I left my apartment at about 3:15 am -early Sunday morning on August 28th 2005. I was moving to California from Forest Park, a suburb of Chicago. I was trying to start over, even though I was going to continue working for Borders and would be farther into the 'burbs of LA than I was from Chicago. Of course, at the time, beyond knowing my house mate Bill, I knew no one. But I had hoped that my time at Borders and living in La Verne would be short. Of course, I ignored my own history, but that's the way I operate.
My parents wanted to come with me, share the driving. But I said no, this was something I needed and wanted to do. Even though I had been standing pretty much on my own for a long time, to me this move was designed to really show people -because some suspected that I was spoiled by my mother- I can live and be on my own, cut-off from family.
I drove and drove. That was one of the other reasons it I wanted to do it alone. I wanted to get to California as quickly as the U-Haul pulling my car could get there. So I chugged on Interstate 55 south towards St. Louis. I passed the Illinois state capital of Springfield about 3 hours later. A few hours after that, I passed onto Interstate 44 through St. Louis, waving at the giant arch there, and then into Missouri. I continued on and on, the road passing beneath my wheels, kicking up stones and debris.
I had music, but it was on a boombox, so it was just CD's. Still, I was bored. The weather outside was warm as I drove south, but keeping the windows open on caused drag, which would bring my mileage down. Running the air conditioning did this as well. So I drove shirtless -which turned out to be a mistake, as the windshield of the van reflected the sun onto my stomach and lower half of my chest. So I ended up with a bit of sunburn.
Anyways, my relentless desire to get to my new home drove me to continue driving. So as I said goodbye to Missouri, and wandered into Oklahoma, I began wondering where I should stop and when. My older brother mentioned to me that I could sleep in a Walmart parking lot, as this was apparently allowed. And as I drove -stopping only for gas, food and peeing- I saw a many Walmart's along Interstate 44.
But I plowed on. But as I drove through Oklahoma City and onto I40, I realized I was exhausted and had been on the road for nearly 17 hours. As I passed the city limits, I saw a Walmart and finally pulled over into it. I got out the van, achy, tired and hungry. After eating some Mickey D's, I wandered through the huge store for about a half hour, before retreating back to my van.
As I tried to get some sleep, I faced a conundrum. It was still very warm in Oklahoma, so I had to keep the windows open a bit, but I feared leaving them wide open could lead to problems. So as darkness settled in, at about 8.30 that night, I began to snooze. It would be a restless, warm sleep (though I had earplugs, so I was able to block out the noise of the parking lot plus the traffic noise coming from the 40) but I would be able to get a few hours of much needed rest.
I slept for a about 4 hours straight before I began catnapping. And after trying to get a more deeper sleep, and failing at that, I finally decided at 3am on August 29th to continue my journey.
Trudging back onto interstate 40, I looked to the Western sky knowing a few more states and a 1,000 plus miles still laid ahead. As the dawn chased me, I eventually left Oklahoma behind me and entered into northern Texas. The only thing of note in that state, was Amarillo, otherwise this part of Texas was a wasteland of farmlands. Like driving through Nebraska on I80, this part of I40 was dull, boring and reminded me of a post-apocalyptic world. Thankfully, unlike Nebraska, my time in Texas was short and I crossed into New Mexico and entered into Mountain Time.
From there, I40 took me through many small towns that resembled the many small towns I passed through when I began my journey. Luckily, when I needed gas and food, I generally stopped at truck stops, as it was less creepy for me (I brought a nice club with me, just in case, and kept it in the cab of the van). As I began to rise up and up as the Rocky Mountains were near in my future, I passed through Albuquerque and eventually onto Gallup, where lack of sleep and hunger made me stop for the night at around 6pm. It was also there, I saw footage of what Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans. Life went on, as I traveled, I realized, and because I was listening to CD's, never turning on the van's radio, I did not know how damaging the storm became.
Once again, though, I camped out at a Walmart parking lot.
While I did get some more sleep that night, I still ended up waking again and again. Sadly, this was rather typical of me even at home. I would zonk out, falling into a deep, REM sleep, only to wake up thinking its hours later only to realize that I've been asleep for 3 hours. But I had five more hours to go!
Anyways, once again, at about 3am on August 30, I left Gallup, New Mexico and headed west towards Arizona. I arrived in Flagstaff just as the sun was rising. I stopped and fueled up -it was a brisk morning as I was in the mountains now. I had also worried, with me pulling my car, this would be the most difficult passage to California. But fortune favored me, and while it was slow, I passed through with no trouble.
I rolled on, determined to reach La Verne today. But the worse part of any trip, maybe, is usually the last league. I mean, I was tired and began to notice I was retaining water, as my feet and ankles were swollen. I had been driving barefoot anyways, and wore flip-flops when refueling and eating, so I noticed it rather early. But knowing I was close to my new home, I just wanted to finally get there.
I knew this most difficult part of the trip was now at hand. As I entered California, I also met the Mojave Desert. It's looks nice at first, but you begin to remember stories -mostly from old western movies and TV shows- where this desert played a major part in the death of many folks heading out west to start a new life and I prayed to whatever God I believed in, that nothing major would happen here. Then, of course, you realize that its nothing but scrub and sand for hundreds and hundreds of dull miles. I would think most people died of boredom than the elements, honestly. Thankfully, nothing did happen to the moving van -it was running perfectly. But as I noted, I was retaining a lot of water (I brought a gallon jug with me, but I had only consumed about half of it after three days), and with my constant foot on the gas pedal (no cruise control) my right leg began to bounce and vibrate. It became so uncomfortable, so distracting, I eventually pulled off the road and got out of the van.
It was strange feeling, my right leg. While driving I felt it might detach itself like some booster rocket on the space shuttle, but as I got out -I literally jumped out of the U-Haul once I safely on the side of the road- I paced around the moving van like a caged lion, back and forth, around and around.
So for 15 to 20 minutes I stood or moved around the gravel on the side of I40 in the desert of California. I took note of how empty it was, wondering about the men who had to build the road to begin with -how did they deal with the emptiness and unrelenting heat, not to mention what ever insect and animal life lived here.
Eventually, feeling the blood moving through my right leg, I climbed back into the moving van and headed further west, towards Barstow, where I would pick up I15. As I approached the junction, I remembered back to late 1990 when I decided to move from Chicago to San Francisco. While it was only a brief stay there -I moved back in November of 1992- I reflected on the last thirteen years living back in Illinois, and how much I hated living there and wanted so much to return to California. Here was I15, which I could take north and would take me directly to the Bay Area. As I passed onto the south bound 15, I remember smiling. Mostly, because I knew I was never going back to Chicago to live. I was -and still am- determined to stay here.
So as the morning of the 30th gave way to the afternoon, I continued to drive south on the 15 freeway towards Los Angeles. The 210, just barely completed when I arrived, awaited me (as a matter of fact, some parts of the 210 past the 15 were still incomplete, and that's where some of the first Transformer movie was filmed in late 2005 and early 2006). That was good, as the 10 freeway can be busy and difficult.
It was around 4 pm when I arrived on the 210 westbound. I was in the homestretch and I could not wait to arrive. Then I exited the freeway on Fruit Street and a few minutes after that was at my new home in La Verne. I traveled 2,084 miles in about 63 hours. I was exhausted, bloated like a whale, but happy.
The only thing I unpacked was my bed, and quickly set that up. Took a much needed shower, and went out to dinner with Bill. Despite my problems sleeping in strange places, I slept fairly well the first night.
So here I sit seven years later. While I'm still happy I moved, my life is in the same position it was in 2005. And as I turn 50 in a little over 2 weeks from now, I hope the next chapter in my life turns out to be better than this last year alone.
I'm not sure I remembered the actual moon landing on July 20, 1969. But I know what was wrought that day.
Sadly, that July 20th was remember as the year anniversary of my dad's death. I had a lot of emotional issues dealing with that passing. Most, if not all, is buried somewhere in my brain, hidden away to be forgotten. I was 6, that July (two months shy of good old number 7). And while most kids can remember some their years before their first decade, mine is lost. I have bits, some flashes of those years, yet most of the time I consider them unreliable. Much of my dad's life before my birth and up to the time he died have been recounted to me many times by my Mom and my Uncle Harold (who is not my real uncle, but I've known him all my life). I'm not sure what is mine and what is their stories.
So is with Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong's steps on the moon. My older brother was obsessed with the Apollo stuff and kept a scrap book of newspaper clippings. I remember that because he kept it for such a long time, well into his teens. I'm not sure if he took it when he moved out, or whether it's still somewhere in my Mom's attic. Still, that scrap book was a great reminder of time, sadly, now long gone.
History shows that the moon landing was -mostly- a race to beat the Russians to that celestial place. And after the murder of President Kennedy, who supported the notion of going there, it became the goal of keeping a dream alive. Sure, all those people who strapped rockets to their backs in preparation for it were adrenaline junkies, but they were also smart. They had the sense of adventure and knew what they were doing could kill them. It was that fear, in many ways, was why they did it.
And for the generations of boys and girls who watched Armstrong step on the moon and proclaim that this was "One small step forman; one giant leap for mankind" he help ignite the fire of science, discovery and wonder that helped land the Rover Curiosity on Mars on August 5.
But Armstrong, despite his place in history, was until his death today at the age of 82, an intensely private man. “I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy
engineer,” he said in February 2000 in one of his rare public
appearances. “And I take a substantial amount of pride in the
accomplishments of my profession.”
Whether he was comfortable with his legacy or not Armstrong, and the others that went to the stars on the idea that this final frontier was worth it, will be longed remember for that historic landing on July 20, 1969.
I remember what the hopes of nation were some fifty years ago when President Kennedy proposed the moon mission: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are
easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills,
because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win,
and the others, too"
We've lost a lot of that spirit since then. And even today, with no planned manned missions in the near future, we seem now more than ever land locked to this blue ball. But some 43 years ago, we came together as nation to watch Neil Armstrong step on the Moon. He'll never be forgotten, even a 100 years from now, he'll be remembered as the man who set us on the path to stars.
And when the space missions come back -as they are bound to do- we'll sit here watching -maybe on a starship called the Armstrong, and asking course directions. And the astronaut shall say:
I have no doubt that John Irving is a brilliant writer. Some
have compared him to a modern day Charles Dickens. His ability with words, his
way of dealing with a nonlinear plot extraordinary, and while I’ve not read
every book he’s published –this will be the sixth out of the thirteen he’s published
that I’ve read- Last Night in Twisted River reflects how maddeningly difficult
he can be as well.
It’s a story within a story that shows the development of a
novelist and the writing process. It begins in 1954, in the cookhouse of a
logging and sawmills settlement in northern New Hampshire. Danny is an anxious
twelve-year-old, who lives with his widowed farther. One night he is awoken to
odd sounds coming from his father’s room. Still not fully awake, he sees his
father having sex with the local constable’s girlfriend, but in his still
sleepy eyed state, he thinks a bear is attacking his father; with a large
skillet, he accidentally kills the woman. Now both the twelve-year-old and his
father become fugitives, forced to run from Coos County–to Boston, to southern
Vermont, to Toronto–pursued by the implacable constable. They do have one
friend, a lone protector who is a fiercely libertarian logger named Ketchum.
Once river driver, Ketchum keeps Danny and his Dad, Dominic, up to date on the
goings on in Twisted River.
In the early part of the book, Irving does capture the
turbulent times, with its mixture of violence and camaraderie that marks the
lives of these tough men and a few even tougher women, French Canadian
immigrants and Indians, anyone who wants or needs to work miles from
civilization. Life, and death, is a way of life in Twisted River, as the book
opens with the tragic loss of a 15 year-old boy, who slips on the wet logs and
drowns (this sets up a mystery that's pursued much later).
Still, the book takes forever to get going –and I might be
even tempted to say it never gets above five miles an hour. Part of the problem
is the focus of the novel; Danny, who becomes this weary kid who grows up to be
a successful writer (which brought to mind what teachers of writing tell their
students: write what you know. Stephen King is another writer who has a
tendency to create characters who just happen to be writers). I know Irving has
said many times that his novels are not autobiographical, yet you can’t help
but think that Danny seems to have the same arc as author did. In this book, Danny
went to Exeter College, he worked as an art model and he studied with Kurt
Vonnegut at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, just like John Irving. Danny
also publishes a couple of moderately successful novels in his 20s, just like John
Irving. His fourth book is an international bestseller that's made into a
popular movie, much like what happened to Irving with his World According to
Garp novel. Also, Irving –via through Danny it seems- takes swipes at reviewers
who take notes that Danny (and Irving) reuses the same themes again and again.
It’s very Meta at times.
This is perhaps the dullest of the six novels I’ve read by
him, but there still are some great parts in the book –the first half
especially. Once the novel moves out of Twisted River, it wanders too much and
that slows the book down to crawl. The villain, if can call him that, is the Sheriff (also known as the Cowboy) who still peruses Dominic for the death of girlfriend, is sort of gut-less and hateful bigot. Yet not hateful enough where the reader feels any dislike for him or his eventual fate. The book is somewhat redeemed later, but it’s
still better than a lot of other stuff that gets released these days.
To save time, JUDAS KISS crew members become stand-ins as shots are lined up. On the left is Visual Effects designer Joël Bellucci, to his left is PA Alex Sylvester; in the middle is 2nd Camera Cynthia Lin (who marks the floor so the cast know where to stand) and to the right is Sound Operator/Boom Alexander Ibrahim
Costume Designer Anthony Tran finalizing actress Laura Kenny's outfit for JUDAS KISS.
Days are long when making films. On JUDAS KISS we shot 6 out of 7 days during the three weeks of principle photography, which where 12 hours days. Cast members Richard Harmon and Genevieve Buechner relax between shots while talking to Richard's long-time friend (and background actor & additional CGI work) Rhys Cooper.
Make-up Artist Tonya Carlson-Jolly working on actress Jessica Hendrickson for a scene eventually cut from JUDAS KISS.
Actress Sharon Savene had dialogue in the party sequence at the start of the film; this scene was eventually cut for timing.
Another sequence in JUDAS KISS cut -this time after two preview audience showings- was an epilogue scene with Danny's father, played by Seattle actor/comedian Vince Valenzuela
Rhys Cooper, childhood friend of star Richard Harmon, helped as a PA on the film, as well as being part of Timo Descamps Shane Lyons character's posse. He also provided some additional CGI effects for JUDAS KISS.
Long before Joe Keenan joined the classic sitcom Frasier, he
was a playwright, essayist and in 1988, a novelist with Blue Heaven.
The basic premise is Keenan goes back to Hollywood’s Golden
Era when screwball comedies like Bringing Up Baby and It Happened One Night
were all the rage. However, instead set in the 30’s, the author updates the
premise by setting this screwball comedy in present day New York.
The plot is expansive, but it’s about two long-time friends,
one a playwright named Philip Cavanaugh (who narrates) and the other is Gilbert
Sewlyn, who has reached his mid-twenties without really doing anything, because
he’s pretty much a self-centered, petty schemer who’s only ambition is have lots
of money that he doesn’t have to work for. Also, both Philip and Gilbert used
to be lovers (well, when they were 16, now they have an on-and-off
relationship) and while Philip gets angry at Gilbert, they still have a connection.
While trying to figure out to acquire some more money,
Gilbert attend his mother’s latest wedding to a man known as Tony Cellini, who’s
wealth comes from the mob –something Gilbert’s mother is unaware of. It’s
there, at the wedding, where Gilbert potentially sees a way to score some cash,
as he stares with envy at all the gifts and envelopes that carry untold amounts
Of course, the one thorn in this sudden plan is no bride.
But there is an opposite of Gilbert, a woman who is just as self-centered, just
as ambitious –but with even fewer scruples than Gilbert- in the name of Moria
Finch. Gilbert hates her, and she him, but they decide to join forces and
become an engaged couple.
Before you can say “what could go wrong,” things start to
get out of hand. And what began as two conspirators soon blossoms, as thing
quickly begin to unwind. Philip is brought in first, and then Philip’s writing
partner, Claire –who, as it turns out, is much smarter than the boys and
quickly realizes Moria is not to be trusted. At all. There are plenty of twists,
turns, double-crosses, triple-crosses, blackmail, and one-liners than you can
Keenan, who went to win multiple Emmy’s for his writing on Frasier,
shows in Blue Heaven why
he’s a genius with throwing all but the kitchen sink into the air and seeing
what hits the floor. It’s a hugely entertaining novel, laugh out-loud and eye
rolling at the same time. Had I read this when it was released then, I might
have not been reminded of many plot elements, one-liners and exasperated deus ex
machina ending the book that eventually popped up in the series that starred
Still, Keenan can be credited with turning Frasier into the screwball
comedy series it became after a somewhat up and down first season. His first
episode he wrote in season two, The Matchmaker, became one the funniest of the
show, winning him a Writer’s Guild Award and a GLAAD Award for its lighthearted
satire of the various stereotypes surrounding gay men.
With his wit and intelligence, he sends up the old style 30s
comedies by updating it to the 1980’s, even though it has some unfortunate scenes
of casual drug use that are out of place today. But overall, it takes silliness
to new heights and in this day and age, if you need a laugh, beyond putting a
few classic episodes of Frasier in the DVD player, this book will do it for
you. Keenan did write two further adventures of Philip, Gilbert and Claire in the sequels, Putting on the Ritz and My Lucky Star.
Not to be out done by Rick Riordon and his intermediate kids
series Percy Jackson and the Olympians
series which dealt with Greek Myths, Michael Scott takes on the life and myths
of the real life alchemist Nicholas Flamel and his wife, Perenelle in The Alchemyst: The Secret Life of Nicholas
According to Wikipedia, Flamel was the most accomplished of
the European alchemists. As Deborah Harkness-a well-regarded historian of science and medicine, specializing in the
fifteenth through seventeenth centuries- put it, "Others thought Flamel
was the creation of 17th-century editors and publishers desperate to produce
modern printed editions of supposedly ancient alchemical treatises then
circulating in manuscript for an avid reading public." The essence of his
reputation are claims that he succeeded at the two magical goals of alchemy:
that he made the Philosopher's Stone, which turns common metals into gold and
ordinary stones into precious gems, and that he and his wife Perenelle achieved
immortality through the "Elixir of Life".
So it is with idea that Scott begins a six-book series detailing
what may have happened to Flamel and his wife in the 15th Century.
While it was recorded that his wife died first, and Flamel died in March of
1418, when their tomb was broken into sometime later, both bodies were missing.
So the book starts in present time where we meet Sophie and
Josh Newman, 15 year-old twins, who are working at their summer jobs in San Francisco
when a mysterious man, John Dee (another real, historical person), comes into
Josh's workplace for a book, the Codex – or Book of Abraham the Mage. Sophie
and Josh witness Nick and Perry, the book store's owners, using magic. They
discover that Nick is not an ordinary bookseller, but is the medieval
alchemyst, Nicholas Flamel, being kept alive by making the elixir of life (a
secret from the Codex) for him and his wife, Perry (Perenelle). Dee also uses
magic and takes the Codex by force while Josh is holding it – resulting in two pages
being left behind. Both Flamels need the Codex to make the elixir of life, or
they will age rapidly and die within a month. Also, if they do not retrieve the
Codex, Dee will summon the Dark Elders to destroy the world and return to an
age in which humans are but slaves and food.
While I enjoyed Riordon’s work, I struggled with Scott’s
first book in his series. Perhaps it’s because both authors are basically
working of the same template, and since Riordon’s work came first, I comparing
them too closely. Part of my problem maybe understanding the world of twins;
both Josh and Sophie are disgustingly nice to each other. This, to me, doesn’t
create enough conflict; which is strange when John Dee decides to turn Josh
against his Nicholas Flamel.
Again, like any multi volume series, there is too much of
info-dumping going on here that it sometimes gets distracting. Oddly, it slows
the book down to a crawl as author Scott tries to connect major historical
events to the Flamel’s and John Dee. And the whole good-vs.-evil and
kids-with-secret-powers theme –explored through Harry Potter and other young adult kid’s books (as well as adult
ones) get tedious after a while.
And Scott tries to balance out the story with humor that
seems more forced and paint-by-number –like a Nickelodeon comedy series- than
spoken in real life. Perhaps these novels appeal to young-adults and their
parents who read this stuff. I’m wanting, I guess, something more complex (though
less than 600 pages, please).
Perhaps, in the end, I’ve become jaded with the fantasy
novels. Its great authors are trying to break-out of the mold of magical swords
and rings, but by making kids have these unknown secret powers, they’ve
replaced one cliché with another.
The movie version of this book begins production next year in Australia.