Out of Africa

June 11th, 2011

 

I’ve just returned home from a 6 month job on a film. Most of the time was spent in Cape Town, South Africa, sprinkled with some Paris and Washington, DC. The project, “Safe House”, is a CIA action movie for Universal Pictures starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. Directed by Daniel Espinosa, it is scheduled to be released in the first half of 2012 and promises to be an exciting ride.

I find myself here once again, feeling like an astronaut returning from space. I haven’t written in so long I had to pause for a moment before I remembered the password to get me into my own blog. The adventure out there was an incredible experience. As always a physical journey was coupled with a journey inside that only brings more opportunity for growth. The coming weeks and months will bring clarity on what the inner journey has been all about. But even now, 5 days back from space, I feel different, transformed by the experiences.

So while I continue my re-entry processing, I will leave you with a few photos of where I have been and what I have seen. I’m excited to be back and look forward to sharing the road from here.

 

The view from the yard of our house in Camps Bay

The view from the deck of our house in Camps Bay

My girlfriend Jaime at the top of Lions Head overlooking Camps Bay

Hiking above downtown Cape Town

Jaime's daughter Lucella spends the day on set with me

Haut Bay, on the drive to Lucella's school

Paris kiss

Scootin' thru Paris

A Present in the Present

December 20th, 2010

It’s early on Monday morning, five days before Christmas, and the house is quiet. My girlfriend Jaime left early for work and our 3 daughters are sound asleep. Our new home in Malibu is the quietest place I’ve ever lived. There is an absolute silence here, no cars, no dogs barking, not even the sound of crickets.

I’ve desired stillness in my life and I have found it here. And the stillness isn’t just in the physical environment. More importantly, its in my mind and therefore truly in my life. For the first time in a very long time, I feel totally at ease with where I am in my career, in my relationship, as a father, as a man.

Sure, there have been moments of stillness in all of these areas over the years, especially since I started my inner journey eight years ago. But the difference today is that I feel it in my whole being. I feel exceedingly content and fulfilled, exactly right where I am.

For much of my life, I lived with this belief that if I just got all the external stuff in order, I would be happy. If I had the right girl, the right job, the right home and lots of money, I would be okay. I tried as best I could to make that happen, but always there was something missing. There never was enough of what I thought I wanted and the moments of joy when I thought I had finally ‘made it’ were quickly replaced by unhappiness and disappointment when things didn’t go my way or disappeared all together. I never even considered that I couldn’t change the outside conditions and find true happiness.

Through the circumstances of my life, I found myself in a place where I was forced to look inward to find my true self and the life I desired. It was a hard concept to swallow at first, but slowly over time I came to believe that this inner journey was the true path to happiness. Still, it was one thing to believe that and another thing to truly know it. Knowing meant facing myself and facing pain head on rather than running away like I had always done. Knowing came through going inside over and over and over again.

Four days ago, I started a physical journey home for the holidays from Cape Town, South Africa where I am working on a movie project through May of 2011. I was on three flights totaling 25 hours in the air and including a stopover in New York City for a day to shoot a screen test for the film. During one portion of the journey I took out my journal and started writing. One thing I have learned for sure about my inner journey is that, unlike the flights I was on, it never ends (although the flights seemed like they would never end too!).

As I wrote, yet another realization came to me through the writing. My relationships, both personal and business have shifted dramatically. Rather than the old relationships in which I was taken advantage of and manipulated, I have attracted in relationships where I am valued and appreciated for exactly who I am. These relationships haven’t come from me making them happen. They have been attracted to me because I am becoming the man I have always wanted to be.

Yesterday, Jaime and I picked up the kids and went to buy a tree in the rain as we prepare to celebrate our first Christmas together. I strung the lights, then downloaded Christmas songs from Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Sarah McLachlan while Jaime helped the kids hang bulbs and candy canes. “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.” The music filled the room and for me, the lyrics had a meaning like never before.

Wordless Wednesday: Autumn in SoCal

October 13th, 2010


Dad Blogs Wordless Wednesday
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The Babysitter

October 8th, 2010

It’s Fatherhood Friday over at DadBlogs and it’s been quite a while since I’ve written a post on my experiences as a father. My daughters, Maisy and Hanna, are now 14 and 11 and both in junior high, so there will plenty of material ahead of me as they navigate the teenage and tweenage wasteland. But there is also a new parenting experience in my life. My new girlfriend has a 5-1/2 year old daughter, Lucella, and that means I get to bring some of my seasoned experience to the table and at the same time take off on a whole new adventure.

My girlfriend has been working on a commercial and yesterday was her 11th day in a row without a day off. Like me, her hours aren’t 9 to 5. They are more like 5-9. If she’s lucky. That means a challenging couple of weeks for the mom part of her life as she orchestrates the care of her daughter like the conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic.

Yesterday, I picked Lucella up from school and drove her into Los Angeles to visit her mother on location at a house in Hancock Park. We hung out while mom worked, played, colored, ran around, acted goofy and laughed a lot. We ate lunch with the crew in the backyard of the house next door and feasted on fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Mom and girl where happy and so was I. Lucella and I raced the 2 blocks back to my car and drove back up the coast past the shimmering Pacific Ocean.

We stopped at Starbucks for a coffee for me and a “cold chocolate” for her before I took her back home to grandma. There is a wonderful definition of the word ecstasy that comes to mind: exceedingly content and fulfilled. It was a perfect day.

Later in the evening, my girlfriend called me on the way home from work (and yes it was after 9 o’clock!). By the time she was home, Lucella would be fast asleep. But there was a calm and a joy in her voice tonight that wasn’t there the day before. The short time she had spent with her daughter had filled her up. She was exceedingly content and fulfilled. She laughed and told me that one of the guys on her crew made a comment to her after Lucella and I left. “Was that the babysitter?” asked Howard, not even attempting to hide the sarcasm.

Now, I want to show you a picture. Tell me what you think:

Would you let this guy babysit your kid?

So here’s my question: Do I look like the f*#ing babysitter?

The human ego is fascinating and at the same time, so predictable and so easy to recognize when we know what to look for. One of the not-so-wonderful qualities of our egos is this need to boost ourselves up so that we can feel superior to others. It’s one of the ways that our egos assert themselves in the world, a deep need to be recognized. We do it because, subconsciously, we think we need to in order to survive. The truth is, when I tear someone else down with a sarcastic comment, I am really feeling inferior myself and I need to tear you down to feel better about me.

And this is also exactly what I am referring to when I talk about the difference between the 20th Century man and The 21st Century Man. Men have spent centuries trying to conquer each other and to what end? What’s the real difference between a physical attack and a sarcastic verbal attack? The motive behind both is the same. A recent Newsweek cover story looked into the decline of men in American culture. The ancient behaviors aren’t working any more. We men are in a desperate place and it’s time to reinvent ourselves, time to learn how to express ourselves beyond “How’s your fantasy football team doing?”

This morning I drive over Kanan-Dume Rd. in the dawn light. This is a drive I have made so many times to go surfing but that first view of the ocean as I descend toward Pt. Dume still takes my breath away. I won’t be paddling out this time however. Instead I’ll pick Lucella up from her grandma and take her to school. My girlfriend is long gone, having left in the dark for her 12th and final day of work on this current job. Lucella sips hot chocolate as I help her finish her homework. I read her a story, squeeze toothpaste onto her brush and tie her shoes.

It’s my first time taking her to school and I carry her pink lunch box as she runs ahead of me to show me the way to the playground where all the kids lineup each morning for the Pledge of Allegiance and the school cheer. As the cheer ends and the kids all head off toward their classrooms, I say goodbye to Lucella and tell her I will see her in a few hours. I am taking her out of school early again to visit her mother at work, where today they will be flying superheros in harnesses at a warehouse in Van Nuys.

I walk alongside the kindergarten class, the kids all chattering, excited to be together and starting another fun day. As we approach the classroom, Lucella turns to me and smiles, “Byebye,” she chirps, then skips off with her pink lunchbox in hand. I smile too as I watch her go, confident in my manhood and proud of my fathering skills.

No, Howard, I’m not the babysitter. I’m a real man and this is what real men do. They help raise children. They aren’t afraid to show their emotions. They might still have a fantasy football team, but they are also on a journey, a quest to discover themselves and what it truly means to be a 21st Century Man.
Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

The View From My Desk: The City Of Angels

October 6th, 2010

As hard as it is to wake up at 4am after nearly 26 years of 4am wakeups, the difficulty often melts away when I recognize the amazing world I get to witness as a result. This past Friday, that world was witnessed from the 30th floor of the AT&T building in downtown Los Angeles as we shot a sunrise scene for a Mercedes commercial. L.A.’s record-breaking 113 degree temperature a few days before had given way to some interesting cloud formations and afternoon thundershowers, a rarity in this desert climate of eternal sunshine.

These days, I often lose site of where I am in my career as the longing to sit at the kitchen table and write (like I am doing right now!) pulls hard on me and sometimes tricks me into thinking that I am stuck where I am. But where I am is an amazing place with amazing opportunities. Watching the sun rise from that space on the 30th floor and knowing that I get to leave there in a few hours to film a scene on a baseball field above Dodger Stadium reminds me that I am not stuck at a desk everyday, that I get to see and experience so many things that others never do.

Saturday brings another “O-Dark-Hundred” call time (as my friend Angela refers to any call before sunrise). Standing in the street on Upper Grand near the Disney Concert Hall and eating a breakfast burrito, I watch the camera crew rigging a camera on the Ultimate Arm camera car in the parking lot below me and coordinate the details of our shoot day. I’ve lost that feeling of gratitude I had just yesterday and instead feel frustrated that I have to work on a Saturday and miss coaching my daughter Hanna’s soccer game. Her mother sends me text messages at the end of each quarter, exciting me because we are winning, but at the same time digging me deeper into the hole I’m in because I am somewhere I don’t want to be. I’m irritable as a result and our shoot day is reflecting that right back to me.

We break for lunch two hours late and I eat in the motorhome with the director and producer formulating a plan for how we’re going to make it out of this day without total destruction. I would prefer to sit with some friends and talk about anything other than work, but this is my job and I have done this countless times before. We move the futuristic looking L.A. Central High School #9 and somehow, motivated by a new plan and the fading sun, we manage to catch up, cutting five hours work in half.

Energized by our sense of accomplishment, we all kick it into high gear and race back into downtown for some beauty shots of the Mercedes in the fading light of the day. The director takes off in a suburban and I jump into his spot in the back of the Ultimate Arm camera car for the ride over to First and Main near City Hall. This is the seat I want to be in, the seat I am beyond ready for, the job that is closer to my heart’s desire after all these years. I breathe a sigh of relief and realize that I am there, in the director’s seat, that the final piece of the puzzle is a heartbeat away.

Miraculously, we catch up and complete every shot the director wanted, but like any good director, he wants one more. I ask the police to lock up the traffic and call in the water truck for one final wetdown. The Director of Photography keeps holding out his light meter as we move back and forth across the street, trying to decide which angle is best. Finally, the DP announces that we are out of light and I call a wrap.

Standing alone on Main Street between CalTrans and the new LA Police Department building, the struggle of my day melts away as once again I recognize the amazing opportunities I get to experience and realize in this moment an important truth: As I move toward my dream, my dream moves toward me. As a 21st Century Man, I don’t have to settle for anything less.

Back on Track

September 16th, 2010

Love this Life! I have a t-shirt with this slogan on it, one of my favorites, and I have to say it is so true. This life, this journey I am on, is truly a wonderful and fascinating adventure. Sometimes the struggles go deep, but they always present me with an opportunity for growth if I am willing to take a look at myself. That opportunity allows me to turn those struggles into assets, to die a little and be reborn as a new 21st Century Man.

The struggle I went through this summer, the ending of a long relationship, was a tough one. I had to take a hard look at myself and my old patterns of behavior. I saw how I have always attracted in relationships that aligned with these old patterns and discovered a new core issue that centered around parenting. I had a glimpse of the power of obsession and how it is an unhealthy addiction in itself. Awareness of these old patterns is never enough. I find that I have to go deeper if I want to heal them and experience a true change of character. And I need help to do that because there is now way I can do it on my own.

A new life is unfolding for me as a result of my inner work and it is simply amazing. My old character wants to go out and look for that new life and make it happen, but trying to fix all the outside stuff is like running on a hamster wheel. When I try to arrange the world and the people in it to my liking, the whole thing just ends up collapsing like a house of cards. It’s when I go inside and dig around in the dirt that the real changes happen and those changes manifest out into my life. A wise man once said, “As within, so without.” Every single time I go in, I get to see the truth behind those simple words.

I have three blank pages left in the 200 page journal I started back in early July. It has been a summer of reflection, processing, note taking. I have been writing, but my creative energy has been directed inward toward healing and growth. Today I woke up and stared at one of those blank pages for a while. I felt peaceful, at ease, still. Like everything in this perfectly balanced Universe, my inner journey is returning now, moving outward to share the news of a good life with all who care to listen.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

August 16th, 2010

It’s 3AM and these life experiences are trying to get my attention again. Lately, my mind has this sneaky way of attacking me in the middle of the night while I am sound asleep. It attacks me by waking me up and sticking a thought in there for me to chew on. It’s never a deep thought, just a simple one that my ego can grab hold of like, “Why did she have to post that picture on Facebook?” You know, important stuff like that.

The problem is, a thought like that attaches to deep-seeded issues centered around trust. These issues are hard-wired in my brain from the past and once the thought starts down that pathway, all the emotional pain from those old experiences comes rushing up to the surface.

It’s like I’m back in high school. I’m seventeen and I go away to Mammoth Mountain on a ski trip with my family over Christmas break and when I come back, my new girlfriend, Pam, has a new boyfriend and not only that, everyone knows about it before I do. Or even junior high. My eighth grade girlfriend, Chrissie, shows up the first day of high school holding hands with a tenth grader she met on one of those student trips to Europe, only she neglected to tell me and of course, again, everyone else knows.

We all have this stuff. It’s part of growing up, of experiencing relationships and life. I get to see where I made old agreements not to trust and ultimately how I became untrustworthy myself. It hurts to look inside and discover these truths and also to face the pain that comes when my mind connects new experiences with old ones. Sometimes I’d like to do what Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet did in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. I’d like to just erase it all. Erase those old experiences, erase the new ones which are triggering the same emotions. Start fresh with a spotless mind.

But the reality is, I’m in this life to grow and I know through my experience that when I feel pain, it means I’m growing. I have a choice in these moments to run away from the pain or to walk through it. I’ve done a lot of running in the past. There are so many things to cover it up: alcohol, drugs, work, sex, food, shopping. The problem is, when I run, the pain just gets covered up and pushed down inside, only to come out again with more intensity later on or perhaps create illness and disease.

So instead of running, I do my best today to face pain by dealing with it in the moment. In times like this when it strikes in the middle of the night, I write, get it out of my head and onto paper. Lately, there have been pages and pages of stuff and I’m carrying my journal with me everywhere. At other times, I call friends and talk it out. I have a therapist. I have a spiritual advisor. I have learned that I can’t do this by myself and as hard as it is to ask for help sometimes, I feel a great sense of relief every time I do.

I guess this path I’m on is my own version of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. This is what it means to be a 21st Century Man. By facing my issues head on, I am attempting to re-wire those old pathways in my brain with new thoughts and beliefs. In doing so, the old thoughts like, “women can’t be trusted” are slowly fading away each time I recognize them. My new experiences can be just that, new. They don’t have to be connected to the painful ones from the past. The pain suddenly becomes the admission price to a new life.

Kid Quotes: Pure Shakespeare

July 14th, 2010

And now for something completely different:

Last night my 13 year old daughter Maisy called me up and told me she learned about Shakespeare at the musical theater camp she’s attending.

“Did you know he actually invented 3000 words, Dad” she said, excitedly.

“I bet he did. He was an amazing writer” I said.

She responded, “Yeah, he invented the word puke!”

Puke. Pure Shakespeare.

What Am I Not Feeling?

July 13th, 2010

Bringing light to the darkness

I’m not sure where this is going to go. Perhaps I am too close to my situation to really write about it yet. My writing teacher always says that when you’re going through a difficult time and you can’t write, take notes. Well, these are my notes.

Blogging about my life means my life has to be an open book. The act of writing about my thoughts and experiences is helping me to see myself and to try to become the man I truly want to be, a 21st Century Man. It means not being afraid to admit my mistakes, to share them openly with anyone who cares to read them. I am a truth seeker. I desire to find out the truth, not so that I can tell you what the truth is, but so that I can discover what the truth is in me.

I am far from perfect. In fact, I am flawed. Sometimes I make decisions that hurt other people. The choice I have right now, however, is how I deal with those perceived mistakes. Do I shove them under the rug as I have done many times in the past only to watch them reoccur again and again? Or do I try to evolve by taking a look at my behavior and taking the necessary steps to bring about a change of character.

Only recently, I went through a difficult breakup spurred on by a betrayal on my part. It is hard to admit that about myself, yet at the same time I have to admit it because my life is an open book and I don’t want to pretend to be someone I am not.

A close friend and advisor posed an interesting idea to me around this whole situation: I was willing to go through the pain and drama of ending a relationship this way because I was avoiding feeling something much deeper below that. He used smoking as an example to illustrate this idea. If I were to have some feelings and then pick up a cigarette and start smoking, what am I masking with that cigarette? I would rather take the risk of destroying my health and perhaps dying instead of taking a look at some deeper issues underneath the feelings I am covering up. The question becomes, “What am I not feeling by taking this action?”

I don’t know the answer to that question yet, but the important thing is that I have asked myself the question. In my pursuit of the truth about who I am, I must keep digging until I find the answer.

Snapshot Saturday: Life in the Fast Lane

July 10th, 2010