Wednesday, March 25, 2015

RIP, Dad

Today is the fifth anniversary of my dad's death. It still feels so fresh. 

I thought it would be nice to tell a positive story about my father. So, here goes...

My father was an infamous workaholic. A sixty hour work week made him feel "lazy." He loved his work, and long periods of inaction were just intolerable to him. His first attempt to retire lasted only a few months, and we were all surprised it last that long.

Given his penchant for work work work, you'd think he'd be miserable on vacation, but nothing could be further from the truth. 

My dad believed that vacations were a necessity, and cited several co-workers over the years who "burned out" from all work and no play. As far as he was concerned, vacations made you a better, happier and more effective employee. 

Dad was at his best when on holiday. He loved to travel, and loved spending money while doing it. His demeanor was completely opposite of the surly, angry man he was most of the year. On vacations, no one was happier and more fun to be around. Give him a week off and a full tank of gas, and we'd be on our way. 

It's no surprise that most of my favorite memories of Dad involved his beloved road trips. I remember seeing Niagra Falls together and how much he enjoyed the guided tour in the caves behind the falls. The camping trips at Jellystone Campground. The swimming trips to Caeser's Creek. The fun of visiting family in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. His favorite table at Grandma's on the rez. The frequent fun days at Dollywood. Trips to swim and find seashells at Hollywood Beach in Florida, his preferred ocean view. His penchant for trying little out-of-the-way local diners for his Southern vacation favorites like biscuits & gravy and liver & onions. Even the car trip was fun, as he would joyfully point out his favorite landmarks and roadside attractions, and the list was very long indeed! 

But my very favorite vacation destination with my father? Walt Disney World in Florida.

My great-aunt, with whom my dad was exceedingly close, lived in a suburb of WDW called Lake Wales. We'd stay on her farm, then head out for the park. All in all, I went to WDW nine times. Not bad for a kid who lived in Ohio!

"Love" is not a strong enough word for how my dad felt about WDW. It was like he turned into a completely different person, and that person was obsessed with Disney. He knew every ride, every hidden secret, all the best food and the best places to get those important souviners. 

His favorite ride was Magic Mountain, and we always started our Disney day with a Mickey ice cream. And no visit was complete without a photo with the Mouse himself.

Once, we were on It's a Small World and my little sister lost her Minnie Mouse ring in the water. He didn't think twice, he just reached in and grabbed it back. For some reason, that memory is very strong.

The very best of those nine visits was a special occasion indeed: Donald Duck's birthday. His 50th, if memory serves. We got to stay in the park late and see a special fireworks display and have cake. It was so very much fun! 

I remember my dad putting me up on his shoulders and telling me that this was no ordinary Disney day. It was a special occasion I would always remember, and it was important to him to bring us there to share it all together. 

One of the reasons why it was so memorable, was because my dad did only one impression, and did it spot-on guessed it: Donald Duck.

Thanks to him, I am a Disney parks fanatic myself. I read websites, have Pinterest boards and follow YouTubers like Fresh Baked Disney. And I think one of the reasons I've grown to love Disneyland over Disney World is that I know the latter will never be as fun as it was with my father. 

And yet, Disneyland brings back some of those same wonderful memories and feelings that I had with my dad so many years ago in the Magic Kingdom. I hope to take my kids to WDW someday, and see it through the eyes of a parent, as my dad must assuredly did. 

This year we'll be visiting Disneyland during their Diamond Anniversary. A special occasion we'll never forget, one I know I will be glad to share with my family. 

Just like my father would have wanted. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Happy Birthday, William Shatner!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Flu is Back

My whole family has the flu. Fortunately, it's more of a chest ailment than a stomach bug, for which I am most grateful.

I will now return to my previous program of resting, coughing & watching "The Plague" on the History Channel... 

Friday, February 27, 2015

RIP, Leonard Nimoy

I am a second-generation Trekker, and happily raised a third. As such, there's a huge amount of admiration and gratitude I feel for Mr. Spock, and the actor who played him so very well.

Today, Leonard Nimoy lost his fight with COPD. We lost the man who made us all fall in love, quite illogically, with a character incapable of loving us back. 

I met Leonard Nimoy in the late 90's. I was working as a bar manager in an international airport, and one day I turned around...and Leonard Nimoy was at the bar.

As I served him some food, I told him how much I'd enjoyed a recent television documentary on the Roman catacombs that he had narrated. He smiled. There was something about seeing a man who forged a career out of acting without emotion break into a radiant smile. I Will always remember that.

And yes, he was a good tipper. I kept a small coin he gave me. I still have it. 

But Leonard Nimoy was more than Spock. Much more.

He was a gifted actor of stage, film and small screen. IMDb lists 134 acting credits to his name. He was an in-demand guest star who appeared on "The Big Bang Theory," "Becker," "Dragnet," "Perry Mason" and "Fringe," among many others.

In addition to "Star Trek," he starred in three other series: "Mission: Impossible," "Ancient Mysteries," and the cult classic, "In Search Of."

He was a gifted photographer as well.

My favorite of his photography projects featured a wide variety ages and body types, focusing on the beauty of all women. 

He was a writer, though something of a contradictory one; his two biographies are "I Am Not Spock" and...

..."I Am Spock."

Nimoy's writing wasn't solely autobiographical. He was also a gifted poet with several published works.

And he even wrote comic books!

He was a prolific musician, with a number of albums to his credit.

His song based on "The Hobbit," titled "The Ballad of Biblo Baggins," is a perennial favorite of Dr. Demento and his many fans. 

His distinctive voice was put to use in more than just records. In his long career, he did voice overs for a number of different documentaries and cartoons. It started with Spock on "Star Trek: The Animated Series."

His many voiceover credits include "The Simpsons," "Transformers" and "Futurama."

He was an intellectual, who was comfortable discussing literature, current events and his interest in history. He had a thirst for knowledge, and his joy in finding it was palpable...and contagious.

He was Jewish (and mentioned in Adam Sandler's "Hannukah Song"), and a marvelous scholar of Judaism. My favorite interview of his came via his co-star and longtime friend William Shatner. 

During that interview on Shatner's show, "Raw Nerve," Nimoy spoke of how his famous "Vulcan Salute" has its roots in Judaic tradition.

Nimoy spoke Yiddish, and has worked with others to encourage the teaching and preserving of the language.

Nimoy found success both in front of and behind the camera. He sat at the helm of the best of the "Star Trek" films, including the only such movie whose title included one of the Enterprise's crew: "The Search for Spock."

Spock was the first major Trek character to die, but the fans weren't ready to let him go. A feeling which we are, today, acutely aware of once again.

He had a marvelous sense of humor, and never seemed to take himself too seriously. 

You'd see this in his guest roles, in his interviews, in convention Q&A's. There's no shortage of photos of his wide smile... 

...nor shortage of proof of his lovely laugh, never in short supply.

He was a family man, who professed that one of the greatest difficulties in his life was having to tell his parents that his first marriage had failed. It had been many years in the past when he spoke of this chapter of his life on "Raw Nerve," but the pain of it was still visible on his familiar face. 

Although at times the legacy of Spock was a thorny one to carry, he carried it well and treated his fans with the greatest of care and respect.

Never was that level of caring for his fans more evident than in a 1968 magazine article, "Teenage Outcast," where Nimoy advised a young lady on how to respond to prejudice (it can be read here:

His advice to his this young lady, and indeed to all his fans was to be true to who you are...

...and to cherish the people who love you for it.

He was proud to be part of Gene Roddenberry's vision. 

He was proud to represent the countless fans who saw the potential of the future "Star Trek" painted so very vividly. A future where the sky is no longer the limit, and where every now and again, the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many or the few.

Spock would say that was illogical. But I think Leonard Nimoy would break into that smile, like the one directed at a young bartender who'd come face-to-face with a legend of science fiction.

He lived long and prospered. And in true Spock fashion, that long and prosperous life was indeed...fascinating.

RIP, Leonard Nimoy.