are a few tickets left if you want to comeeeeeee. 🐫 http://www.solsahara.com
We start working before dawn. First ones to set are 1st AD, 2nd AD, UPM, catering. Followed shortly by our make-up artist and camera crew. The actors drift in. We’re on our third, fourth cups of coffee by 10am. Collectively, we look out for Jimmy, our 80 year-old star, make sure he’s drinking enough water, not losing his cane or his dentures, keep his sides printed at the largest font possible so he can always be working on his lines. His memory plays hard to get, which is what this movie is all about. We flashback to moments in his life as a child, a teen, a young man. We throw his FUNeral. We film his death. We all break down in tears. We laugh when he nonsensically replaces lines like “Remember what happened on Fourth of July?” with “Remember what happened in San Diego?” Jimmy laughs hardest of all. He waits for a quiet moment in the chaos to loudly ask one of his co-stars “Have you ever worked on a farm? Cause you sure know how to milk it.” We all applaud his wit, his stamina, his courage. Our camera department heroically sets up lights in the rain. Day players cycle through, a breath of fresh air when we’re exhausted. We have three on set creatures for emotional support: a cat, a bird, and a chameleon. We’ve got one week to go telling this story of a life, by telling the story of a death. Harold and Maude, we hope we’re making you proud. We’ll let you know when we find out what happened in San Diego.
Is there a better feeling than being completely immersed in a creative project?
Giving every shred of yourself to the execution of an idea. Breathing life into a story, into a dream. I love how the day-to-day self doubt, over analysis, existential dread falls way. You simply don’t have time to indulge in it.
Currently completely married to the creation of my first feature film, Moon Manor, co-created with my best friend of forever Machete Bang Bang. We co-wrote, and are co-directing and co-producing. It’s a coming-of-death story. It’s about a FUN-eral and the moon. And one very special human named Jimmy.
And two years ago at the same exact same time of year I was leading a 23 person crew onto a friend’s secret mountain ganja farm to direct my first significant work of length, Forever Flowers. Watching the teaser now I can still smell the autumn chill, still feel the exhilaration of waking up at dawn to call the shots, to crystallize a story that had been calling to me for years.
What will the next two years bring?
On June 8th, 2018 my dear grandmother “Ruby Love” departed this world for the next. She was 102.
For years I took her dinner every Sunday and painted her nails. Being closer to her was one of the best things about moving to LA. We would discuss what she was reading on her Kindle (she thought 50 Shades of Grey was “mildly entertaining”). She wore shirts that said “Seen it all, done it all, just don’t remember it all.” She loved the Lakers and Johnny Depp. Most of these photos were taken when she was 98, 99, and 100. Dear lord – I hope I have her genes. She was born before women could even vote, and yet she was my biggest teacher of tolerance – people of all faiths, colors and orientations were welcome at her table. I’m trying to not focus on the last 2 years she spent in a home, Alzheimer’s obscuring her personality, although this was also part of her journey and doesn’t need to be banished from her story. Ruby Love was a grand dame, and a muse. Uncle Jimmy and Uncle Ricky wrote a song about her, the first screenplay I ever had optioned was about her. Muse-ship doesn’t end just because a body has finished hanging out on Earth. I’d like to think it’s just the beginning.
The essence of my grandmother is best told in the small details. For years, her exercise was walking inside the perimeter of her apartment, the route so well-worn it was a dark track in the carpet. She liked her nails painted beige or silver, never pink. She wore chic pantsuits and was a champion bowler. She loved Gatorade. My sister Jessica remembers how grandma raised a family and made her extended family important, each and every year, that she loved going to lunch, and shopping at the 99 cent Store.
My grandmother was unsentimental, blunt and sassy. She was not cookies and doilies, she was low-fat and LeSportSac bags. But in our every Sunday routine, the night would inevitably end with me putting my head in her lap so she could rake her long nails across my hair, not unlike how you’d pet a cat. Once we fell into the ritual we’d both go quiet, silently enjoying each other’s company.
I really only knew my grandmother as a single woman living on her own, since my grandfather passed when I was little. She was living proof that a woman cannot only be happy living on her own, she can thrive.
It was only in her late 90s that she started to slow down, and that was only after she fell off a treadmill at the gym. Being on the treadmill at that age is incredible in and of itself! Assistance came in the form of Uncle Jimmy, who heroically put up with her passenger-seat driving on their errands around town.
And I want you to know something about the documentary on grandma I’ve been low-key filming for years – she was directing the footage with me. She came alive when I got out the camera. We had an agreement that I would film everything, not just the happy funny moments, but her whole process into the end of her life. She was always ahead of her time.