I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot this week. One memory in particular. It was the late 1980s and I was still a college student. We were at the Burger King in Arrowhead Plaza, in Jonesboro. We had already eaten and were heading back out to the car when we spotted a strange looking truck parked off to the side of the restaurant facing toward highway 19/41.
The truck looked like it was covered with scaffolding – interconnected pipe rails ran from the front of the truck to the back, and the bed resembled a set of risers stepping down to the ground the further back it went. It looked crazy.
This past Saturday morning we met down near Forsyth, Georgia, to celebrate the life of JL Parker, who passed on September 27th, 2017. I have written down my memories of the funeral services for those who could not be there, and for posterity.
An Unexpected Surprise
As I exited the highway I noticed that my car’s low fuel indicator had come on during the drive down to the funeral. I couldn’t help but think back to a time when JL’s crew had kindly filled my tank on one of those occasions when I was young and dumb and had coasted on fumes to set.
As I coasted down the final quarter mile to the church on Saturday I was surprised to see a big tractor trailer rig emblazoned with the TEAMSTERS logo. It was an impressive honor from the union that JL had belonged to for so much of his career in the motion picture industry.
Yesterday morning I was finally compelled to begin cleaning out dad’s office.
A year ago this would have been impossible, as that room reverberated with his passage through life. Every single item inside was something that he had touched and considered. I could feel his presence there. In that room he was still alive, so the door remained closed and the contents undisturbed.
I sometimes go to walk in the cemetery, and I always end those walks at his grave. I study the headstone and the flowers, and while I know his mortal remains lie below my feet I do not feel close to him in that place.
In Hamlet, Polonius’ final bit of advice to his son is “To thine own self be true”.
For me that advice has meant learning to see the world and the things and the people in it without self-deception and to keep the ones that will provide true happiness.
It had been more than six months since I had last ventured into dad’s office, and when I opened the door I could tell that things had changed. It was the same room, with the same smells and the same items, but I could finally separate the treasures from the trash.
On the way to lunch last Tuesday my friend Linda Simon made a passing reference to Chick-fil-a discontinuing their coleslaw, which seemed a rather odd thing to say since the very idea seemed preposterous. Since Linda is not generally known as a merry prankster I simply turned to her and shouted as loud as I could “WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY’RE DISCONTINUING THEIR COLESLAW????”.
In the early hours of Saturday morning word went out that our friend Tate Nichols had passed away in North Georgia, and my condolences go out to all of his loved ones. For those of us who have not seen Tate in recent years the news of his death has been a shock. In the “old school” Atlanta film circle it has been felt most keenly, especially by my friends in the art department, many of whom have worked side by side with Tate for Continue reading Remembering Tate Nichols
Dolly grip Tripp Pair has been handing out little stickers that say “Stop and Care” for several years now, and he’s been so very earnest about it. He has meant it with every fiber of his being and I saw him sharing #stopandcare on Facebook again this morning and was moved to write about something that’s been on my mind.
This past Thursday a young woman named Sarah Jones, a member of our local film community, died on the set of a movie shooting in south Georgia. She was hit by a train. We all hold the strong suspicion that she died due to some very bad decisions made by the people producing the film, but that suspicion has not been confirmed by criminal investigators (not yet, anyway). While the final assignment of blame is still under investigation, Atlanta crews have been mourning the loss of their friend and of a bright young woman whose lifetime of cinematic adventure ended far too soon.
I made the accompanying USA Today style illustration to show the location of my scars without grossing anyone out, and to tell the story of how I decided to let a surgeon and his robot use tiny little surgical tools inside of my body.
In the fall of 2008 I went to my new primary care doctor for a physical. My PSA levels were high so we ran a round of antibiotics to see if it was an infection of some sort. After two weeks we re-tested and the levels were just as high so I went to see a urologist, who suggested that everything pointed toward the need for a biopsy. I opted to wait until after the holidays.
On January 27th of 2009 I went into the hospital for a surgical biopsy. Three days later the doctor was on the phone telling me that I had prostate cancer. Somehow I knew that I was going to get that call, but it still shocked me to my core. On the way home that night I called an old friend to tell him the news, still trying to make sense of it myself. Later, I wrote a letter to a friend living out of state as I didn’t want to Continue reading Scars from The Cancer Grenade
With her passing at age 86, Bea Arthur, star of “Maude” and “The Golden Girls” is once again in the news. As a child I always found Bea Arthur rather frightening and didn’t appreciate her comedic gifts until many years later when Golden Girls re-invigorated her career.
Looking back to those early years I now realize that it wasn’t her smart, assertive personality that bothered me so much as it was her androgyny… my brain just couldn’t accept a woman who had a gravelly voice, wore polyester pants suits, or those long vest thingys that start with the letter “k” (which partially explains my distaste for Hillary Clinton).
But not everyone was put off by Bea Arthur. In fact, our friend Geoffrey Brown had quite a hit on his hands on the coffee shop circuit a few years ago with his tribute song to Bea Arthur entitled “Bea Arthur” (aka, “I Want to Be Bea Arthur”). Won’t you have a listen?
It has become tradition for my family to spend Thanksgiving with the family of my mother’s sister and her husband and this year was no different. Tired parade floats and badly synched singers vied for screentime as we prepared for the trip southward. Per tradition we left left the house late and fussy. Traffic was relatively light and in thirty minutes we were in sight of the pastures (my aunt and uncle have cows). As we approached the western edge of the property we spotted my uncle doing something with the old red barn set behind the barbed wire fence, less than thirty feet from the road. What he was doing was staring. Someone had crashed into the barn and the remains of the eastern corner of the building were strewn across pastureland as though a tornado had been through. Continue reading Thanksgiving Tragedy
This past week word went up around Atlanta that Scott Stephens passed away unexpectedly at home. Scott was among that group of people who, in the 1980’s, helped forge the professional film and commercial community that exists in Atlanta today and was one of the earliest members of the IATSE Local 479, the Atlanta chapter of a professional union for motion picture technicians. Scott worked between Atlanta and Los Angeles as a Propmaster on feature films and television series, but his heart always led him back to the South. Ironically, his heart would occasionally fell him in the height of battle – Scott had heart disease. Everyone who knows Scott has heard some version of the story of how he had a heart attack while on the set of “Dances With Wolves”. That had to be a great story for Scott to break out at wrap parties as film crews are always trying to top each other with the weird and wild things they’ve witnessed on set. Continue reading Scott Stephens’ Passing