Monday, August 11, 2014

Thanks for the Memories

Heart heavy with the news, I mourn the passing of yet another influence I never met face to face but welcomed into my home on a regular basis, the incomparable Robin Williams.

It's no secret, really, that I have a certain affinity for pop culture, especially surrounding all things on both the big and small screens.  We idolize these performers, these actors, the emotions they stir, the heroes and villains they portray.  They help us bring a fictional, fantasy element to our lives that spurs conversations, debates, addictions and obsessions.

However, the world we live in makes it easy to forget that they are people too.

For me pop culture wasn't just about knowing who was in what, but knowing more about the person - facts that made them just like anyone else, just with the idealistic job of playing pretend for a living.

Robin Williams was born in Chicago on July 21, 1951.  He went to Julliard.  He got his start in 1974 from a bit part in an episode of Happy Days.  He was a fan of both Dr. Who and Star Trek.  He had kids.

He was so much more than Mrs. Doubtfire.

The passing of a celebrity is a mixture of emotions for a number of reasons.

First of all, it's not your loss, it's the true loved ones that will feel the hole left behind the most.

Second, sometimes it is your loss too.

As a public figure, the job description comes with a lack of privacy, both literally and figuratively.  From the characters they play to the rare occasion when they can be themselves, these people open themselves up to be judged, loved and hated.  Their job is to make us feel, and if they've accomplished their goal, not only will they be missed, but they'll be remembered fondly - as a member of the family.

There's a number of greats over the years that have effected me strongly when they passed, and it's because the fictional lives they lived out upon the screen were something ever present in my life.

The first was Lucille Ball.  Despite being only seven, I have the image in my head clear as day: her portrait on the screen, carrot top hair and ruby red lips, with the dates August 6, 1911 -  April 26, 1989.

John Ritter was another biggie for me.  It was six in the morning and I heard it on the radio in the car.  So stunned, I ran a red light.  Shortly after I learned Johnny Cash had died that same day.  September 11, 2003.  It was a sad day all around.

With too many others to mention, to pay honor to, to give mention... with no disrespect, I fast forward to today.  To another person who has for as long as I can remember been a part of my life no longer being here.

I feel the collective loss of a man who could make an audience both laugh and cry in the same breath.  A man who as a child had few friends, and created voices to keep himself company.  A man who battled demons like everyone else, but unfortunately lost the battle.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a generation who had no choice but to know who Robin Williams was, what talent he was capable of and the legacy he had built with every role he played and every stereotype of himself that was defined.

He will always be remembered.

I read something recently that said Robin was once asked by actor James Lipton about what he would like God to say when he arrives in heaven.

Robin answered that "There is a seat in the front," in the concert of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Elvis Presley.

Rock on Robin, I'm sure it's the concert of a lifetime.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Bucket List & The Sublist

My bucket list has grown at an increasing rate the last few years.

In fact, I didn't even have one until a few years ago.

Rest assured, it's not an increasing realization of mortality that brings this about, but the freedom from an anchor holding me down that has made me realize that there IS so much more to aspire to, so much more that it was possible to want, to do, to deserve.

Unfortunately, every time I cross a monumental item off my list, it again is added with a renewed vigor.

The first true instance of this was my trip to New York for a collegiate journalism convention.  It was the opportunity of a lifetime to visit Manhattan, stand in Times Square, to pay my respects at the 9/11 Memorial.  I came home with irreplaceable memories, and a whole slew of things I need to next time I even have the remote opportunity to visit.

This past week I scratched off yet another milestone: Las Vegas.  It was a spectacular experience (with much fodder to write about in the near future, both for this one and my beloved foodie outlet - Accidental Foodies Blog), and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to have had my senses overloaded with the wonder that is Sin City.

While big goals are awesome (and accomplishing them even more awesome), I find myself yearning for some of the little things.  Not necessarily things I have to do before I "kick the bucket," but simply things I want to do, because there's really no reason not to and I have no good excuses as to why these items aren't regular occurrences instead of wistful yearnings.

These aren't resolutions - because no one ever keeps those - and I'm not putting a time limit on any of it, because that feels like I'm dooming myself to failure.  These are... "why the hell not?" items on an ever growing to-do list that I should really pay more attention to.  Categorized simply out of a misguided need to organize my thoughts, here's my preliminary list:


I use this term broadly, a blanket expression with an extraordinary sub-list that highlights things quite often readily available in my immediate area and beyond.  It includes (but is not limited to):

  • Movies - quite honestly, this desire comes from being tired of having the same answer to the question "Have you seen...?"  I used to be a wealth of trivial knowledge regarding movies (seriously - I used to be awesome at the Kevin Bacon Game), but that's tapered for a number of reasons.  Quiz me on 90's trivia and I could likely still rock it, but I'm beginning to realize how that kind of knowledge can date me in every stereotypical way.
  • Concerts - from dive bar house bands to big names on big stages, there is so much I'm missing and experiences I'll regret not having.  While I'm not the biggest fan of crowds, the goosebumps that result from listing to some really good live music can be worth it.
  • Theater - considering I spent three years of high school excelling in technical theater (including an inspiring backstage tour of one of the theaters at Portland Center Stage and clear foreshadowing for my future career as a graphic designer via posters, programs and more), it's sad that I haven't kept up on the promises I made to myself back then - to continue to enjoy the art of live performances.  I used to be the type to check out and read plays from the library - for fun.  Really, what happened to that person?


Yeah, you probably aren't the only one surprised to find this topic on my list so let me elaborate.  I've never been good at sports (my ability to trip over my own feet probably have something to do with this), however I consider myself a stellar spectator.

First and foremost on my list is baseball.  While the details of America's pastime may blur by me in a statistical daze (RBIs, batting average, even the score for that matter), I enjoy sitting in those plastic seats - most memorably within foul ball territory - eating an overpriced hot dog, listening for the umpire's name despite knowing I won't recognize it (my uncle David would have most likely, having gone to umpire school), the telltale crack of a ball being hit out of the park, and rooting for the home team - whether they win or not.

The Angels have and always will be my team, no matter where I call home, but I wouldn't mind checking out what the more local teams have to offer while I root for my beloved team in spirit.

Following baseball would be basketball.  Living in the Portland Metro Area, it is near shameful to admit I have never been to a Blazer game, let alone a basketball game outside of my years in high school.  I've watched plenty of games on television, even had a peripheral emotional attachment to the outcome of particular games, but it's not the same as sitting in the stands hearing the roar of the crowd.

Also on my list believe-it-or-not is football (again, another sport that I haven't seen live since my days of getting into the game free with a student ID card), and hockey (stemming from a long ago wish to see the Anaheim Ducks play at the Arrowhead Pond - which is no longer the Arrowhead Pond).


I get too wrapped up in work, that's no secret, but I've been trying to take strides that will lead me to better enjoy the time spent not working.

For instance, for lunch I've began frequenting the local bar.  It's not alcohol that's the allure, but two other perks: socialization, and forcing myself to enjoy 60 minutes of work-free time that I would have otherwise spent working regardless of whether or not I was getting paid.  Time not staring at a computer screen, not stressing over clients, not obsessing over tasks needing to be done.  Novel concept, isn't it?

It's been an interesting experiment and I'm thinking it's time to expand its parameters.  I hear that (now don't quote me on this), that people go out after work and on weekends.  This is a fascinating phenomenon that merits further exploration on my part, though I fear lack of acceptance by the indigenous creatures will have me scurrying back to the relative security of a computer screen and keyboard.

(I exaggerate for dramatic purposes of course, though the truth probably isn't far off.)

In a lot of ways, I think this "goal" revolves around the urge to share these experiences.  I want to include people in my life who would like to enjoy these things too, mutually motivating and inspiring each other to do these things and more.

Overall, these aren't lofty goals and above all else require little more than motivation (both my own and whatever friends I wrangle into joining me in above mentioned activities) and a realization that it is okay to take a break every once in a while.

I work dang hard for my clients and always go above and beyond what is called for.  I put in more time, energy, consideration, focus, blood, sweat and tears into projects than necessary - because that's just how I work.  I worry about a lot, beyond my job title, beyond by job scope and responsibilities, beyond what is required.  I need to get it into my head that these goals aren't goals - they're rewards for that hard work I take so much pride in.

As my wise boss recently said, "You work hard so now it's time to play hard. Capish!?"

I think I'm finally starting to get it.