He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

I want to talk about the word “brother” and what it means to me.

I’m an only child. I’m the only child of an only child. As a result, I value my privacy and my alone time. I’m used to having my own space for at least a small part of every day. It’s one of the reasons I’m sitting out on my porch right now as I write this – I appreciate solitude and the opportunity to think, reflect, and let my mind wander. It’s when I get my best writing done. I’m uncomfortable, in fact, writing when there’s even someone else in the room – doesn’t matter what the content of whatever I’m writing may be, I just don’t like anyone looking over my shoulder while I’m doing it. It interrupts my thought process. I become hyper aware of the presence of another and it makes it hard to focus and get the job done.

That being said, I love my friends, and I love their company. I get antsy if I don’t get to spend time with the people I care about, as well. One of the things I miss about my early adulthood was the freedom just to drop in on a friend and hang out, go out, drink, talk, laugh, whatever – no plans, no intention, just dropping in on a whim and being welcomed. Those days are pretty much gone, as adult life takes over and everything has to be planned and scheduled – even spending time with those same people now can take months of coordination to actually occur. Granted, my oldest friends now live two time zones away, so it’s understandably more difficult to just pop by (in fact, not one of them has done it yet!), but even seeing my local friends usually takes a series of emails, texts, and messages thru the Face to get put into iCal and synced onto the phone. Ahh, the good old days….

But friends are important to me. Possibly moreso than some people, and this is due, I feel, to the fact that I’m an only child. My friends are my surrogate family, and I mean that in the most honest sense. I have a handful of men in my life, most of whom I’ve known for more than two decades, whom I call my brothers, and I know full well what that term implies. It means a bond as strong as blood, and in some cases, stronger. I’ve got one friend whom I’ve known longer than anyone else, and he’s my brother.  Not only does he know where the bodies are buried, but he’s the one who brought the shovel. Metaphorically speaking, yeah, but if I needed it for real, he’s the one I would call, and I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that he would come running, shovel in hand. Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci, standing over the trunk of the car in the middle of the night. Brothers, man.

Male bonding is a powerful thing. I’ve been told by various women that they have a more difficult time establishing and maintaining close friendships because they’re raised to be more cautious of one another, that each of them is out for herself, and that it takes a long time for women actually to become solid true friends. I don’t know if this is a generational thing or a specifically cultural phenomenon or what, but I’ve been told this by more than one woman that I’m close to. Men, by contrast, can share a few (okay, several) beers and be fast friends by the time the tab arrives. Or by the time they pass out. I’m oversimplifying, to be honest, but it does seem that it’s a lot easier for men to open up and to trust each other.

The bond of friendship between men is sacred, is holy. Loyalty is one of the things that truly seems to matter to men of all kinds. If a man puts his trust in you, he expects it to be returned, and he can be devastated by betrayal. I know, I’ve had it happen to me. But when a friend is a true friend, it’s an amazing thing. It’s extremely intimate, and for some men, it’s the most intimate they can be with another human being. That’s a subject for another blog, but for some men, it’s true.

It’s left over from the days when men had to rely on each other to survive on a daily basis – it’s the same spirit of camraderie that exists in men who serve together in the military. When you have to depend on the man next to you to keep you alive, you get pretty close. And you tend to remain close, especially if you’ve been thru hell together. It’s a powerful, beautiful thing, and I hope that there’s a female equivalent. I really do.

My son is an only child. He may not remain one forever, but it’s possible. And in either case, I want him to learn how to trust other men and to form these bonds of friendship. They’ll carry him thru hard times and lift him even higher during great times. And it doesn’t matter if the man in whom you would entrust your life has even a shred of the same DNA as you – all that matters is that you get each other, that you’ll be there for each other, you’ll know each other’s secrets, weaknesses, strengths – all that matters is that he’s your brother.

May The Force Be With You… Always

First, apologies for such a long gap between posts. Definitely not my intention, and it’s something I’ll rectify pretty quickly now that we’re settled. We moved from Burbank into Hollywood right after traveling for Christmas, so it’s been hectic. I’ve started a couple posts that need more work, but something happened this past week that I have to share. My son became a Jedi.

So just this past week Ryder suffered his first real illness. Nothing major, just a cold, but serious enough to require the whole family to hole up over the weekend and get him well again. And, of course, a large part of his recovery consisted of watching TV – kids’ shows like Sesame Street, Sid the Science Kid, Dinosaur Train (all Jim Henson productions, thanks again to the master) – as well as his favorite movies and some of ours.

Having a child watch television with you is a demanding task. Content becomes very important, and you begin to evaluate which of your own favorite flicks are suitable for a very receptive age. Ryder now repeats back most of what he hears, and so we’re much more careful about what we say around him. Those little ears are like FBI wiretaps – they hear all. But, there’s only so many times you can watch Kung Fu Panda in a week, no matter how awesome it is. Eventually you want something with real people. So when we chose entertainment for all of us, we kept things like language in mind.

Eventually I decided that it was time to initiate Ryder into the ways of the Force. No bad words in Star Wars, so Episode IV: A New Hope was popped in, and our journey to a galaxy far, far away began. He was hooked from the second the iconic logo hit the screen and John Williams’ unforgettable score blasted thru the speakers in what is probably better sound in my living room now than in the movie theatre where I saw the same movie for the first time at the tender age of four or five.

While it may seem like a little too much nostalgia for me to bring up Star Wars so close to a post about the Muppets, it’s not entirely my fault. Some genius decided that it was time to jump on the 3D revival bandwagon and re-release The Phantom Menace in theatres this year. Apparently, George Lucas is serious about his retirement from filmmaking and has realized that he may need some more cash if Red Tails doesn’t take off.

First, let me explain that in this household, there are only three Star Wars movies, and they were all made before 1985. Absolutely NONE of them use CGI for anything. Well, certain corrections and enhancements, but by and large, I’m a purist, and after the disappointment of the second (first??) trilogy and the completely unnecessary tampering with the original trilogy, I feel like the franchise has run its creative course. However, like every male of my age, I have a deep and abiding love for Lucas’ original efforts, Ewoks notwithstanding (I dug them at the time, but I was ten years old and the perfect target audience).

Regardless, Ryder and I had a ball watching the movie, and he’s now a fan. The rest of the night, he would repeat “Star Wars!” over and over again with a giant cheshire grin on his face. And it was because of this that I noticed just how much my little son is paying attention. The next day we were running errands in the morning and we passed a billboard for the upcoming 3D atrocity. I caught a glance of the billboard thru the driver’s side window and promptly ignored it. And then I heard a tiny voice from the backseat say, “Star Wars!”

Ryder had seen the billboard, too. We had watched Episode IV, the original Star Wars movie, with Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, and the rest. Not a single one of these characters was anywhere to be found on the billboard. Darth Maul, Qui-Gon Jin and a young Obi-Wan were splashed across the surface. He hadn’t recognized any of them, had in fact never seen them in any recognizable context before. So how did he know the billboard was for Star Wars?

He had seen the logo.

The iconic Star Wars logo is the first thing that appears whenever one of the movies begins, and it’s one of the only things that connects the first trilogy to the second. Everyone  born after 1974 knows it. Including, apparently, my 22-month-old son. He had, in essence, read the sign.

That blew my mind. I know he’s smart. He picks things up super fast, and he repeats words back to me every day. We now have miniature conversations where he tells me what he wants, describes things that happened to him, tells me about people he’s been around, all in one and two-syllable words, all the time. We read at least a dozen books a day, and he has several of them memorized. He can recite the end of all the rhymes in The Cat In The Hat. But it blew my mind that he could recognize words that he had only seen for the first time the day before in a completely unfamiliar context and recall their original context. He makes cognitive leaps every day. Every. Single. Day. I know this, I just didn’t expect it to be proven so distinctly.

My son pulled off a mind trick worthy of a Jedi.

I mean, I know that’s what he’s doing, I know that it was going to happen anyway, and I know that the logo is really more of a graphic than just simple text. I also know he’s not thumbing thru my Riverside Shakespeare. But he’s on his way, and it’s an astounding thing to watch, every single day. He does amazing stuff all the time, and it’s an absolute joy to watch his little mind at work. You can literally see him thinking all the time, and it’s fascinating and astonishing and human and altogether wonderful. Makes me glad that he’s alive. And he’s not even two years old yet.

The Force is strong with this one.

So I guess we’ll be buying lightsabers soon, which is awesome.

Muppets Redux Review

So I’m probably not gonna make a habit of this, but in light of the experience I had last week seeing The Muppets with my family, I feel like it’s totally relevant to the whole idea of this blog. So today I’m gonna talk about the movie, the Muppets, and what they mean to my generation.

First of all, the day was great. We took Ryder to see a 10am show at Disney’s El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. I had been there once before years ago for another nostalgia trip – an anniversary screening of TRON – and while that film just don’t hold up as well as the memories of it do, I remember being very impressed by the El Capitan. It smacks of Hollywood glamour and a devotion to the movies that you don’t get anywhere but here in Hollywood. It’s a gorgeous building, and for The Muppets it’s been bedecked in holiday style, with displays of faux presents all over the walls, as well as a preshow singalong event with Kermit and Miss Piggy, which was, indeed, awesome. Followed by snow. Yep, snow. In the theatre. Ryder loved it, and the medley of familiar holiday songs set the tone for the day. This was also Julee’s first experience in a Hollywood movie theatre, so here eyes were just as wide as Ryder’s as the LED curtains rose and the snow fell. Pretty great second moviegoing experience for the boy, but I gotta be careful not to set a standard that he’ll come to expect. Them seventeen-dollar tickets add up.

Anyway, the curtains rose and the movie began, and I was swept up in the magic of The Muppets just like everyone else in the theatre. First, it lives up to the hype. Jokes were spot on, songs were great, and even tho it’s probably a little too long for a kid audience, Kermit can still make me choke up like nobody else. Oh yeah, it’s loaded with opps to cry, and I’m surprised I made it thru the movie without having to change my shirt from all the tears. Cry Moment #1 came in Kermit’s office, as the camera pans past a wall of celebrity photos, and featured right in the middle is a picture of Jim Henson himself smiling with Kermie. That’s where the waterworks started. Cry Moment #7 or maybe 12 or more came near the end when those three sweet chords on the banjo echoed thru the theatre. I had “Rainbow Connection” playing in my head the rest of the week, and it was lovely. I knew going into it that they had to play that song at some point, and I couldn’t wait. It was like coming full circle for me, and I had a great time.

And this is what I really want to talk about – my own connection (and, by proxy, my generation’s connection) to the Muppets. I touched on this last week, and it’s been brewing in my head ever since, so I knew I had more to say about it. See, I grew up with the Muppets. They’ve been a part of my life since I can remember – they’ve always been there, and they’ve rarely disappointed in that time. My mom credits my early reading to a regular dose of Sesame Street, and I’m innoculating Ryder the same way (along with reading all the time with him myself – I don’t credit it all to the Muppets). I saw the first Muppet Movie with my dad and I’ve seen every subsequent Muppet film in the theatre as well. I never missed The Muppet Show. I cried along with everyone else in high school the day Jim Henson died, and while I’m still a fan, I can tell the difference between Kermit’s voice now and then. Jim’s unique quality just isn’t there, and I still miss it.

So I never outgrew the Muppets, and judging from the success of the current film, neither did anyone else my age. The Muppets were instrumental in shaping the collective mind of my generation. We all took Kermit’s lessons to heart, and we live by them to this day. The people who made the new movie knew that, and in all honesty, The Muppets was made for our generation, not for our children. Sarcasm and irony are huge components of the Muppet sense of humor, and it’s part of the reason my generation loves sarcasm so much. We grew up with puppets who made smartass comments to real people and to each other, so it’s no surprise it’s how we joke with our friends now. So in a sense, the Muppets contributed to the postmodern Zeitgeist of Generation X. How’s that for a mouthful of big words?

But it’s true. The movie was made with us in mind. Kids will dig it, because it’s the Muppets, and the Muppets are funny and cute and, well, they’re puppets. But they relate to it the same way we did when we were their age, and they don’t fully grasp all of the humor yet. Neither did we. Give ’em time, and it’ll come, but the  film is aimed at the adults who are simply thrilled to see their beloved friends on the screen again. The movie is about nostalgia. The plot revolves around this idea and does so extremely well. But think about it – the Pixar movies do the same thing, and who makes the Pixar movies? Kids who grew up on the Muppets. Who writes for The Office? Hmm?

See? I was right about the Zeitgeist thing. It’s how we all connect to each other, and it all starts with the Muppets.

So I’ve gone out of my way to try to share my experience with the Muppets with my son, in the hopes that it somehow builds a connection between us as well. I saw The Muppet Movie with my own dad, and while I’m sure he enjoyed it because I enjoyed it, it wasn’t really made for him. It was made for me, and it still is. But there’s a chance that, with the right effort, Ryder will grow up with the same love for the Muppets that I did. Well, not exactly the same, but similar, and it’s something that he and I will be able to share for the rest of our lives. Let’s face it, his clothes will be ridiculous and his music will be too goddamn loud, but hopefully we’ll both love the Muppets.

So when the new movie comes out on DVD, I’ll buy it, and Ryder and I will make a point out of watching it together for the next ten years or so, and then after he gets over his bitchy teen years we’ll watch it together again as adults, and maybe this time he’ll get all the jokes the same way I do. And maybe he’ll make it to the very end of the movie without fidgeting. But next time we watch it there won’t be a twenty-minute preshow.

Oh, and Jason Segel should never be allowed to dance. Never.

Muppets, man. Muppets.

So it’s been a busy month.

Since last we met, I’ve shot four commercials, shot video and recorded voiceover for a series of webisodes, and have been requested by the director of my first project to audition for another of his projects. Plus, I went straight to callbacks for a company who had put me on hold for another commercial of theirs about a month before and then not used me. Boom. Seems like once you start working out here, you can get on a roll. And I’m not exactly sure what has caused it. But I ain’t gonna knock it.

So please excuse the gap between posts – had a lot on my plate between that and the beginning of the holiday season. I hate to break a stride on anything, and it had been in my intention with this blog to write once a week. Boo. But, you get back on that horse as soon as you can. Now, if I can just do the same in the gym.

Enough about me. What am I gonna talk about today? The Muppets. Tomorrow’s my birthday (as well as my wife’s – yeah, yeah, we have the same birthday, how precious, it’s destiny, got all that out of the way, now let’s move on), and for our birthday we’ve got tickets to go see the eponymous adventure of the most famous puppets in the world at the Disney El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Thank you, Family Finds – discount tix at a cool theatre space with the coolest kid in the world = awesomesauce. I’ve never used that word before in my life.

But, I can’t tell you how excited I am (and have been for months now) to see the Muppets on the big screen again. We’re late to the party, I know, by waiting until after opening week to see the film, and I’ve seen practically nothing but raves all over Facebook (and the rest of the internet, but that don’t count, right? Only The Face matters), so I’ve got even higher expectation and hopes. But I also know that my generation in particular is the generation that grew up with the Muppets, and we’re almost supernaturally attached to them. I vividly remember the day Jim Henson died: I was in high school, and I heard the news that morning on Channel One (Anyone? Anyone?) along with the news about Sammy Davis, Jr, and I remember thinking that people were so upset by the news that you’d thinking a president had died. I also felt personally that Sammy got shafted a little by the situation, but it turns out that Henson has had a bigger impact on the world, and especially my generation, than the Candy Man ever could have. All you have to do is look at the phenomenal success of Avenue Q to understand just how much Kermit the Frog means to the world.

So, much like the hoopla surrounding the new and rereleased Star Wars movies in 1999, I have waited with baited breath for the Muppets’ return to the silver screen. I’ve got several of the movies on DVD, and I choke up every time I watch the opening of the first Muppet Movie and hear Kermit pluckin’ the banjo and singing “Rainbow Connection”. Gets me every time. So I can’t wait for tomorrow morning. And the best part is, I’m taking my son with me to see it.

As I write this, Ryder is watching Sesame Street, which is his favorite show. Couldn’t be happier about this. While it’s not exactly the same show it was when I was a kid, it’s still the best thing out there for kids’ programming – entertaining, smart, and totally focused on the child while still being fun for adults, too. And Ryder LOVES Elmo. I’ve been skeptical of the Little Red Menace and his rise to stardom ever since the creepy explosion of the Tickle Me Elmo doll. That toy bothered me on a deep level, as did Teddy Ruxpin. However, while I thought the bear might kill me in my sleep, TME just made me feel dirty. Chalk it up to insecurity on my part, along with a healthy dose of nostalgia, but Elmo bothered me (as he did lots of people of my age) because he was something new and different on our beloved Sesame Street.

But, I’ve come around to the furry little guy, and it’s all because of Ryder. As I watch the show with him, I’ve tried to suss out what it is about Elmo that fascinates little children and makes them adore him so. In the end, I’ve decided it’s because Elmo talks directly to them throughout his entire segment of Elmo’s World. Throughout an SS episode, the fourth wall is broken every so often by a character looking at the lens and inviting the viewer to participate in the adventure, but the bulk of the story is focused on the characters on the show. Elmo, however, is talking to YOU. He’s your friend, and he invites you into his home to share his thoughts and feelings with you. He’s suddenly your bestie, and he’s always happy. So I think he’s become the favorite of a new generation of kids because they relate directly to him.

Anyway, I love that Ryder loves Sesame Street because I love Sesame Street, and I hope that he loves the movie tomorrow as much as I expect to love it. Hell, let’s be honest, I love it already, and I haven’t seen it yet. I’m predisposed to love it by association with those characters, and I’m pretty sure that the people who made the movie made it because of that same love, so I’m anticipating nothing but goodness. I could be disappointed, like I was with Episode I, but I doubt I will be. Plus, I’ll never forget that I got to see it with my son. That’s only gonna make me love the Muppets more.

Oh, and if you want to respond and tell me how much you loved the movie, go ahead. but no spoilers. Or I will hunt you down and kill you.

Workin’ Men

So I just booked my first two commercial gigs here in LA. Back-to-back. Feels good. I am officially a working LA actor.

The best part? I got one of these gigs because of my son.

Part of the setup that my wife and I established when we moved out here was to allow me to be both an actor and a stay-at-home dad. She has the full-time job while I stay home, take care of the young’un, and have the free time to go to auditions, submit myself for projects and agents, and do the actual work. It finally paid off this past week when I booked not one but two commercials. It’s the second one that I want to talk about more than anything.

When I tell people Ryder goes with me to auditions, they always ask me how it goes, how he behaves, how people respond, etc. So far, not a single casting director has even flinched about Ryder being in the room when I’ve auditioned. And he’s a wonderful kid. He sits in his stroller, fascinated by what’s going on, and occasionally he adds a well-placed laugh. I truly believe the kid has comic timing already. While I do think an interjection like this may have cost me a job on an occasion or two, for the most part, people think it’s funny and laugh right along with him. Why not? It’s no sweat off their noses, and dammit, he’s absolutely charming.

I mean that – Ryder is the kind of kid who lights up a room when he comes in. He flirts with everyone in the place. He waves, he smiles, he winks at the pretty girls (oh, yes he does), and he makes a great first impression. I’ve seen him charm a roomful of manly men at a callback, making them laugh like crazy (I didn’t get the job, but damn if he didn’t have a good time). I’ve had a roomful of men in a waiting room all drool and fawn over him, and one of these guys told me that he loves it when people bring kids to auditions because they relax him. He focuses on the kid and enjoying the moment instead of stressing about the audition, so he’s relaxed and in a great mood by the time he goes in front of the camera.

But the best proof of this came last week. Ryder and I drove out to Venice Beach for an audition. We got to the building, went up to the office, and as soon as the producer opened the door, both he and the director smiled like goofballs and began talking to him. Turns out the director is a new father as well, with a beautiful fifteen month old little girl. We spent almost ten minutes talking about our kids and how great it is to be a father before we even broached the subject of the audition. By the time we got around to the camera, Ryder had charmed them so well that they let him get out of the stroller and wander around the office playing with the phone, the stuff on the coffee table – they even offered to bring him snacks. They were so accommodating and glad to have him there. Amazing.

When we finally stepped in front of the camera, I auditioned with Ryder in my arms at their request. I did my bit, and he contributed a signature shout of “AH-HAAAH!” which got a huge laugh. The director was super positive told me he’d root for me with the producer, and it was all great. We then spent another five or ten minutes talking about my life and the recent move to LA. Ryder and I stood out on the balcony of the beachfront office, and I mentioned casually that we hadn’t actually been to Venice Beach yet, so the director told me about a great playground up the beach that we had to see before we left, and then he pulled out his wallet and gave me five bucks to cover parking at the beach lot. He wanted me to have the experience with Ryder so much that he paid for parking.

Think the audition went well?

Ryder and I walked up the beach and explored Venice a little, altho we never made it to the playground because Ryder LOVES the beach. He loves to play in the sand, and I had to restrain him from running into the ocean. Otherwise, we had a great time. By the time we got back to the car, I got a call from the director saying I had booked the job. He told me that I would probably have gotten the job on my own regardless, but the producers loved Ryder. He sealed the deal. Plus, he’ll probably end up in the spot with me. So now my son and I are both working LA actors. Awesome.

Ultimately, tho, it’s proof that having a child doesn’t have to mean you can’t be an actor, even in a city like LA. Granted, my setup at home is incredibly helpful to the whole situation – since we don’t have to worry about a second income to pay bills, I’ve got the time to audition at will (naptime notwithstanding), and this gives me a leg up over an actor/dad who also has to hold down even a part-time job. But as I said earlier, people ask me all the time how casting directors respond to Ryder’s presence at auditions, and my answer is always the same: as far as I can tell, they don’t mind him there at all. The director asked me the same question, and when I gave him my answer, he nodded approvingly and said, “Good, they shouldn’t.”

I run into other dads all the time at auditions, so I know my situation isn’t unique, and so far not a single person has flinched at Ryder’s presence. Plus, I’ve gotten work with and without him now, so I know it doesn’t seem to affect my consideration and can indeed help.

There have been auditions where I’ve chosen not to take him for various reasons – I had an audition for a TV show at Fox, and since I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t want to hedge my bets, Overall there seems to be a lot of consideration out here for the fact that actors have lives outside of the biz. Makes me feel better not only about the decision to move out here but also about the business itself. Casting directors, producers, directors – it’s easy to forget that they’re all people, too, and they have husbands, wives, and kids – they have families, and family is important. At least, it is to the kind of people you want to work with. So far, tho, that’s been the case with everyone I’ve met, and that’s pretty cool.

I didn’t get the role at Fox, tho, so who knows? Maybe I should have auditioned with Ryder for that one. It was to play a dad to a young boy, after all, and I got that role nailed. Far as I can tell.

No Use Crying Over Split Lips

Ryder fell down and busted his lip Friday night. We were at the mall, and my wife was trying to tie his shoe. Well, he doesn’t like his shoes much, and getting him to stand still while you try to tie them is like trying to ride a bronco – if you can get him still for eight seconds, you can do it, but he’s gonna fight you the whole way. So he tried to move, and BAM! Over he went, face first onto the floor of the store. Split his lip, and the blood began to flow.

Julee felt awful. She said she saw it happening, and she feels like it’s her fault he fell because essentially he tripped over he hands while she was trying to tie his shoe. First time he’s ever busted his lip, and, as lips do, it bled a lot. Julee freaked out, partly because of the blood, partly because of the shock of the event, and partly because she feels responsible. Terrible.

I, on the other hand, quickly assessed the situation and concluded that, yes, he busted his lip, no, he didn’t knock out any of his teeth, and once the crying stops, he’ll be fine. Within about five minutes, both the crying and the bleeding had stopped, and Ryder was happy again, albeit now fascinated by how his lip felt. It was swollen, and it was a good split, but nothing serious. Considering how much he likes to run and how easily he can trip over his Converse One Stars, it’s actually amazing that it’s taken him nine solid months of walking to bust his lip. He seems to have an uncanny ability to catch himself before his face smacks the ground. In any case, within minutes he was his normal, happy, rambunctious self, and it was as if nothing had happened. Julee still felt awful, but we finished our shopping trip and went home without further incident.

I sound like I’m bragging, don’t I? “I’m so manly, I knew he wasn’t hurt, while my poor wife freaked out.” Not the case at all. I’ll try to eloborate.

First: I’m around Ryder all the time, and my wife isn’t. I’m much more familiar with his moods, his temperament, his reactions, etc., than she is, and I can respond to what I read from him faster and usually more accurately just because it’s kind of like a private language that he and I share. Julee’s not bad at it, she just doesn’t know it as well as I do. As soon as I heard him cry, I could tell it wasn’t too serious, because he has a very specific cry when he’s just plain mad about something – it builds from silence. There’s the moment of the incident itself, and then, you see him gear up for it. He stands perfectly still, and his little face twists up into a knot, his mouth open in a round frown, he may utter a small scream, then he takes a good three to five seconds to prep for it. Holding his breath, he builds the anticipation, planning the exact moment to suck in a sharp breath and then blast it out in a long, loud, high-pitched shriek. His little lungs are the most efficient bellows I’ve ever seen, and he can break your eardrums.

It’s the pause, however, that really always lets me know it’s not as bad as it’s about to sound. He’s inherited a flair for the dramatic from both of his parents, and he’s already developed a razor-sharp sense of timing. So he’s got his bit that he’s worked up for maximum dramatic effect, and it’s very recognizable. Under the right circumstances, it’s damn funny. Not Friday, tho, because he obviously had been hurt, albeit not severely.

Second, boys bust their lips. All the time. Boys scrape their knees. They black their eyes, they cut and scratch up their arms and legs, they bump their heads, they get hurt. It’s what boys do. Trust me, I used to be one, so I know. So once I took a quick look at his mouth and could tell he hadn’t knocked a tooth loose, I pretty much let it go. “He’s okay,” I said, while Julee’s eyes watered up and she frantically rushed him out of the store looking for a bathroom. Boys are physical, so injuries are to be expected. Granted, broken bones and severe bleeding are different stories, but a busted lip is nothing to freak out about, because he takes his lead from us. If we lose our shit, he loses his. So I decided to remain calm and not make a big deal out of it so that he would hopefully calm down quickly once he realized it wasn’t a serious injury. And that’s exactly what happened.

Third, this incident and my experience earlier in the day made me start thinking about boys and men, injuries and pain. It’s a subject that most males quickly become familiar with, and many of them make it a part of daily life.

The thing that I think impresses me the most about Ryder’s reaction to this situation (and others) is that, to me, it seems that he gets mad about it. He’s hurt, he’s crying, yes, but instead of just sobbing and feeling bad, it pisses him off. I’m kind of the same way when I get hurt – it doesn’t bother me so much as it annoys me and makes me mad as hell. Now I’ve got another inconvenience to deal with, thanks a pantload. So it looks like he’s learning to take his licks and get back up, and this makes me feel good about his chances in life. If he can learn that getting knocked down doesn’t have to mean the fight is over, he’ll be stronger for it. It means he’s not afraid.


Despite my seemingly cavalier attitude about Ryder’s little accident, it hurts me every time I know he’s in real pain. If he screams his for-real scream when I’m in the other room, I rush in there, preparing myself for the worst, and thankfully I’m usually relieved to see that it isn’t as bad as it could be. Even when it’s a diaper rash, I want to make it go away.

Julee’s a worrier, I’m not. At least, not to the same degree. Last night we were watching the History Channel’s “Zombie Apocalypse” special (a hoot, by the way), and I started talking about the fact that I personally have devoted time in my thoughts to considering what my zombie preparedness kit would consist of – which weapons to use, how much gear to carry, and so on. Great use of my free time, huh? Julee laughs and says, “Meanwhile, I think about who’s gonna get cancer. Your attitude is probably healthier.”

Maybe she’s right. By spending time mentally considering a worst-case scenario, I can prepare myself for how to deal with smaller-scale incidents. I’ve got a vivid imagination, and I’ve imagined horrible things happening to myself and to those I love plenty of times. Somehow, I’m able to process these things fairly safely and put them in the back of my mind to use when necessary. By becoming familiar with them, I teach myself not to fear them. Julee worries about them instead. As a result, when Ryder gets hurt, my first response is to calmly assess the situation and then take any necessary action. I’m a Red Cross CPR Trainer, so the first time Ryder started to choke as an infant, I knew exactly how to take care of it. I managed to perform the necessary actions quickly and confidently with no hesitation. He was less than six months old.

Honestly, I surprise myself that I’ve become this capable of dealing with an emergency situation. I wasn’t always like that. But I kind of look at what’s happening, and I’m usually able to say, “Well, it could be a helluva lot worse.” But that’s part of my job as a father, isn’t it? To protect and take care of my son, sometimes I’ll have to hide my own fear and take care of business. How can I teach my son not to be afraid if I can’t control my own fear? Push it away and be strong until the danger is past, and then let it go. If I’m gonna be around him all the time, I’d better be prepared to handle whatever happens.

Boys fall down, boys get cuts, scrapes and bruises, they break bones, they black eyes, they acquire scars, and scars aren’t necessarily bad things. But the truth is, no matter what happens – no matter how I react to it on the outside, whether I laugh it off or dismiss it or just put a Band-Aid on it – every time he gets hurt, it hurts me more. When your child is hurt, it hurts your heart, and that hurts more than any physical pain. I know exactly what my mother meant whenever she said, “This is gonna hurt you more than it hurts me.” I want my son to be tough, strong, confident, brave, capable of defending himself and others, but I never want him to get hurt. I know it’ll happen, but I don’t want it to. I may jump in and handle the situation first, I may react calmly and confidently at the time, but there’s always a moment afterward where I stop to consider what could have happened. And that’s when I get scared. Once I let my imagination run wild. But letting it run wild allows me to blow off the emotional steam and get rid of the shit that can build up behind worry. It’s mental exercise, making my muscles stronger and more flexible, more adaptable and ready to respond when needed. So I lift the weights and I put them down, and each time I go back I can lift a little bit more. Nietzsche had it right: that which does not kill us makes us stronger. But only if you let it.

We don’t want to see our children in pain, ever. We know they’ll have to deal with it at some point, and dreading the day that they do just makes it worse for us as parents. It’s one of those things where you try to be an optimist, where you hope for the best and prepare for the worst. But let that preparedness be your armor, your shield, allow it to help you protect your children, not shelter them. Because they’re gonna fall down, and they’re gonna run to you when they do to make it all better.

Wipin’ a** and takin’ names

I took my son to the park this morning. We played in the sand. He dug his naked toes into the cool sand over and over, saying “Wow!” as is his wont. My son speaks only in interjections. What the hell, he’s nineteen months old. He has more words (including “Da!” and “Ma!”), but he offers them up sparingly, only when he wants to say them. No prompting will get more than a waggle or a nod of the head. I realize that he’d most likely be branded a late talker at this point, and maybe that’s the case, but I know it’s not because he’s got any kind of issue. He knows the words we say. He understands us. The little dude just doesn’t want to say them. He’d much rather give me a sly little grin, shake his head, and run off laughing maniacally.

Yes, my son is a smartass. A chip off the old block. Just like his old man and his mommy. And possibly an evil genius. But you should see his muscles.

I’m a stay-at-home dad. You heard me. Mr. Mom. And it’s awesome. I’ve been with my son almost every single day since he was born. I’m also an actor (big surprise in LA, right?) and a playwright, trying to make a living doing something I love. My wife and I decided that this arrangement was the best way to raise our child, and I couldn’t be happier. Every day I learn something new about, with, and from my son. I get to watch a beautiful little mind take shape, and I get to take an active role in turning him into a man.

My wife brings home the bacon, I fry it up in a pan. Some people would think that makes me less of a man, but the truth is, it has given me an entirely new sense of what manhood means to me and a deeper appreciation of how men bond and grow. And lest you think it’s just because I’m lazy, let me assure you there is method to this madness, a rationale (more than one, actually) that makes this role reversal worth it. Not only do my wife and I know exactly who is raising our son, but the flexibility of the schedule that he and I now have allows me to pursue my chosen career with freedom and diligence, neither of which I would have had in my younger, childless days. That’s right – having a kid has made it easier for me to be an actor in Los Angeles.


Just thought I’d share that with you. Stick around and I’ll rub your nose in how great it is to be a dad in other ways, and I’ll prove that raising a child is one of the manliest things a male can do.

So who am I? Short list: Actor. Playwright. Stay-At-Home Dad. Fitness enthusiast (not Athlete. Not yet). Beer Lover. Not a Foodie, but I like to eat. Spicy stuff, mostly. Smartass. Comics fan. Carpenter, plumber, all-round handyman – I can fix damn near anything that breaks in my house. I like to dress my son in badass skull & crossbones hoodies. I’m gonna talk about all of these things and more, and maybe you’ll have something to say in return. Bring it.

Why DadMen? Because there aren’t many daddy blogs in the world, and I thought I’d write one. Because some people consider being a stay-at-home father to be a less-than-masculine pursuit. Because it might be fun. Because I thought “DadMen” was too good a title to waste. Because I want to discuss the concepts of manhood and fatherhood  and how they have evolved and continue to evolve, and how they are entwined. Because I want to let LA dads know about cool stuff they can do with their sons and daughters and I want them to let me know as well. Book reviews, playdates, fun stuff, recipes, thoughtful discourse on the meaning of life, the best jokes from three-year-olds – Let’s hear it all.

Specifically, I felt like sharing my experience as a father and a man in the City of Angels, throwing my mind against the wall and seeing what sticks. The concept of manhood has come into vogue again (whether or not it ever should have gone out is up for debate), and I felt like throwing my hat in the ring and reminding the world that fatherhood is an important, if not integral, part of being a man, and that the other concepts and ideas that help define manhood and fatherhood are worth talking about, exploring, dissecting, bashing, trashing, ridiculing, exalting, and post-post-post-modernizing. I know that most people would say that this goes without saying, but you know what? If you stopped saying all the things that go without saying, sooner or later, they’d just be gone. You gotta say ’em every once in a while or else no one will know what they hell they ever were. So there.

I’m gonna take my cue from some of my heroes: comedians, intellectuals, artists, blue-and-white-collar working men, thinkers and doers of all stripes, but a short list:

George Carlin. Sam Shepard. Ernest Hemingway. Bill Hicks. Samuel Beckett. Leonidas. Richard Pryor. Grant Morrison. Arthur Miller. Stephen King. Clint Eastwood. Richard Dawkins. Philip Dick. Billy Connolly. Garth Ennis. Neil Gaiman. Einstein. Terry Pratchett. Gandhi. MLK. Lewis Black. Warren Buffett. Malcolm X. Dylan Thomas. Emerson. Heinlein. Alan Moore. Jim Henson. Warren Ellis. Che Guevara. Thoreau. Tony Horton. Nietzsche. Twain. Shakespeare. Monty Python. Johnny and Ryder Brooks, my own personal connections to fatherhood. Fathers, some. Males, all. The reasons I am who I am and I do what I do.

So this is gonna be lots of things: Thoughts. Ideas. Poop jokes. Beer. Discpline. Laughs. Rants. Opinions. Information. Open to interpretation. Open to ridicule. Laden with sarcasm. If you like it, let me know. If you don’t like it, let me know. If you’ve got something to contribute, let me know. Just spell it right and make it worth reading is all I ask. Big pet peeve of mine, spelling. If you can’t get it right, I’ll probably delete you. Just a warning upfront. You gotta have standards.

Oh, and just this evening, Ryder added two more words to his vocab: “Spider!” and “Bat!” Halloween is worth talking about.