Dream Theatre 29, 30, and 31

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In dream 29, I was visiting my old friend, Esteban, who now was living with his parents in a large very rectangular 2 story house in Kansas City. I was staying there while I checked out Kansas City to see if I wanted to move there.

It was a very warm feeling house in color and design with lots of dark blondish wood everywhere. At least part of the second story had rooms along the perimeter with a railing overlooking down into the first story.

I had a found a really great place to live and was about to finalize the deal When I suddenly realized, “Oh crap! I better research and see if there’s any kind of acting industry here before I move here!”

Esteban also had a baby camel or maybe a llama that was really cute. I also noticed he had a baby tiger kitten. I said “You got a baby tiger?”, and he explained that a friend of his had really wanted to pay with one for her birthday so he had just rented it for a few days.

In dream 30, my friend, Sean, and I were driving to Dallas late at night. As we were almost there, we saw a huge alien ship, bigger than the city itself, descend from the clouds in the night sky. Something happened and the ship started tilting, out of control. As it wobbled and veered, parts of it started hitting the city causing catastrophic damage and explosions. We turned the car around and started driving away as fast as we could, hoping we could outrun the ever expanding fireball.

In dream 31, my friend, Dana, and I were getting ready for some kind of show. However, we were in a strange place that was more like a school crossed with mall. We were in on room and she needed to get to “Room 30” to get finished dressing. To get to Room 30, we had to go through a long stretch of concourse filled with students and other people. Since she was only partially dressed, she sat on the floor and pulled her knees up, curling into a ball and started sort of scooting along using her toes almost like little insect legs to smoothly move along. I did the same, facing her but sort of enveloping her so I was covering her up so no one could see her partially dressed state. I was not quite as adept at the whole using my toes as little legs thing but I made it work.

We got to room 30 and then she showed me a good game to practice for mindfulness. You sat cross-legged with your hands on your knees, one hand facing up, the other down. For the hand facing up, you picked a spot on that same thigh and then after about 25 seconds, as quickly as you could, you tried to turn your hand over and slap the chose spot with the center of your palm directly on the spot. Then you repeated the sequence with the other hand. I tried but both times my alignment was a little off, so I kept practicing. I think we eventually got up and went to finish getting ready for the show.

RIP David Bowie

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I had been wanting to learn “Life On Mars” for a long time but hadn’t got around to it. Last night, I hardly slept due to allergies giving me an annoying nasal drip and sore throat. I woke up today and saw that David Bowie had died last night. I thought, “Oh, too bad I never learned that song and even if I had, my allergies would prevent me from doing it justice today.”

Then I thought, “I could learn it right now. And would David Bowie let allergies stop him? Hell no, he wouldn’t.”

There are no words that can express the loss of such an artist in our world, so I’ll just let my meager cover of his amazing music speak for me. I had a weird time trying to get my (better quality external) audio to sync up and look right but after a while of staring and moving things by tiny fraction, it just starts to never look right, but you’ll get the idea.

I also picked the coat I thought Bowie would have liked best.

On Spoilers: Consideration Has No Statute Of Limitations

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I never thought Star Wars and spoilers in general would become more of a hot button jihad inducing topic than religion, politics, Mac Vs. PC, or iOS vs. Android, but it seems it has.

There seems to be a new trend that I’m calling the “Spoilers Rights Advocates” who think that after (T=arbitrary and differing individual lengths of time ranging from 3 days to 10 years) that they no longer have any obligation to be considerate of others and if you haven’t seen the movie then “that’s on you.” I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I disagree. Well, I mean it is true that they have no “obligation” or responsibility to do so, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a great thing to do.

I know of plenty of people who don’t have the luxury that I have of prioritizing going to see a movie. I have a friend who is always extremely busy, pregnant (not always, but at the moment), and wants to watch the original 6 before she goes to see 7. I’ve read many posts from others with other such reasons for not having seen it yet. And they do care. I’ve had a handful of discussions on the matter over the last few days on social media. Some have been very civil and intellectual. Others have ended up with all kinds of aggression, name-calling and fiery indignation coming my way. “Go outside!”, “Get some friends!”, “Get off the internet!” are just a few choice bon mots. Accusations of grandstanding, martyrdom, gaslighting, and so much more! You’d think you had stumbled into a discussion on race, religion and terrorism. Yes, I am a grade A, top choice, huge ass-hat, like an ass-sombrero for thinking that the world would be a better place with a little more consideration (oh, there’s me playing the victim card again…another accusation). I thought I was coming from a good place. I had no resentment, aggression, negative feelings or anything like that, and yet even apologies were met with outright hostility and indignation somehow twisting my words and attempts to diffuse the situation into more accusations. Eventually I realized there was nothing else to do but leave (which I’d tried to do earlier in the meltdown but that was also viewed as me playing the victim and other “tactics” on my part).

I don’t get it. I don’t get the attitude, the ire, or any of it. It’s really this simple with me: consideration has no statute of limitations. People often come back with “Oh, so are you gonna tag spoilers on [SPOILER FROM ORIGINAL STAR WARS], or, [SPOILER FROM SIXTH SENSE], [SPOILER FROM CITIZEN KANE], [SPOILER FROM THE CRYING GAME], [SPOILER FROM ANY SHAKESPEARE PLAY]?”

Yes. Yes I am. Because it costs me nothing. It doesn’t inconvenience me at all. My quality of life and the enjoyment of it is not in any way adversely affected by not posting that spoilery cartoon. Or at the very least tagging it as such. On several such posts, I’ve commented “SPOILER” not to in any way chastise the poster or try to bend them to my will but simply as a warning to anyone who might stumble upon it and care. And there have been comments from people such as “I haven’t seen it yet…mostly bc I have this little baby and also bc Alamo was sold out when we tried to go over the break. I glanced at your pic and then saw the word SPOILER on your friends comment, so I haven’t looked at it again. Thanks Heath Allyn! (For the record, I’m not a huge Star Wars fan so I wouldn’t cry over a spoiler, BUT I would like to be surprised if there’s a big surprise.)”

So again, I didn’t post asking the person to remove their post, or change it or tag it. I just left a comment explaining why I was leaving that comment as a helpful warning. Which has only been a problem once and led to all the above accusations and name calling. The irony is that I don’t even care that much about spoilers. I do try to avoid them but if I get spoiled, it’s not the end of the world to me and it probably won’t affect my enjoyment, but to others, it is a big deal and I can respect that. I have no reason to say “Fuck you, then! That’s your issue! Stay off the internet because my right to post untagged spoilers after (T: see above) trumps your desire to not be spoiled, which you gave up any way by not seeing the movie fast enough to my liking!”

I actually know of someone who just watched the original trilogy last month. Another friend recently reminded me that she had never seen them until I sent her the VHS tapes somewhere around the early 2000’s. There’s tons of “classic” movies I still haven’t seen. Does that mean I think you’re a big jerkface if you you reveal [SPOILER FROM CAVE PAINTING FROM 550 B.C.]? Of course not, but I certainly appreciate it if you are considerate enough to still tag spoilers or ask if I’ve seen it.

With the reactions of some people you would think I had asked them to strangle a small puppy when all I’m really saying is, some people would really appreciate the tiniest morsel of consideration here, and it’s so effortless and easy. I’m sure I have my share of responsibility in these blowups. Poor phrasing, reacting too emotionally. I know one thing I thought was a good idea but ended up being a mistake was that as I was pruning my feed, there were some folks I wanted to know that though I wouldn’t be reading their posts any more, that I really enjoyed their posts overall and would miss them but that doesn’t work in this context. It just ends up sounding like a big “I’M UNFOLLOWING YOU!” announcement, so lesson learned there.

In the end, there’s some generally great people and some people I don’t know at all who now think I’m the biggest douche-canoe on the planet because I think it would be cool to go beyond our “obligations” and “responsibilities” to maybe, possibly help someone out that you don’t even know would appreciate it and maybe, just maybe make the community of humanity just a little better with a drop of extra consideration.

Of course, the only people who will actually read this are people who probably don’t need to read this, so at least let me say, I appreciate you. And if you can take these genuine, heartfelt words and somehow twist them into something negative, then you don’t know me at all. Which is probably true any way! If this particular form of consideration is just too much for you bear, then try to do something, somewhere, even just the smallest token to make someone else’s world a better place on a regular basis. That’s probably a way better plan any way. I guess all I can hope for is that this is some kind of self-regulating Darwinian mechanism that just keeps me surrounded by only the most amazing people. Seems to have worked so far.

2015: A Quick Summary

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I don’t usually do these year end summary things but someone said they liked reading them and it seemed a particularly eventful year for me, so without thinking about it too much, here is a quick summary.

  • Had $4000 worth of work done to my car.
  • While that car was in the shop, got rear ended so hard it totaled the borrowed car I was in, spun me 180 degrees into an intersection, and I didn’t remember anything for a few minutes.
  • Elly moved in with me while the condo she bought was being renovated.
  • Got to use my acting and musical talents in the great original play, 100 Heartbreaks, which I loved with a passion. So much so, I’m pretty sure the director hates me because of my impassioned opinions.
  • We then both moved into the super sweet renovated condo which we love so much.
  • On the 4th of July, narrowly avoided getting hit by a truck that was t-boned and flew right at me landeing inches from me on its side as detailed here.
    crash photo

    My view of the crash that nearly included me.

  • About 45 minutes later as also detailed above, I was hit by an oncoming swerving car that luckily hit my back left side, causing me to swerve across the oncoming lane, through a ditch and fence and stopping in a field, totaling that car which had just had $4000 worth of work done earlier in the year.
  • My grandfather, Dr. James F. Cooper died. He was a amazing man and beloved figure in the community and the tributes from all over including so many former patients, friends, etc. (such as this one), really drove home what an impact he made. It also inspired this post from me.

    On Thursday, I paid tribute to the life of Dr. James Cooper on the House floor. Dr. Cooper was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, a physician, and an active VFW member .Posted by Rep. Bill Flores on Saturday, October 3, 2015

  • The day after my grandfather’s funeral, I went to visit my dying father for what would be the last time. On September 16 he died from pancreatic cancer and I wrote this eulogy for him.
  • I played many gigs with 3 different bands, one of which I’ve been with since 1994.
  • I had the pleasure of acting in many different films, commercials, plays, projects, etc. and work alongside many amazing people including a short film with Lance Henrikson!
  • Got out and auditioned (and was cast in) Control Issues, an amazing improv show at The Hideout with some of the best people you could ask to perform with.
  • I started a new journey with a new agent, Jason at Acclaim Talent is the best!
  • I made my living doing only what I love with no day job.
  • I battled a lot of frustration, depression, envy, negativity, etc. as we all do.
  • I started up my yoga practice again and am on 564 consecutive days of meditation practice.
  • I tried my best to find gratitude in every day for all the things in my life.
  • I was lucky enough to have the best, most supportive, amazing partner through every day of highs, lows and all the in betweens. Everything is better and easier with a team, even if you sometimes feel like it’s just two of you against the world.
  • I continued the incremental (sometimes imperceivable) progress in my career and in my lifelong journey to be the best me I can be. And I look forward to the journey never ending.

I love you all and wish you all happiness in the new year. Thanks to those who love me back regardless of my flaws, May we all enrich each others’ lives and the world at large together. Light and love will always prevail even if it sometimes feels otherwise. Happy New Year!

My Thoughts On Depression

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Up until recently, if you asked me “Are you depressed?” I would have said “Absolutely not. We all have our ups and downs but I’m not depressed.”

The more I’ve learned about depression, the more I’ve realized that maybe I am. The thing is, it’s such a vague word. There’s so many levels at which it can exist. And, unfortunately, it’s kind of a dirty word. Most of don’t want to say it, especially in relation to ourselves. We think of it as this huge thing. Like if you’re “depressed,” that a big, giant, serious issue. That’s not to say that it isn’t, necessarily, but not always. It can be insidiously subtle.

I just thought I was lazy. Uninspired. That I have no willpower to do the things I know I need to do. I’m unproductive. I’m in the worst shape I’ve been in in over a decade. My career isn’t what I’d like it to be. And yet, I often act counter-productively. there’s things I know I could do, that I need to do, and I don’t, or feel that I can’t. I continue to eat crap and want to sleep a lot.

One day Elly (who battles depression herself) said “I think you might be depressed,” and my gut reaction was to resist. I’m not depressed! I’m just in a slump, or lazy, or tired, or just down this week.

The point of this post is not to get comfort or reassurance or virtual hugs or support. The point of this post is to let everyone else out there know, you’re not alone. More people than you know are probably in the same boat. It’s hard to talk about. It’s hard to admit. Every time I thought about making this post, it made me uncomfortable. I didn’t want to talk about it. Or admit it. Or be seen or judged as a “depressed” person. Or be a depressed person.

Now I’m lucky in that my depression (if that’s what it is) is fairly mild and just makes me think I’m a lazy person with absolutely no willpower or discipline (which may be true as well). I truly am, in general, a very happy, silly person with a wonderful life and tons of gratitude for all that I have. That’s not a mask or a front. And that’s what makes it complicated. How can that co-exist with any form of depression, no matter what the “level”? We are complex beings, my friends.

So if you are or have ever been depressed, let me assure you, you are not broken, you are not a freak and it’s not a dirty word never to be spoken. You are in the company of some of the best, brightest, most talented people in the world and throughout history. It does not devalue you as a person. There are so many people fighting battles you know nothing about. Be assured that we are all a community. We are all on our individual journeys but also a collective journey together. Stay strong friends and always remember this: The opposite of Love isn’t Hate, it’s Fear. Love is light. Love is always the answer. Love is my religion. Well that and Jedi. Love Jedi.

Sounds like a band. Or a really bad movie.

Dream Theatre 26, 27 and 28

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I was sitting in playing guitar with ZZ Top. It was very exciting as it was the biggest gig I’d ever played. There were several other musicians filling out the backup band as well besides just the 3 members of ZZ Top though. I hadn’t had any rehearsal and was just completely winging it but was totally comfortable doing so. I set my trusty Variax to its acoustic setting for this one ballad and Billy Gibbons was really digging it. Then we covered “Ex’s and Oh’s” by Elle King. As the solo section approached, I thought “I’m sure Billy will probably grab that,” and he did.

I also had 2 separate dreamlets about Brian and Akasha. In the first, there had been some get together at a bar and a bunch of us were there. Someone handed us a note that was written on a stack of paper, or maybe a book in colorful marker saying the Brian wasn’t going to be able to make it. After the gathering, a bunch of people were going to get something to eat somewhere. Akasha and I jumped in her 2 door red sportscar, but then decided to just hang out and catch up like old times. She needed to go do some clothes shopping any way so we would go do that.

In the second dreamlet, Brian and I were in France. He had just bought a little Fender 1×12 guitar amp which I was toting for him and we were walking along this street checking out a row of flats. He was looking at them because they were thinking of moving to France. It was night but we went in one of them to check it out.

I said “Maybe we can just leave this amp here now if you’re going to move in.”

“Well, we haven’t actually bought it yet, so that’s not really an option,” he said.

Then I woke up.

Let’s Replace Every “Bosom” in Edgar Allan Poe’s Works With “Sweet-Ass Titties”

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I first became a fan of Edgar Allan Poe in my 8th grade advanced honors English class with Mrs. Riley, who is my favorite and most influential of all the teachers I ever had. I even remember writing “A Typical Poe Story” which was a parody of Poe using all the tropes and patterns I had noticed in his work. One of these was how often the word “bosom” seemed to appear.

Recently I had wondered if “bosom” was really as prevalent in his work as I thought it was in 8th grade and my friend, Kevin Gates, had joked “You can thank late 19th century editorial practice for that. In manuscript, Poe actually uses the term ‘sweet-ass titties.'”

When I joked back that I should do a find and replace, Kevin replied, “You’ll see how brilliant Poe actually was, before his work was sanitized.”

So I did. I’m not sure if this is comprehensive but it should be close.

So without further adieu and with apologies to Mrs. Riley, I present to you, many, if not all, of the occurrences of “bosom” in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, replaced with “sweet-ass titties.”

On the sweet-ass titties of the palpitating air!

It vibrated within three inches of my sweet-ass titties!

That she loved me I should not have doubted; and I might have been easily aware that, in some sweet-ass titties such as hers, love would have reigned no ordinary passion.

It is impossible to describe, or to imagine, the deep, the blissful sense of relief which the absence of the detested creature occasioned in my sweet-ass titties.

About midway in the short vista which my dreamy vision took in, one small circular island, profusely verdured, reposed upon the sweet-ass titties of the stream.

The arms, the sweet-ass titties, and even the ends of the radiant hair melted imperceptibly into the vague yet deep shadow which formed the back-ground of the whole.

She was attired in deep mourning, and excited in my sweet-ass titties a feeling of mingled respect, interest, and admiration.

The disease which had thus entombed the lady in the maturity of youth, had left, as usual in all maladies of a strictly cataleptical character, the mockery of a faint blush upon the sweet-ass titties and the face, and that suspiciously lingering smile upon the lip which is so terrible in death.

Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own sweet-ass titties, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me.

Satisfied with having produced in my sweet-ass titties the intended effect, he seemed to chuckle in secret over the sting he had inflicted, and was characteristically disregardful of the public applause which the success of his witty endeavors might have so easily elicited.

This condition was nearly unaltered for a quarter of an hour. At the expiration of this period, however, a natural although a very deep sigh escaped the sweet-ass titties of the dying man, and the stertorous breathing ceased — that is to say, its stertorousness was no longer apparent; the intervals were undiminished.

“How wild a history,” I said to myself, “is written within those sweet-ass titties!”

In the present instance, Eugenie, who for a few moments past had seemed to be searching for something in her sweet-ass titties, at length let fall upon the grass a miniature, which I immediately picked up and presented to her.

No murmur arose from its bed, and so gently it wandered along, that the pearly pebbles upon which we loved to gaze, far down within its sweet-ass titties, stirred not at all, but lay in a motionless content, each in its own old station, shining on gloriously forever.

The golden and silver fish haunted the river, out of the sweet-ass titties of which issued, little by little, a murmur that swelled, at length, into a lulling melody more divine than that of the harp of Aeolus-sweeter than all save the voice of Eleonora.

She had seen that the finger of Death was upon her sweet-ass titties — that, like the ephemeron, she had been made perfect in loveliness only to die; but the terrors of the grave to her lay solely in a consideration which she revealed to me, one evening at twilight, by the banks of the River of Silence.

He boasted to me, with a low chuckling laugh, that most men, in respect to himself, wore windows in their sweet-ass titties, and was wont to follow up such assertions by direct and very startling proofs of his intimate knowledge of my own.

Dupin said the last words in a very low tone, and very quietly. Just as quietly, too, he walked toward the door, locked it, and put the key in his pocket. He then drew a pistol from his sweet-ass titties and placed it, without the least flurry, upon the table.

Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own sweet-ass titties, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well.

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my sweet-ass titties’ core;

Dream Theatre 25

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In this dream, Elly and I were on a road trip with Brian and Akasha Villalobos. We stopped at this gigantic mall. It was possibly the biggest (fictional dream) mall in the world. In the food court there was an Indiana Jones themed fast food place. There was the normal counter manned by employees but behind them was an approximately 2 story tall adventure course made of foam facades, ropes, “traps,” ledges, obstacles, alligators etc. When you ordered, they would give you a temporary Indiana Jones jacket and fedora. The jacket had a whip attached to one side and a holster and shoulder bag on the other so it was a nice one piece fully decked out option. You couldn’t order anything specific, only a general type of food like “vegetarian” or such. Then you got to play through the obstacle course. It wasn’t static either in that once you reached the other side, it could all rotate to make a new scene for you to traverse back the other way. At any given time there were 5 or so customers dressed as Indy up on the adventure course. When you finally finished and dropped down, they would give you a random order (but in line with your general order type specified up front). You might get a burrito, or a burger, or any of a host of other options. That was part of the adventure.

Later in the dream, Brian and I were outside another fast food place somewhere else on our road trip. We were chatting and he had 2 oranges and we were rapidly tossing them back and forth trying to get rid of the one we had before the other was on its way. At one point he had an extremely errant throw (or maybe catch) over his shoulder and an orange came down in a high arc and hit someone’s car. Probably no big deal, as it was an orange, but Brian being Brian insisted on finding something to write a note with/on to leave on the car. Later we were in side finishing up our meal and chatting about some personal relationship stuff he was going through and possibly related sex life stuff.

Then I woke up.

Dream Theatre 24

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I’ve talked about how my favorite times growing up were the times I got to spend with my late Aunt Trish and my cousin Casey (not to exclude my Uncle Mike or cousin Kelly, it’s just that most of my time was spent with Trish and Casey). This dream harkened directly back to these nostalgic times.

I dreamt that Mike, Trish, Casey, Kelly and I were all going to a TRON themed place (I’ve mentioned before how TRON was a favorite of mine and Casey’s growing up and a movie we saw many times). Not an amusement park or anything so grand, but more along the scope of a lazer tag place, “The Main Event,” Chuck E. Cheese, or Showbiz pizza. That kind of place. We got to the entrance which was like a two story house with one dwelling on the bottom and one on the second story. Eager to go in, I went first through the garage and up some stairs to what functioned as the waiting room but looked just like a small room in an apartment or house and furnished as such. Everyone else had stopped to talk to some guy as we were going in. When they came in, it turned out that the guy had been a manager or owner and he had given them all really cool, stretchy TRON jumpsuits with the glow patterns painted on in glow in the dark paint. I was so bummed to have missed out!

“Aww, man! I want one of those!” I said. I looked at Trish sitting on a chair in the corner.

Suddenly I remembered, “Wait a minute, aren’t you gone?” I waited to see if she would disappear after I realized this but she didn’t. She was still there. Then, just as I was waking up, I looked again and the chair was empty.

I know it was probably just a dream, but I choose to believe it was her paying me a visit.

Paul Eugene Allyn, December 19, 1951 – September 16, 2015

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My father, Paul Allyn, died peacefully today after a brief battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

My mother, Kathie, and my father met and married at 16 and 18, respectively. They had me at 17 and 19. I don’t have many memories of my father actually being part of my daily life as my parents split up when I was around 3, I believe (I’m sure mom will correct me on any facts I get wrong…I’ve never been good with dates).

Heath and Paul

Dad gives me my first microphone at 6 months old.

Not too long after that he moved back to New Jersey, where he’d grown up. Growing up, I rarely saw him. We would fly up to visit every so often, and we would always talk on holidays and such, but for the first 30 years of my life or so, I probably only actually saw him in person enough times to be counted on one hand. I think this typifies the unconventional relationship that we always had which was that we were never “estranged” or anything but sometimes years might pass with minimal communication as we all get wrapped up in life and time flies faster than we realize, but we would always remain close and pick back up like no time had passed. We had a very low maintenance, guilt free but great relationship. After a visit when I around 16 (I think), I wouldn’t see him again for another 13 years or so, and yet somehow there was nothing “weird” about this.

Paul was born in Japan (his father was Art, an American soldier, his mother Aiko, a Japanese woman). From a very early age he became involved in all manner of martial arts. 002 By the end of his life, he was a recognized master in many of them at a level akin to his idol, Bruce Lee. He even had devised his own system, Sento Kunren Ho, or “combat training method.” The family would eventually move to New Jersey. After his stint in Texas where he met mom and had me, he returned to New Jersey where he eventually became a police officer which amused many of his acquaintances back in Texas since, at least as I’ve heard it, he had a bit of a reputation as a hell raiser. I have no idea how much is true and how much is “fishing stories” embellished by time, but I’ve heard he used to like to walk into bars and start trouble just so these rednecks could be surprised at the ass whipping delivered from this 5’7″ lithe man. Back in NJ, he got married a second time to Cathi and had 3 more kids, Kymberlea, Karlea and A.J. He eventually retired early as a Lieutenant, separated from Cathi and moved to Florida to be near his parents.

NJ visit

One of my childhood visits to NJ.

Of my visits to NJ, I remember loving Great Adventure, a Six flags type amusement park. I remember all of us going to a haunted house once, and I got too scared not very far in and a worker had to radio for someone to come escort me back out the entrance while the rest of the family finished going through. I remember a trip to the boardwalk where the smell of the sea air accompanied attempts at carnival games. In one of my earlier visits, I remember a TV with no channel knob where they had to use a pair of pliers to change the channel. I remember a martial arts competition, where for some reason they also had a Garfield mirror for sale that I took home. Donut shops (sometimes stereotypes happen for a reason). I remember at least 3 of their residences and his workout room in his house. I remember him buying me a shoge (a very cool martial arts weapon) that my uncle Jim would later end up breaking. I remember playing my new Duran Duran record on the record player in Kym’s room where I was staying in the spare bed.

Paul was also a musician. In his younger years he played guitar and sang in many bands both in NJ and Texas. In fact, he played with Donnie Wilson who I would later meet in community theatre and jam with in my own youth, and then many years even later than that, I would end up in a band with that we have now been in for over 20 years. In his adulthood he let all his musical pursuits fade away. Then around 2000, a big family reunion was brewing down in Florida so we made plans for me to come visit and see everyone for the first time in far too many years. He asked me to pick out a good acoustic guitar for him and bring it along so he could pick it back up. I brought him a decent Alvarez acoustic and he picked it up like he had never stopped playing. We were jamming Beatles together in no time at all. I don’t think I saw him again until 2009.

Heath and Paul in 2000

Dad sitting on my lap at the 2000 reunion.

We had kept up our periodic phone calls during that time and one day I’m at a band gig back in my hometown of College Station when he calls me to say hi. There’s something suspicious about the conversation which leads me to believe he is here for a surprise visit. This suspicion is confirmed when he slips up and misspeaks about something I can’t remember, but says something about “here” instead of there. I let it pass without calling him on it to not ruin the surprise. Sure enough he makes a surprise appearance at our gig. It’s his first time back in Texas since he left almost 30 years prior. This begins a new renaissance in our relationship. For the next several years, calls and even visits are very frequent. I find it so amusing how alike we are in certain ways despite him never being an active part of my life. It really drives home the effect of genetics. We talk on the phone like friends, not just father and son. Amusingly, I find myself taking the role of wisdom dispenser most of the time. It’s like our roles have flipped. When he would visit, we would play acoustic guitars together, harmonize on Beatle songs (“No Reply” was a favorite), and just hang out. We would walk to Torchy’s tacos which he repeatedly mispronounced “Torky’s.”

Dad at gig.

Dad visiting with me and Donnie Wilson before one of our gigs.

Then there was another summer night in 2009 when after one of my gigs, a woman came up to me and told me that her friend wanted to talk to me but was really nervous. Why? Because apparently my dad was also her dad. I told her there was no reason to be nervous and I spent some time talking to the half sister I didn’t know I had. Apparently her mother had told her about her real dad because I was a local around the same age playing in bands around town and so her mother wanted to make sure that if we ever met, we didn’t start dating or something. The next day, I was filming a short film and started messaging dad to break this news to him. He had known of the possible existence of this daughter but had never known for sure. We all met up and instantly took each other into our respective families. She visited dad in his final days as well.

In 2010, his parents had a joint 80th birthday party. Obasan (what I’d always called hi mother) had requested, half jokingly, that I write her a song. Not just any song, but one where I sing by myself and then people can sing along on the choruses. One night during my visit, I took some (really crappy) cell phone video of Obasan and Dad singing together (videos here and here). During this visit when they were playing some of her favorite music, I learned of two songs in particular that I took note of. Then, because I’m a horrible procrastinator, the day before the big party, I sat down to finally write a song for her detailing her history with my Grandfather. And since that wasn’t enough work on my plate, I also set out to learn these two songs that were among her favorites. I got the lyrics to my freshly composed song to my uncle Marc to put on the overhead projector so people could sing along on the choruses. Here was the result:

We then stumbled through the other two songs I’d learned for her, “Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto, and “Those Were The Days” by Mary Hopkin. All in all, I’d say it went over very well.

Dad with band

I got dad to get up and sing and play a tune or two with my band (Beatles, naturally).

My dad was always one of my biggest fans, sharing my songs, commercials, movies, etc., beaming with pride (as does mom…I’m lucky to have such proud and supportive parents). He would be the first to tell you about the flaws he had, especially as a younger man. He never wanted to bother you with his problems. Which is why our communication was less frequent after he was diagnosed with COPD, a degenerative lung condition. He had always been a very active and fit guy but a lifetime of smoking had irrevocably damaged his lungs and now with COPD, he found himself with no energy and short of breath all the time. When I would call, I could hear how it had sucked the vitality from him, but he just kind of kept to himself and didn’t call much because that was his way when he was less than great. So I’d make sure to check in frequently and I could tell he enjoyed the outlet though he would never initiate it. I did my best to just be a positive light. Once I called and he casually remarked “You know I was in the hospital, right?” No, I had not known he was in the hospital. In his last couple of years with COPD, he wasn’t up for travel any more so the frequent visits had ceased. In the years since I’d seen him, his father had also died.

Disney ears

One of my favorite pictures of us being goofy with Disney mouse ears during a visit to Florida.

This last August, Obasan was preparing for her yearly trip to NJ to visit her other children, Dori and Marc. On a whim, my dad asked if she had room for him and off they went for a family visit. While he was there, he started not feeling well. Thinking it was probably related to the COPD, they took him to the hospital. He was shockingly diagnosed with stage 4 umbilical pancreatic cancer. They explored the options, but pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest survival rates and in his weakened state, chemo wasn’t even an option. It was at this point that it was decided to put him on hospice to make his final weeks as comfortable as possible. Dori and her wife, Laurie had a spare bedroom that had been used when another friend had spent their final days there as well, so I believe it was already fairly well equipped (like an adjustable bed and such). Dori and Laurie are two of the most amazing people on the planet, and took such good care of him, as well as any visiting family, and this despite the fact that Dori is on crutches after foot surgery! Obasan stayed there the whole time as well. In line with my dad’s nature, he chose to keep it pretty low key as he “didn’t want a bunch of drama over it.”

Marc paul and Heath

Me, Dad and Uncle Marc (Dad’s brother) goofing during a visit.

The day after my Grandfather’s funeral (on my mom’s side), I flew up for a 4 day visit to see my dad for what I knew would be the last time. He was frail and bedridden. He had aged more in the last 2 years than in the previous 60. Most of his time was spent sleeping and just trying to be comfortable. Most of my time was spent on the couch in the living room with Dori, Laurie and Obasan. When it was time for his meds every 3 hours, I would go in and say hi and then if he remained awake, I would stay for as long as it seemed feasible just chatting and spending time with him. At night, I’d borrow Dori’s car and head to my hotel 6 miles away just to sleep. It was an odd time, being that we both knew he was basically just waiting to die, but a good one that also had moments of humor and conversation and just good time together.

When I learned of his last minute whim to travel to NJ with Obasan, I asked him “So, do you think maybe you knew something that you didn’t know you knew?”

“Maybe,” he said. I still wonder if something told him to go back to his home turd where he spent most of his life. Obasan also commented on what a blessing it was that it happened there with netter doctors and with Dori, Laurie around and Marc and Kem in driving distance. She thought it would have been much worse in many ways had it happened back in Florida. On my last night there, I sat on the bed beside him watching a baseball game that was still going into the 12th inning. Just like dad.

The next morning, I went back over to wait for my ride to the airport. When it was about 5 minutes away, I went in to say goodbye. It’s a very uniquely strange feeling to say a farewell with such finality. Dad had his eyes closed. I told him I had to go.

He asked “Go where?”

“Back to Texas,” I said.

I’ll never forget that moment when his eyes suddenly filled with an urgency and desperation, realizing I was leaving. though moving was hard for him, he rolled up to hug me and I hugged him back. Tears were shed but always through a smile. I told him that my body may be leaving but that my mind, heart and soul were there with him 24/7.

“As they always have been,” he said. He told me that when he got to the gate, he’d tell them to save a special place for one hell of a guitar player someday. He told me that if I wanted to, I could always go by his place in Florida to see if there was anything I wanted as a keepsake.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, Dad,” I said as I squeezed his hand, a tear rolling down my cheek. “You’re still here now.” I left a glow-in-the-dark alien guitar pick on his night stand. We exchanged “I love you” and I left my father for the last time. As I waited for my plane in the Newark airport, it was actually familiar and I could remember being there with him and Cathi

He held on a lot longer than most thought he would, but it wasn’t much of a life towards the end. At least not one I know he’d want to live, so I knew he was ready to be at peace. Today, I decided to change my Facebook cover photo to a tribute to him. About 20 minutes later, someone inquired how he was doing, and we got the word that he had passed peacefully about 10 minutes previously.

You’ve all probably heard me say it a thousand times by now, but in times like these, I always take great comfort from the scientific Law of Conservation of Energy that states energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only change forms. We are all made, quite literally of stardust, and when our bodies are returned to and recycled by the universe, our energy, including whatever energy makes up our “souls,” or the synapses in our brain or anything else can only change forms. It is not destroyed. Dad and I were very similar spiritually. We tried to concentrate on the positive and would never want to burden anyone. I know he wouldn’t want anyone being sad or devastated by his passing (but would also understand that it’s inevitable to varying degrees).

I always choose to celebrate a life rather than mourn a death, and while many would say 63 is far too young, my father still lived a hell of a life full of love and many wonderful adventures. This is the closest death has ever hit me (I mean I guess you don’t get much closer than the source of half your DNA) but I am at peace, as I am happy that he is as well. Please save any condolences and instead hug your loved ones and celebrate life. Do something that brings a smile to your face and try to bring as many smiles to others as you can. You don’t have to be sorry for my loss, for my heart is full of everything I gained from my father. I hesitate to stop writing this, as I’m sure time will bring a million more things to mind that I wanted to say but for the moment I’ll just say, “until later.”

Golden Slumbers, Dad.

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”
-The Beatles “The End”

Paul and Heath

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