Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Playground-- dedicated to my Dad

I'm dedicating this photo to my dad. Happy Birthday Dad !

My dad lives in the Bay Area now, and he's happy because he has a bunch of friends, a nice peaceful little apartment with a porch overlooking a gorgeous park and beyond that a boat harbor.

My dad loves boats and he loves the ocean. Sometimes he's a tour guide for the Balaclutha, a restored wooden tall-ship. Unlike some tour guides, my dad took the time to learn virtually everything there is to know about the ship-- his memory is nearly photographic, it astounds people. You can't win "trivial pursuit" against my dad. He's a water sign, Cancer, and maybe that's why he takes solace in the sea.

If I ever want to know about a movie or a play, my dad can probably tell me not only the title, but the actors' names and the name of the director too. He was an excellent college professor for many years, a favorite of many students. In the early years he taught drama with a zeal which was infectious to his students. I think he taught them that when they're acting in a play, that IS reality until the final curtain goes down. If you've ever seen him act, you'd know what I mean.

Like many young actors, my dad went to Hollywood and took his shot. Coming off a ranch in New Mexico where he worked as a cowboy, he looked the part, tan and lean. He once went up against Michael Landon for the role of "Little Joe" on the series "Bonanza." Well, if he'd gotten that role, chances are I would never have been born, so I guess I am thankful that he didn't. Eventually he returned to New Mexico and got together with my mom. They married and travelled together to San Francisco where my dad completed an MFA in theatre. My brother was born in San Francisco. I was born a few years later.

Why dedicate this photo? Because it reminds me of my dad-- no, but I'm willing to make some shit up. You see, I was raised in an artistic family. We place a high premium on the make believe, on art, on the human spirit.

This is a twilight photo of an unlikely dirt playground in the Southwest. The children have all gone home for dinner and bedtime stories. Three horses in the foreground face to the right, putting their best foot forward, their grins are painted on with determination and their eyes are fixed on the ground ahead of them. A fourth horse shies away near the left edge of the frame, his position is fetal but facing forward, he is an introvert, a non-conformist, an artist. He'll go a different way-- or, just bounce back and forth on a bright red spring attached to his belly, same as the others. Above and behind them all looms the military-industrial-complex: linear, angular and starkly bland. The dark window has a faint small light at it's center. Anyway I'm a at least a little bit like my dad, and grateful for it. We both love art, and a good joke too.

So my dad is retired now and gets to watch wonderful plays every week in the Bay Area with a good friend and fellow theatre critic. He gets to play on his boat and hang out with his sailing club buddies. He worked hard all his life and enriched the lives of thousands of students and now he gets to enjoy himself and just play. Congratulations Dad and Happy Birthday! Thanks for sharing of yourself with me.

Love, Paul

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