Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Umbrella Laws

Something that I’ve been running up against for the past thirty one years, beginning at a time when I started hunting down my own personal information, is the fact that laws that are made are often created in a way that tried to fit all circumstances under one umbrella.

I was an adopted child, and through no small feat was I able to find a sibling completely on my own without any help from the County of Los Angeles or the State of California.  I have also been able to find other documents and notes about my own adoption, no thanks to any county or state governmental agencies.

But what has been frustrating for me is that since I have a special situation (as I’m sure there are many people with varying degrees of situations that deviated from the norm), the laws of the county and of the state do not fit well or nearly at all with circumstances of my adoption. 

I lived with my father until the age of five years, when he passed away.  Also, I had contact with my natural mother until about 2006.  The problem is that whenever I have requested any sort of documents or summaries from the county or the state, they refuse to give me anything.  For instance, I would like to read notes about my own social worker history and find out how my case came to the attention of the DPSS.

And, to be more specific, the reason that I want to see any and all DPSS and adoption reports is that, though I know most of the facts, within the various social workers' notes from home visits and events that they had to arrange regarding my case, there is a built in narrative of the events that neither a simply summary, nor a knowledge of names and dates can describe without reading the full DPSS notes.  It is that narrative of events that interests me the most. 

However, the laws of the state regarding adoptions are written with the mind that the biological parents and the adoptive parents must be protected at all costs.  And when they read requests from me asking that they simply scan the DPSS records and then blacken out what they don’t’ want me to see in the way of names or specific locations, they still say no because it all falls under the umbrella of adoption related files.

Now...I am a fifty-year old man who knows who my parents were, where we lived, and almost everything about the circumstances of my adoption.  Both of my biological parents are dead, and both of my adoptive parents are dead.  I believe strongly that there should be more latitude on the judges’ decision making as to what needs to be help private that far back in the past.  Yet, the law states that since all of my parents are dead (particularly my biological parents), neither of them can sign any right to waiver of information.

That’s just not fair when I can provide proof that I know most of my own history.  And again, I’m a grown man for goodness sake.  Those umbrella laws should have a time limit or be open to more leniency as to information that can finally be provided after a long time.  The truth is that neither my biological mother or father, nor my adoptive mother or father, would have any problem with my getting a hold of my own DPSS files from Los Angeles County.  They just wouldn't care if they were alive.

It’s time for at least my own state of California to allow for questions to be answered and documents to be provided after a certain time limit, or once an adoptee can show that they have a special (non-medically related) circumstance in which the general state and county laws don’t apply well to it.  

I can tell you that it is frustrating to know that some county or state worker can order a case file from archives if they needed to, and that some other worker can walk down an aisle of case file racks, pick up my documents and read them (to create a summary or what naught), and yet I, a fifty-year old adult, can’t read my own documents.  That is completely unfair, and that’s an inflexible and not well thought out (read, fucked up) system! 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Good Stock

Roy Conli, Don Hall, and Chris Williams

Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, and Peter Del Vecho

I'm happy to write that four people who I have worked with in the past at the Walt Disney Company have won Academy Awards in the past two years.  This year, it was Chris Williams and Roy Conli for, "Big Hero 6," and last year it was Chris Buck, Peter Del Vecho for, "Frozen." 

These guys are genuinely great, hard working people who would buy you lunch in an instant if you were out of cash, or gas, or whatever, and are great fun to be around.  It's always a good feeling to know that those who are being recognized are really good souls in their day to day lives.  I couldn't be happier for all of them.

Also pictured are Don Hall and Jennifer Lee who I haven't worked with, but are obviously masters at what they do...congratulations to them as well!. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rain Song

"It is the springtime of my loving. The second season I am to know."

It has been raining a bit here this weekend in Los Angeles, and the wet weather sometimes makes me think of a live performance version of a tune by Led Zeppelin, "Rain Song." 

"It isn't hard to feel me glowing.  I watched the fire that grew so low."


When the asphalt gets wet and blacker, and thick water droplets hang from plants that seem to have a deeper green than normal…

"These are the seasons of emotion.  And like the wind, they rise and fall."


And throughout the song, they appeal to our senses to help us understand that life and relationships are not one even ride; that everyone experiences their storms of sorts.

“And this is the mystery of the quotient. Upon us all, just a little rain must fall…just a little rain.  All, I know."


I can hear sway of Jimmy Page’s guitar as the cold, humid breeze moves the shrubs and trees to and fro.  Then, Page's arpeggios resolve into one final blast of sound from the band as Robert Plant lands on his final emphatic note, "Awwwwwwwwwwwww!"

John Paul Jones' Hammond organ settles into home, and John Bonham hits every kettle drum like a timpanic symphony.

Beautiful emotions. Beautiful song.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Eva's Goodbye

Last night, Brenda's Gramma Eva passed away.  She had been fighting pneumonia for the past few months off and on, and this very hardy woman, a product of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, said goodbye on this Thanksgiving night, November 27, 2014. 

The last time I saw her was just a few days ago at the hospital she was in.  Brenda's aunt had driven up to Tulare and picked up another aunt to bring her down to see her.  We all met first at Brenda's mother's house, currently vacant since Brenda's mother, Letha, is still in the hospital.  We then proceeded to take the visiting aunt, along with Brenda's step-father, to the hospital to see Gramma Eva.  When we arrived, there were lots of people in the room.  I stroked Eva's hand and told her that I loved her and that I missed her being at home with her family. 

She then did something that was so, "Eva."  The room somehow got into a discussion about how someone would arrive or get home or the like, and I, still close in proximity to Eva, saw her lift her tired head, crane her neck to each side of the room's visitors, and ask,"What is everyone talking about now?"  Eva always wanted to know what was going on around her and had to know the latest bit of news all the time.  I swear, if it was humanly possible for a person to live forever, Eva would have been the first to do it.  I will miss her greatly.  And so will Brenda and her family.  Brenda had a very special relationship with her Gramma Eva; something I wrote about here a few years ago in, "The Gramma Phenomenon." 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tender Moments

We had literally just stepped into the parking lot from the lovely wedding of my cousin’s daughter we were attending in San Diego, a night of good food, dancing and great cheer, when all hell broke loose.

It was 9:25pm, and I unlocked the doors of my Jeep with my remote and Brenda and I sat down and turned on our phones.  Just then, a call came in from her oldest brother’s girlfriend.  “Letha is being rushed to the hospital.  They think she had a massive heart attack.”  I could tell by the way that Brenda hesitated for a second, and then said, “No,” softly because the breath had been punched right out of her that something was very wrong.  Letha is Brenda's mother.  She is the closest person on this earth to Brenda.  Brenda takes care of her daily through phone calls and monthly in person. Then, after another hesitation of hearing a bit more from the girlfriend on the phone, Brenda repeated to me what she had just been told.  My heart sank.  We just went from one of the most joyous occasions that a person can experience to complete horror. 

At this moment, they were taking her mother out of her home and onto an ambulance with her older brother inside as well.  Letha lives in a rural area about a half hour north of Bakersfield, and getting her to the hospital as soon as possible was vital. The girlfriend would follow them to the hospital.  Brenda finished up the quick conversation with her brother’s girlfriend, which included some additional information about how the girlfriend had found Letha, incoherent and lips blue, half way off of her bed, and had called 911 and administered CPR per the emergency operator.  At that point in reviewing the account Brenda, the girlfriend had to hang up with Brenda since they were involved in the complete chaos of getting the mother on the move. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Californian Misadventures of Fran and Shaley

I met them many years ago and it’s been a very long time since I have seen them, so please accept my apologies in advance for my memories being somewhat splotchy. It was around 1999 when they moved into my apartment complex.  I saw a slender five-foot, one-inch, red haired woman carrying a box in, then a blonde girl of the same or slimmer proportions hauling some stuff past me.  They were both attractive with high cheekbones and a polite, folksy manner.  Fran, it would turn out, was a year older than me, and Shaley at this time was fifteen, just about to turn sixteen.

When the second one, the blonde one, passed by my door, I said hello.  I was always a bit hesitant with new people in the building, but they both appeared fun and energetic.  There were a couple of steps up from the pool and common walkway area to the hallway in front of my apartment, and their apartment, it would turn out, was inside the building from mine.  So it was impossible for us not to have crossed paths rather quickly after their arrival.  I thought to myself that I hoped they were moving into the vacant unit near me, and then, with their new door wide open I verified that they were indeed.  I wanted good folks on my end of the hallway. Their three-bedroom unit sat on the corner facing the park, while mine faced the pool on the inside of the complex.  I was paying nine-hundred fifty dollars per month at that time for my one-bedroom, and I knew that their unit went for one thousand seven hundred fifty dollars per month.  Did two women need all of that space?  Maybe they had a lot of clothes and shoes.  Maybe they liked to shop a lot and needed the extra storage.

The next time I saw them was when I was walking into the front gate from a jog I had done, and I noticed them with their small red SUV hatchback open and loading groceries into their apartment bucket-brigade style; Fran, pulling the bags from the vehicle, and Shaley, standing on the balcony, reaching down as far as she could to ground level with all of her might to carry the filled barrel sized paper bags up and into their apartment.  They both seemed to be at their extreme capacity in completing this task, rushing as if some timer would go off and their sliding glass doors would shut permanently. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Casey's Tavern

It’s been a long time since I came to see him play.  He gets together with a bunch of guys every Thursday evening at the same place, still, after all of these years.  The last time I saw him, he was playing piano at the Bel Air Hotel, where my parents, Brenda and I had a nice dinner and watched him run through all of the standards with his Louisiana style of playing.  Lloyd Hebert is from Baton Rouge, and he has a slightly hard-hitting, sometimes brash attack in the keys.  His voice is precisely the same; a hard Louisiana accent with a kind of aggressive cadence.  I am always expecting him to talk about catching shrimp or motoring through the bayou.  Yet, in his melodic piano playing, he has all color hues and subtlety of a watercolor painting.  He passes through and even makes an issue at times of major 7th notes in his playing, which gives his improvisations a layer of melancholy.  I’ve always loved that.  It speaks to me. 

I first met Lloyd at U.S.C.  I had studied piano with different teachers outside of the school intermittently, and now back in the U.S.C. dorms, one of my dorm mates, who seemed to always be attached to a small Casio type keyboard he was carrying with him, did a little jazz-blues run in front of me.  I asked him to do it again. When he did, I told him to please reveal to me where he had learned this. 

“I’m taking a Jazz Performance Piano course here for a couple of extra credits.”  I asked, “You’re not in the School of Music here, so anyone can take this?”  “Yeah, I believe so,” he answered.

The very next day I went down to the music school asking how I could add on this music performance course.  It ended up being an easy addition and I arrived at my first music lesson with the then head of the jazz piano division of the music school.  Lloyd introduced himself to me and immediately asked me to sit down at his piano and play a little for me. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Minding the Gap

I’m always perplexed at how some people get to know movie stars and other forms of celebrities with ease.  I’ve never had the schmoozing gene in my body, so that kind of thing doesn’t easily fall into my lap, though I can flash a great smile.  I see my share of well-knows around town since I live in the Los Angeles area.  But now and again, I’ll hear from someone that they met and spoke at length with a star at a party or event, and somehow it comes so easy to them.  I think that as much as I hate to admit it, even though I grew up in Studio City (or maybe because of it), I am a star struck guy, and I still get a little nervous around well known people.  That frame of mind puts a distance, a sort of emotional gap, between myself and someone who has been on television, or in a movie, or in the media for some reason.  They’re not just a normal person to me. 

And I think I have a point there.  They are really not normal.  They are outstanding in some way, or I wouldn’t be familiar with them.  They got to their position or status through a lot of hard work, self-determination, confidence and some luck, and I’m always impressed with people who get themselves through years of fire like that.

I was recently talking with a woman who had stayed with a man who was the head of a huge industrial company.  I won’t name his name, but the person is very well known in our society.  It knocked my socks off when she told me this.  And this woman became friends with him, traveled with him, even lived with him, and to her, it’s just like another person who had a lot of responsibility in his life at one time and was noteworthy for sure, but it wasn’t such a big deal to her.  And yet it amazed me that she even knew him at all. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Growing An Album


One of the most spectacular feelings I’ve ever experienced happened while I was working at the Walt Disney Company in Feature Animation when I created a polished demo CD of music that I had written.

About ten years earlier, while I was living at any number of beaches in Southern California, I had been actively writing songs.  It actually started much earlier during my junior year in high school.  As many kids of my generation had discovered, I had found that by doubling up on recording equipment, audio or video, I could edit pieces of things together.  This included hopping from one VHS tape for video to another, and also worked with using two audio tape decks.  The editing was a bit clumsy and there would remain artifacts of all sorts; rainbow streaks on video taped edits, and unsmooth transitions of audio cuts.  Oh, where was Apple’s GarageBand at the time?

My Casio Keyboard
With some more experimenting, I began to see that I could also overlay my voice using an input microphone while copying an audiotape from one machine to the next.  Pretty quickly I began to use this process to the maximum by playing an instrument, my cheap little Casio Keyboard or a guitar that I would painfully teach myself the few necessary chords to embellish a song, and I would sing at the same time while copying whatever I had already pre-taped to a second audio cassette recorder.  This process was far from optimal as during the copying of cassette tapes, there was an audible hiss, which would grow louder with every transfer.  So implementing three transfers (three overlays) was about the most that I could do without the hiss becoming unbearable.  I continued to create these recordings while either covering songs or writing my own short songs.  Because of their poor quality, I threw them out long ago. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Wormhole to Arizona - A Place of Pain


I had a strange thing happen a long time ago when a girlfriend who I had been living with for three years, up and moved out on me literally without any warning.  It was very odd, and several of my family members, who had already seen some questionable behavior from her in their presence, reacted with words to me such as, "That's a very uncommon thing for a woman to do.  Usually women like to talk things out when they have issues. It was likely one facet of a woman who was already very impulsive and who had little sense of introspection."  I don't have too many negative feelings towards her anymore, other than that she had trashed me to her own family, and her friends, some of which we had shared, and also that she had begun to see someone while she was still with me.  She shouldn't have done any of that.  Because of her own complicated childhood, I think that she was destined to gravely mishandle the way in which she separated from her relationship with me, and that she was also destined (at that time at least) never to have taken a long, hard, look at herself and how she interacted with the world.  Hopefully, that either has, or will change for her.  But that's all water under the bridge now.

With all of this in the past, one aspect of the experience remains poignant to me.  It was that when this was all happening (about the fall of 1993), it was extremely painful for me.  This caused me to go into a really strange place in my head, which will be difficult to describe here since I haven't completely made sense of it even to this day. 

I am not and have never abused chemical substances in my life.  The most I have ever experimented with was pot when I was fifteen, and that was only because I had a couple of friends who smoked it now and then, so I gave it a try a couple of times.  Two friends and I also took mushrooms at Disneyland once during our time at university, which was pretty interesting.  We chalked it up as a perceptual experiment.  I have pride in myself about my lack of interest in chemical substances because I had a biological father who drank excessively, so one might expect that I might have had an inclination to have either experimented with or have leaned on substances.  But I never have had the desire to mute my own pain at all.  I have always felt that surviving through pain directly strengthens me.  Having been adopted by a mother who was a child development specialist may have helped in this regard, as I was mostly open to my own feelings throughout my life.  I wasn't perfect with handling them, but that expressive channel was always there in myself.   

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Home Drive By - Some Self Soothing

Since my parents died and their house was sold by their trustees, I've had moments where I have driven up their street as if to verify, this was my home.  It's a slight compulsion, and not one that happens all the time.  But since their death, just two and a half years apart from each other, I've done just that five or six times; maybe more.  

Just a couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend was out of town and I felt a little bit alone.  With her absence, there was a vacuum and I started thinking about my former life with my parents, which doesn't seem all that long ago, but in retrospect, was eight, ten, twelve years in the past.  My memories of my mom planting bulbs in the front yard flower beds, and of my dad sitting at the family room table, carving out a slab or grapefruit while watching a baseball or football game, are based during a time during which they were still healthy.  It was before the period when they were diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer's disease.  And I realize that these memories I have a from further back than my emotions would lead me to believe. 

And so just recently, after getting myself some dinner, I had one of those inklings to drive over to my old neighborhood.  It was about 8:30pm when I parked my Jeep just down the street from our old house and got out to feel and smell my old street.  Most of the same houses are there from when I grew up, but many have been extended upwards, backwards or both, to increase their square footage, and many yards have had a fair amount of light-scaping added to them for evening ambiance. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dennis Wolfberg - A Legend in My Book


Sometime in about 1990, when I was still living at the Sea Castle in Santa Monica, I invited my girlfriend, and about five other friends out for the evening.  We all had dinner in West L.A., and then I didn't really have a plan after that.  We finished our food and were ready to head onto some other activity when I remembered that not far from the restaurant was a small comedy club at 11637 Tennessee Place, West Los Angeles.  It was called, IGBY's Comedy Cabaret, and was a 190 seat capacity club with small tables and chairs. 

When we arrived at the club to investigate who was on that night, Dennis Wolfberg was scheduled to perform.  I had seen him a few times on television and remembered that his observational type of comedy was very funny.  I remember thinking that it was an off night, such as maybe a Wednesday or a Thursday evening,  and that the club was a little out of the way too, being just off of Pico Boulevard near Barrington, just west of the 405 freeway.  So I was surprised that we would get to see Wolfberg so spontaneously. When we sat down, we were in about the second row of tables, and the place eventually became about three-quarters full. 

And after a warm up by Robert Lee, Dennis Wolfberg came out and did a routine about his wife's pregnancy and child's birth that made the group of us curl up fetally with laughter.  He had so finely honed his craft that when one listened to his show, one literally hung on every word that he said.  He had a way with emphasizing his speaking with a volume and clarity that reminded me of a well enunciated professor.  In addition, he would bulge his face as he accentuated his story elements.  His routines were a tapestry of brilliant writing and stage acting. 

I would later see him performing this same routine on the Tonight Show and on other television programs, so maybe our audience was part of the final testing ground for him before releasing this routine to the world.  I think that had he not passed away shortly after our encounter with him, he would have been one of the better known stand up's (make that legendary) in entertainment history.  Wolfberg was just that gifted. 

The Effect of a Fourth

The 4th of July holiday always brings back to me a memory of one 4th when I was on a bus, from Los Angeles to Phoenix, Arizona, during my search for my sister.  The reason for this specific trip was that I had just found the mother of the man and woman who had stood in as God parents for my sister at her baptism.  As I did all things in those days (around 1984), as soon as I had acquired the information about these people, I was on a Greyhound Bus as soon as possible to get over to her and meet her. 

During this outbound portion of the trip, I left on a mid day bus, so that by the time the bus got into Arizona, it was getting around 9:00pm, and being that it was the 4th of July, fireworks shows began to appear in the dimly lit skies from different parts of the city.  I recall one parking lot near a recreational field that the bus had to either drive through or near where there were a lot of youngsters tailgating with drinks and coolers and watching the fireworks.  I was sitting on the left side of the bus and I looked out of my window, separated from the activity and sound by my window, and I saw such excitement and pleasure on their faces.  I could see that there were groups of friends and families, being with each other for the spectacular show that was occurring. 

Because of the direction that my bus was going, and because the window tops were rather low on my bus, I could not see the actual fireworks, the source of which were above the roof of the Greyhound bus and about ten-o-clock above my left shoulder.  My view was of lights and colors changing and illuminating the vehicles and faces of those watching in the parking lot.  Teens and kids waved sparklers as the fireworks exploded above them while their moms and dads chatted and laughed.  This scene made an impression on me.

Though I had been to many fireworks shows with my own family and friends, somehow being separated from it all and witnessing the reverie that these folks were exuding made me feel how special these times of gatherings are; a 4th of July, a Christmas, a New Years.  When one is distanced from it all, as through a thick pane of observational glass in some scientific setting, it becomes even clearer that we as humans are so capable of intense pleasure and bonding, and that on the balance, we seek these moments for connection with ourselves.  It's nice to see so many happy people all at once.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Memorial for Marilyn

This past Friday was the memorial service for the matriarch of one of my favorite families.  She left behind three children, who I love, and three grandchildren.  Here are some words that I wrote, and which I spoke during the service:

Hello.  My name is Fred Herrman, and I was Trish’s high school boyfriend.  Trish and I met during our tenth grade year, though I had already noticed her in middle school wearing her government sash at a lunchtime assembly, but that’s another story.  Pretty soon after we got to know each other, she invited me over to her house to meet her parents, Marilyn and Dugan.  Being that this was my first-ever real girlfriend, I didn’t know what to expect from my new sweetheart’s parents.

I wondered to myself, would her parents like me?  Would they be critical of this guy who was dating their youngest daughter?  Would I know how to behave around them? 

And then I met them.  Marilyn and Dugan were very kind to me and made me feel comfortable right away.  As I remember it, pretty much as soon as I walked into the house, Marilyn, who had stationed herself in the Varna house kitchen, offered me a little snack, along with some lemonade.

As time progressed, I found out that these two people were very generous and welcoming and took a genuine interest in me, and I noticed that they were like this with all of Trish’s friends.  These were good people.  And as more time went on, I was invited to beautiful Bass Lake for summer vacations and was made to feel a part of the family.  And there were occasional Jackman family arguments that I witnessed too.  “Wow! They even feel comfortable enough to argue around me? Good!  They’re a crazy Jewish family just like mine! Now I really feel at home!” 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Dixie Chicks - Hits That Will Never Be



My girlfriend and I play a game I made up one time when I was channel surfing our cable system.  Toward the high channel portion of our cable service, we have a load of strictly music channels.  They show different photos and facts from whichever band they are playing a song at that moment, and one night I told her to close her eyes as I moved from country channel to country channel and identify the songs she heard.  The channels range from current country, to pop country to 90’s country to classic country.  So, pretty much all of the artist are represented in the batch, save folk and bluegrass music. 

In short order, this became a competition between us.  We now both close our eyes and use our music recognition skills to recognize and call out the song before the other.  See, she grew up out in the country surrounded by country music, and I grew up in Studio City on ‘70’s and 80’s rock and roll.  So one would think that she would beat me at this game all the time.  But in the years since 1997, when I discovered how much I liked country music, I have brushed up on my listening repertoire, and so I win a lot of these games.  But we’re actually pretty even when all is said and done because there is some deep country stuff that she knows from her mom and her gramma’s years of listening that I just don’t have the reserve of knowledge for.

So last night, after we had watched a few of our DVR’d shows, before we turned off the T.V., I said, “Hey, let’s try a few,” and I went to those upper country music channels.  I think the first one was a Tim McGraw tune, then a Dolly Parton tune, then a Clint Black with Lisa Hartman tune.  We probably did about ten or twelve of them when I hit one of the channels that was beginning a song with a familiar arpeggio acoustic guitar.  Right away I recognized it as, “Cowboy Take Me Away,” by the Dixie Chicks and called it out before my girlfriend did.  “Ha! Won that one!” We both laughed, and yet, simultaneously my heart panged with sadness as it often does when I hear a Dixie Chicks tune.  I enjoy hearing their songs so much, but for the last ten years, I’ve always felt a mixture of enjoyment and sadness with their music. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Veil of Unreasonableness


 "Dreams" by Whisperfall

What's strange about dreams is the veil of unreasonableness that drifts in like a low lying fog.  I am speaking of those types of dreams resulting in the feeling that one has completely forgotten one's responsibility for something.  Mine often involved the idea that I am at U.S.C., have gone almost a full semester without, not only studying for a certain number of classes on my schedule, but not even having kept track of which classes I was still registered in.

The way this specific dream works is that I realize at some point, usually walking around campus, that, though I had gone to all of my scheduled classes maybe once or twice in the beginning of the semester, I have subsequently since skipped most of them and have several books and papers I should have read by now, and that the class is so far ahead of me by now that it's not even possible for me to catch up.  Not only that, but that during this lapse of time, I have squandered the weeks and months away, distracted by some other activities (not usually specified in the dream), and have only come to admit to myself that there are a whole series of lectures that I have neglected.

The thing about this, and why this anxiety dream is the perfect concoction for me, is that throughout my entire high school and university career, I seriously missed about five days total in those eight years, and most of them in high school due to my parents' insistence that I go with them to a family event or for some other reason.  I will add here that during my whole twelve years at Disney and two years at Dreamworks combined, I had taken two sick days and very few vacations.  My final check payoffs when I left the studios were great as a result.  The point is that I pretty much never missed work, never missed school, never missed a class period, and most certainly would never have lost the sense of my class schedule.  It just would never have happened with me.  And I never understood other kids in high school or adults at university who would miss a class here and there per their own choice.  It just wasn't in me to do that because of my pre-wired fear of falling behind. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Memorial





This past Saturday, I held a memorial for my mother, and for my father, both of whom recently passed away.  I really didn’t want to do it at first for a number of irrational reasons.  I thought about the amount of work that it would take to do it well was one of them.  I thought of the trouble it would cause all of the family and friends to fly or drive in for the memorial.  The other thing that I was hesitant about was writing and reading my own speech.  Where would I begin?  I just wasn’t sure how all of this would be accomplished or if anyone really wanted to.  Luckily, a friend of the family sat with me at lunch one day and made some suggestions.  I wrote a few down and ran off with them, in the next few days calling and researching how all of it would be done.

And as the weeks passed, and this and that got done, and as I discovered that along the way, I witnessed people stepping out to help, that it wasn’t so hard.  Just like writing my eulogy; a rough draft of what I wanted to say, then hammering it together in a few more writing sessions, the whole vision eventually came to fruition.  The perfect venue, the perfect preparations, and the perfect group of people.  And on the day of the memorial, when people I had not even thought of inviting had reached out to me to see if they could attend (of course they could), I was happy to see many of my cousins there, and my mom’s cousins, the Schneiders for example, who I hadn’t seen in years, and more extended family. 

The family friend who had sat with me at lunch, Carol, had said something that took a few days for me to digest.  It was a truth about our society’s life these days; that the only time there are large family gatherings are when something big happens.  A wedding, a funeral or memorial, a graduation to a lesser extent.  And as the weeks went on during the planning, it made me think of how important family gatherings are.  And how the memorial would be one of these.  And she was right, not only about the magnetism that an event like this has, but also as to what I think she suspected all along; that I would end up loving it.  And she was right. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Marcia K. Herrman - 1927-2014

My mother passed away tonight peacefully after a multi-year struggle with dementia at the age of eighty-six.  She was a wonderful and caring woman who did a tremendous amount of good for the child development profession, lived for her family, and changed other people's lives, including adopting a son named Fred and giving him love, opportunity, and someone he could always trust.  She is in a better place now, and I will forever miss her.  I love you mom.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Rolling Over Los Angeles

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As I was driving down the 405 today, I noted the extent of work that they are doing with widening the Sepulveda pass freeway and how much congestion there typically is.  It took a good 15 minutes longer in my estimation to get over the hill and back than it should have, and it’s been that way for months.  It’s always a lot of fun, right?  Braking, starting, stopping, going, a driver decides to shoot into your lane in front of you thinking he’s going to get ahead of things.  It’s just very busy these days on our roads.

I have seen archival photos of the Sepulveda pass being cut through the hillside, and also photos of the freeway newly opened with just a few cars passing through.  And, not to linger in the past, but it gets me thinking from time to time how incredibly beautiful the greater city of Los Angeles likely was back in the day when the Arroyo Seco Parkway was the only real highway in the area, and when one could drive at a speed that allowed viewing of the surrounding mountains and areas without having to have laser-like focus of what’s in front of one to not miss that nanosecond when a collision could occur.  It’s exciting to have a vibrant, thriving, and most often, chaotic city, and I think I were living in a quiet town in the mid west I would miss the variety of options there are for activities and meeting different people.  And yet, from a pure transportation point of view, it sure would be nice to be able to gander at the rolling hills and the open vistas from parts of the city such as if there were just a few people on the roads at any point in time. 

I remember that I got lucky one Saturday about ten years ago.  I was driving eastbound on the Santa Monica Freeway (Interstate 10) just around the Washington and La Cienega overpasses, and for some reason at about 10:30am that morning there was almost nobody in any of the lanes in my vicinity.  It had rained just the night before and the sun was peeking in and out of the puffy clouds rolling low over the L.A. area, and the wind had swept out all of the smog making for an extremely crisp, clear day.  The city had a rather blue tint to it, such as that of a cold mountain environment.  This weather gave me the opportunity to look around side to side in my car and fully appreciate all of the folds and variants in the landscape around me for a good ten miles.  

I could see the different levels on which the houses sat radiating out towards Beverly Hills and Hollywood as I looked northward out of my driver’s side window.  And as I looked out of the passenger side, Baldwin Hills seemed to be sitting just off of the freeway by a few feet.  I could also see the buildings on Wilshire’s Miracle Mile standing at attention in a sea of busy, swirling neighborhoods street alignments that hugged the uneven topography. The Santa Monica Mountains (and it’s subsection of the Hollywood Hills) aren’t the only hills in the Los Angeles basin, though they often seem so because they are so obviously perched between the city side and the valley side.  With the clarity that I had that morning, it was more akin to being in a low flying helicopter and having a three dimensional perspective of the land at differing depths as I moved eastward. 

Those few moments have lasted a long time for me.  It may sound silly, but they have gotten me through the frustration of being on the Hollywood Freeway northbound and being clogged in the Highland/Hollywood Bowl traffic of the Cahuenga pass, or of being on the 405 northbound and just sitting stuck around Sunset Blvd.  During those moments, several things come to mind.  

I think of pretty much anyone who is visiting our town from out of state and wondering, “How in hell could anyone put up with this kind of congestion and overpopulation all of the time.”  And I’ve also heard, “People are so caught up in their own world and guarded out here in L.A.  It’s all about who you know and the business.” I have a deeply empathetic understanding of that viewpoint having been born here and knowing how the culture has changed.  However, because of that experience I had that ten or so years ago, I am able to often get myself past the temporary discomfort of the traffic and the craziness that happens in some places and say to myself, “Yeah, but do you know what and interesting and diverse city I live in?  There are so many people from different parts of the world here, and there are so many different types of terrain in just a few square miles.”  I realize I sound jingoistic on a state level, but California really is an amazing state in it’s resources and in it’s people. 

You could buy a house up in the hills and be nestled in a quiet, hard to discover neighborhood.  Or you could live at the beach and take strolls on the boardwalks of southern California beaches, or you could live in the desert or the mountains within an hour of the city.  The best thing for me is that since I love diversity in the things that I do, it’s all here for me.  On one Saturday, my girlfriend and I could look for starfish in a Malibu lagoon, or we could go for a hike in one of the myriad of the hill trails that are around the city, or drive to the snow or to the desert.  And the real point is, if we got up early enough, we could easily do those four things in one day AND see a movie or watch one being filmed.  One of my favorite things is forgetting that I am not that far away from the city when hiking around the L.A. area. 

So, the next time I’m stuck in traffic, which undoubtedly will be tomorrow, I will again think to myself of the time I got that perspective of Los Angeles in a way I hadn’t before.  Perhaps someday I’ll take a ride in an actual helicopter and fly around the southland to get the kind of view I’ve been imagining is out there.  That would be a lot of fun and very informative as to the relation of parts of town to each other.  I am certain that I always shorten the distance between the valley and the city in my mind, but that flying over it would really show how much earth separates the two metropolitan areas. But if I were to go up in a helicopter, it would have to be a professional pilot with many hours of flying experience.  I wouldn’t go up in a helicopter with Pee Wee Herman for instance.  I just think he would be too distracted a pilot. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Johnny Paid Some Cash

I've always loved the sound of Johnny Cash' voice.  But here's something I didn't know until last night as I was perusing around the internet as usual.  Johnny Cash took a lot of  "Folsom Prison Blues," melody and lyrics from a song written two years earlier by Gordon Jenkins called, "Crescent City Blues."  If you listen to them one after another, it's clear that Johnny Cash shouldn't have done it.  He ended up having to settle out of court for $75,000 paid to Jenkins.  All that said, I'm still a Johnny Cash fan. 

Here is the side by side of the two songs.

Here is the Wikipedia article.