Father’s Day

My first and most vivid memory of my dad was when I was a little kid and he was working for Bell Telephone, and he had to pull a couple of all nighters for overtime. And I cried because I didn’t want him to go.

I remember having the conversation most sons have with their fathers (if they’re in a good relationship), where I said I wanted to work with him so that we could always hang out together.

I remember a myriad of weekends where my dad would pick my sister and I up and we’d either go to my grandmother’s vacation home in Wading River, or to his and his girlfriend’s apartment in Brooklyn, or, if it was summer, up to Lake George for a week. We’d eat BLT heroes and nothing more.

I remember he would travel all the way up to Camp Tyler Hill for visiting day, and bring so much cool shit, the kids in my bunk were delighted to be my friend for days, if not weeks. Soda, candy, cassette tapes of music, colored pencils and photocopies of great comic book art to color… and more.

Coloring artwork was one of our favorite things to do.

I cannot remember the first movie my father sat down and watched with me, but I do remember we spent a lot of time watching MASH and The Muppets which, I believe, were back to back when they were on t.v..

I do remember him sitting me down to watch The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and he was genuinely surprised when I wasn’t enjoying it. We watched the bridge blow up and he turned to me and said “That was something, right?”

I didn’t get it.

Sometimes, when we went out to Wading River, WPIX or one of the other channels had a kung-fu double feature. I know we watched them, but I don’t remember any of the titles.

I do remember the first time my dad sat me and my sister down to watch The Thing. We were young. Maybe 11 or so. We watched a VHS copy and when it came to this scene:

I remember not understanding why my father was laughing so hard.

We went to go see Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It starts off with a dance scene at a club, and I turned to him and said ‘we spent $9 on this?’ Again he laughed.

Back then, he would leave my sister and I to go smoke out in the lobby. With twizzlers and popcorn and soda.

I remember going to see Timerider in the theaters after a chinese food dinner.

He loved chinese food.

He was, by far, the angriest person I’d ever met. Particularly when he was driving. He hated other drivers, and I think it was because he simply did not trust them.

I rarely saw this side of him. Very rarely. But when your father gets pissed off, and he’s that much bigger than you are… and he starts following a guy who cut him off, and starts calling him things that simply do not make sense…

As I grew older, I understood his anger better. Now-a-days I understand it almost completely.

I remember the time he handed me Piers Anthony’s A Spell for Chameleon, and copies of Asterix and Obelix.

I remember asking him if he had copies of the Punisher Mini Series by Mike Zeck and Steven Grant. He was a big comic collector. When he handed them to me, I hugged him. He was taken aback. At the time I thought they were very valuable and that he was trusting me with them was a big deal.

We’d go to comic book shows and have fun and meet artists. I got introduced to a much larger world, and started down the path of being some kind of artist.

One winter, when we were supposed to go to a big comic book show, it was snowing like crazy and I was very sick. I was supposed to see Tim Vigil, who was my favorite artist at the time, and show him my work.

My dad came out to Long Island, collected my portfolio, and went to the show. He showed Vigil my work, and bought nearly everything Vigil had on his table to give me the next time I saw him.

I went to college and he lasted just long enough to see me graduate. He didn’t understand the artwork I was doing, but he was supportive none the less.

My dad passed away on May 26th, 1996. He’d been in the hospital for about 15 days, had finally come home, and I was going to visit. When I got there, an ambulance was there to take him back to the hospital. He could not breath very well. I waited outside for them to take him into the ambulance. He looked at me, his eyes hardly able to stay still, and made a small waving motion.

I walked to the hospital, got into the emergency room, and helped the nurse take his clothes off. The nurse asked if he had any allergies.

“Asparagus,” he said. I laughed and said “I think you’ll be ok.”

That was about the last thing I said to him. I left the hospital to get some things from my ex-girlfriend’s house, and was about to head back when I checked my messages and found out that he’d passed away.

It’s been 14 years since, and some pretty fucked shit has happened since then.

Some good things, too.

I won’t soon forget something I thought I heard before I left the emergency room that day. I’m pretty sure he said “I need a moment with my son alone.” But his voice was so weak, I am not sure if it was my imagination or not.

I wonder what he had to say. I wonder how much future grief he might have spared me.

I’ll be 40 in a couple of months. I’m not happy about it. I’m not sure what he would say. We turned out to be very different men in some ways. Important ways.

I think he would be happy I’m finally trying to get my shit together and follow a dream of mine.

When we packed his casket, it was with scotch, a compass, a star map, and more. My father was always dreaming. He had some wonderful ideas on how his life should be. He worked so that he could enjoy life outside of work. Simple things. Fun things. He loved his kids, loved his girlfriend, loved his family.

I imagine him in that other dimension, watching us, invisible, yelling, saying he was there, right there, and that he was paying attention to all of us.

In my entire life, he’s the only person I felt could successfully break through the veneer that should be the afterlife. And he would say, “You are not going to fucking believe this…”

A clear indication

It’s Monday at 2pm, and I am home trying to collect my thoughts, do some freelance work, and work on the second draft of the feature film that we’re hoping to shoot this year.

Saturday, I had my second screening of 5AM at the Hoboken International Film Festival.

In Middletown, NY.

Now… that’s a considerable distance from Hoboken. Like, 70 miles. Also, it’s in New York, which is simply not New Jersey. But, whatever. Venues are hard to come by, these things happen.

The festival took place at the Paramount Theater. A massive 1100 seat theater with a nice big screen, ornate ceilings and walls… a serious place. They had organs, two of them, that I guess they play live music to for films, which is pretty neat.

So, Karen and I rented a car for the day. A Zipcar. Our original intention had been to stay for a number of screenings, so we got the car for the day. It’s not cheap. Plus, traveling through Jersey you’re paying toll roads. Add in lunch and dinner… and the price of the day is over $200.

It’s an occasion. I’m not complaining, per se, but I don’t have that kind of money to just throw around. Regardless, I had to go represent the film.

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I don’t have a license. I’ve never had one, ever. I’ve always lived in the city, or if I didn’t, I had someone who could drive me when necessary. I’m afraid of driving, to be honest. Not because of other drivers, but because I have a real anger problem, and I think more people, pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike would be safer with me being NOT on the road.

I attribute this to my father, who was, by far, the angriest driver I’ve ever been in a car with.

So, Karen’s driving, I’m navigating. Navigating when you’re heading somewhere is pretty cool, except when you have to drive through Jersey to go to a place that ISN’T Jersey, and you can ONLY get there through Jersey… unless you want to make it a 12 hour trip.

This is basically what it felt like:

Both ways.

We get there after a grueling struggle of figuring out which stupid road that looks like a road, but has a goddamn number attached to it, is which. We have lunch, and I psych myself up for a Q & A and whatever kind of crowd we’d have coming.

The 12pm screening is still in the theater. My screening, along with a feature film, is at 2pm. There are roughly 6 people in the lobby, including a press photographer and a press agent.

I asked Karen to take a picture of me in front of the Hoboken Festival backdrop. I thought this might show the press guys that I was ‘someone’.

Nope.

Eh, no big deal. To be honest, I hate getting my photo taken. But, I thought I’d give it a shot.

The 12pm screening exits. A couple of people show up and linger in the foyer of the theater. Karen and I go in, and the place is MASSIVE. I mean seriously massive. Built in an era when people had nothing except the movies to entertain them, this place was impressive.

They had a stage with a podium and a mic and I’m like there you go. A Q & A on a stage with a goddamn podium!

I take some photos… and it’s kind of empty. I define ‘kind of’ like this. Imagine a 1100 seat theater as your stomach. Now, when it’s full, you can tell it’s really full. You’re not hungry. In fact, those 1100 people are really kind of pushing the limits of that stomach of yours and if they leave in a rush, it’s not gonna be pretty.

By the time the screening started, there were about 15 people in the theater, which relates to not having eaten all day, and someone coming up to you with a peanut. You eat it, and they ask ‘are you full?’

The screen goes dark directly at 2pm. I get those jitters and wait for my big face to show up on screen.

Nope.

They show the feature first.

I’m not sure why they might have done this. There could totally be a reason. I’m not sure what that reason might be, but whatever. The feature plays, and I wait for my screening.

Now, I know the feature is 90 minutes. With my paltry 7 minute feature, and the following screening at 4pm, I’m thinking we have at least 15 minutes for a Q & A.

The feature finishes and I hear and see a few people get up. Out of 15 people, ‘a few’ is almost half. Including the filmmakers of the feature.

I sit back and watch 5AM and laugh at the situation. The money we spent, the lack of people… I’ve got no control over this situation, so it’s the only thing I can think to do.

The film finishes, the lights go up and… no Q & A.

Karen turned around and counted 9 people, including us, in the theater. I just kind of sat there for a second.

I was a bit disappointed, but I look at it this way. The Hoboken people selected our film. We were very pleased and excited about that. They got the venue, they did the advertising, they got the sponsors. They did their job. They cannot physically grab people and put them in the seats.

Although I wish they could.

So, regardless of the crowd, I got to see my film again on the big screen, and I thank the HIFF people for selecting our film! It was an honor to be selected.

Instead of going to other screenings, we actually decided to do something that makes pretty much everyone feel better. We went to spend money.

Got some dinner, got some clothing, tried to go sneaker shopping but it didn’t work out.

And then we headed home amongst the twists and turns that is the mess of Jersey. Navigating coming home sucks. All I wanted to do was shut my eyes and sleep.

We got home late. I stayed up later (second wind), got to bed at around 2am or so, to wake up at 8am.

Little sleep, no sleep, it’s of no consequence, and I’ll tell you why.

Yesterday I did some more DP work on The Thing, and it was great. I shot some great actors, had fun, and I got home feeling great and energized and inspired. That hasn’t happened with a job for a long, long time.

So, that was my weekend. Not bad. Julie and I got into the Hoboken Festival. Then I ended the weekend hanging out with my friends and shooting our awesome web series.

Oh, here is my new reel:

And here’s a great video on the art of the steadicam:

Finally, here’s a short film called It’s Not About the Nail:

Thanks for reading!

John