Thursday, July 21, 2011

Entry #1

February 7, 2004

The Pitch...

My father and I love baseball. It has served as our communication when words would not suffice. Beyond just a game, baseball has oft been a template for life. 

During the summer of 1990 and 1991, while I was on break from college, we began a tour of the major league ballparks of America. Our goal was to see them all. In 1990, we saw Wrigley Field, Tiger Stadium, Milwaukee County and (old) Comiskey Park. In 1991 we saw Yankee Stadium, Veterans Stadium and Fenway Park. Then, after I graduated in 1992, life just seemed to “get busy” for both of us and, to date, we haven’t been on any more baseball adventures.

In July 2001, my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. This was two weeks on the heels of my mom’s diagnosis with breast cancer. I had the fortune of living with my parents at that time. I was fresh off a devastating breakup myself and back in my old home town of Walnut Creek, CA. I was there to make my third feature film, “the long road home”. This would mark the first time I would be in complete control of the project, tacking on directing and producing to my normal tags of actor and writer. It was a self-effacing piece called, “the long road home” and, like many of my art works, it would have deeper roots than I would at first recognize.   

During this time, Dad and I had many long conversations, often with an A’s game on in the background. We discussed his and mom’s illnesses, what could be done, the meaning of life itself and, at the same time, crazy as it sounds, Jason Giambi’s future with the A’s.

I believe one of the most painful relationships in a man’s life is often with his father. The root of many men’s pain seems to lie in the lack of acceptance from his father. That was squarely what I was dealing with, accelerated now, with the fear of my dad’s strange new illness. 

In “the long road home”, the main character (Bo Cooper), a thirty year-old sports writer returns to his childhood hometown for his long-awaited wedding and bachelor party. 

When he arrives he drops the bombshell that he’s called everything off. While his mother is in full-panic mode, his father has nothing to say. Bo turns his back on his family and drinks his problems as far away as that will take him. 

Eventually, after some well-earned humiliation and with the guidance of a close friend, Bo is able to ask his father what he needs to. Just as important, his dad is able to respond in the only way that would truly give satisfaction -- even if it doesn’t sit well with Bo at first.

This scene takes place near the end of the film, after Bo has come full-circle on everything but his relationship with his dad. Bo is packing to return to his adult home.



Bo enters. He looks at all the old pictures and trophies from his youth, then starts to take them off the wall. He shelves some and puts others in his duffle bag. Dad comes to the door, watches Bo. Bo turns, sees his Dad.


Whatcha up to?

I, uh...I need a few things 
        to...figure out some stuff. Besides, 
        it’s probably about time to change 
        this room up.

(beat -- Dad nods)
We should get going to the airport
in about a half hour.

Dad starts to walk away.

(Dad stops - beat)
Do you approve of me?

I guess I don’t know what you mean.

Do you approve of me? Of my life? Of 
        who I am? Of me as your son?

I...I love you very much.

They stare at each other for a long beat. What else is there to say? Bo goes back to taking stuff off the wall. 

Do you need help with your bags?


Dad exits.


In early 2004, for no conscious reason I could think of, I re-watched one of my favorite movies, “Field of Dreams”. I knew the movie was good. I forgot it was that good. I cried. Not just tears, but deep, heaving sobs that were connected to my fears of losing my dad and not getting to do the things we’d set out to do. It immediately sparked:

My dad and I needed to finish the trip we started long ago. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do in the Summer of 2004. 

I have ideas come to me all the time. Sometimes they whisper, sometimes they scream. Their volume does not, in any way shape or form, dictate their importance. It is, however, harder to ignore the screamers. This one was a screamer. 

I wanted to tell my parents immediately, but the Pragmatic Producer (PP) voice in my head gave rise before I could grab the phone.

What about money? PP asked. What about the time off of work? Do you think Annamaria (my live-in girlfriend) is going to mind you being gone for X amount of time? How about mom? How’s she going to feel about giving up her husband for X amount of time -- especially with the reminder that time with him is now more precious than ever? Do you think your dad even wants to do something like this? Can he do something like this anymore?

That last one caught me. The idea that my dad, a Superman in my mind’s eye as most sons hold their fathers, might not physically be able to make this trip scared me. It scared me to the point of deeper determination. Because if his health is in question now, it will be a certainty somewhere down the road -- quite possibly sooner than later. 

So I went to work, starting with Annamaria.

The original, award-winning documentary is available here for free. The kickstarter page is here. Please contribute to get us back out on the road for the follow up documentary, ten years later. 
Along with a lot of blood, sweat and tears, a book was born from this project. The original, award-winning documentary is available here for free. The kickstarter page is here. Please contribute to get us back out on the road for the follow up documentary, ten years later.   

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