Category Archives: Family Album

Photos of the clan through the years.

Family Stories

For decades I’ve been plagued by the fear that when I’m gone, all the family stories that I know will be lost – all the little narratives that illuminate who people were and, more important, how they were.

I’ve ended up with all the material effects from five families, including my own, as I inherited the possessions of my mom and step dad, grandmother and grandfather, great aunt and uncle on my grandmother’s side, and great aunt and uncle on my grandmother’s side. These fill two to three dozen moving boxes, each with hundreds of papers, photos, collectables, souvenirs, mementos, awards, and memorabilia, and almost every one has a story behind it.

Here in my sixty ninth year, I have finally become so worried that these wonderful tales describing not just dates and places, but the nature of those who came before me, both those I’ve known and others even before that whom I have heard about from those that knew them, will cease to be. In a sense, I feel as if all these beloved and unique people will then cease to be as well, far more so then when they gave up the ghost.

And so, to assuage this nagging sadness, I have recently taken it upon myself to preserve those narratives – all the family stories I know from experience or had related to me.

To this end, I have begun opening each of the boxes, one by one, under the eye of a video camera pointed down into the memory treasures. In short sessions I pick up the first item, and share what I know about it and the people to whom it was connected, describing not only the object, but weaving in special memories I have of the people I have loved and lost, and even wonderful moments from those still with me when an item touches upon them as well.

I had tried before to put these stories in words, taking pictures of each material thing and speaking about it in essays and even collecting these in books. But who wants to read such material in a technological world such as this. And, it also lacks the immediacy of discovery, part way through my monologue, of some previously lost memory that puts passion in my voice as I rotate the object for the camera and reminisce.

I have done one session already, and I feel so relieved – that is the only appropriate word – that everything I shared on the video is now part of our family history, and those particular stories shall not be lost to time. I am eager to continue, knowing that each session brings those people alive again, as I knew them or heard about them, as if they were fictional characters that live on screen in a movie, for that is where the passion can be felt, and even those who never knew them nor even previously had heard of them can be enriched by their smiles, moved by their tears, thrilled by their triumphs, and saddened by their tragedies. But most of all, these magnificent spirits will live on in the hearts of those who live today, and of those not yet born who can say, “these are the people through whom I myself have come to be.”

Canon 814 Autozoom Memories

Ingmar Bergman with a Canon 814 Autozoom – the camera of my youth!


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I put this camera on layaway for a year. Saved all my allowance money and from doing odd jobs. I only spent 29 cents all that year – for a bag of sunflower seeds – that’s how much I wanted that camera. And I got it!

I loved that camera. The case it came in had a “new car” smell. I still have the camera and the case, and now, almost 45 years later, it still smells like that whenever I open it, and it take me right back to the thrill of having such a wonderful camera and making all kinds of experimental films.

I was so enraptured, that after I finally picked it up, I put its companion projector and audio recorder on layaway as well, and spent another year saving up for them. The recorder came in a brown leather carrying case, that also had that “new car” smell.

I was so proud and felt I could make the most wonderful movies ever committed to film. Perhaps, in my own artist’s heart, I did, though I’m likely the only audience that believed so.

Still, I’m drawn back to the eager anticipation of the future or, as Tom Petty once sang, “The future was wide open.” Those were the days of dreams and surprises, of joyous motivation and unexpected pleasures.

I think I shall pull out that old camera again this evening, or, as Elton John once sang, “Roy Rogers is riding tonight…”

Hamburger Soup

I grew up on this. You just put some cubed potatoes, carrots, onion, and perhaps a parsnip or celery if you have it and then drop some dollops of hamburger into the water. Boil until the veggies are tender but firm.

My mom made hamburger soup once a week. I never liked it much but didn’t want to hurt her feelings so I never said anything about it. It hadn’t realized until years later that this was a cheap meal to put wholesome hot food on the table . That sort of thing happens all the time when you grow up just the good side of poor.

Mom made ends meet, and kept her family fed. But one day in my pre-teens, I was starting to develop my own identity and I told her (gingerly), “Mom… I don’t really like hamburger soup.”

A quick expression flashed across her face, that I’m sure was a feeling of sadness that the hot meal she had made for me all those years was actually something I didn’t like. It was sort of a disappointed look – almost guilty that she had thought she was doing good,but had actually been doing something I didn’t want.

But, she recovered quickly, and said, “That’s okay, honey. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it.” Now I seem to recall that I said I’d go ahead and finish it, and did. But I felt I’d really let her down and not been grateful.

She only made it a few times after that, and always had something else for me. After she passed in 1989, I realized I’d give anything to have a bowl of her hamburger soup again.

A dozen or two years ago I tried making it myself, but I forgot that she didn’t use any spices at all in it. It was just served with salt and pepper on the table. So, when I put in a few seasonings, it just didn’t taste the same – it should have been bland but with subtle vegetable flavors that would get hidden behind any additions.

Since my step-dad passed about a month ago, I’ve been falling into reverie a lot about all those I’ve loved and lost. And today, I decided to recreate her recipe.

I used that big carrot from the garden in my last post, which made it all the more special. And I’m enjoying this bowl of it right now as I write.

It is the same almost tasteless flavor I recall from more than half a century ago when I last had it. And as I savor it, I think of my mom and my step-dad and the tears mist behind my eyes, threatening to fall on my childlike smile as in my mind I sit once more at the table with my parents and grandparents as we all converse about our days over our hot bowls of hamburger soup.

“Have You Seen That Girl?”

Found this frame from a storyboard I did for a music video I directed in the 1980s, in the early-ish days of MTV. The group, as I recall was called “Fishbone” – not to be mistaken with the more famous group, “Jawbone” – or perhaps the other way around. The song was “Have You Seen That Girl?”

The manager for the group saw my resume and hired me to direct and edit the video. I hadn’t made a music video before, though I had often edited to music, such as when I edited the official Tournament of Roses Parade film for a couple of years. So, I found this project both a bit familiar, but definitely moving into a new realm.

I hired a cameraman for the job, but he was totally insubordinate, and on the day of the shoot, kept ignoring my direction and doing what he wanted to do. Fortunately, as recall, I had two camera crews on this shoot, so I used one to get the shots I had storyboarded and I cut loose the rogue cameraman to show whatever the heck he wanted.

I recognized his talent and inspiration, but I was also responsible for the finished product and couldn’t afford to have him grab nothing but fantastic shots that wouldn’t cut together or to have missing pieces in the narrative. So, getting coverage with one camera and turning him free gave me the best of both. Still, he pissed me off….

Then, like most of my clients at the time, the group’s manager took total advantage of me in the editing room. I just wanted to get the job done, make a fair profit, and get back to my family, as my kids were always on my mind.

He wanted to do a stutter edit between back and forth between two shots with acceleration of the pace until it was one frame back and forth like a machine gun. Good idea, but I only had an offline non-time code editing machine that was only accurate to 2 to 3 frames per cut.

So – we spent DAYS at this job, working late into the night until I think I made about 30 cents an hour for my time on the project. But, son-of-a-bitch, I did manage to accomplish the freaking impossible.

In the end, the manager got what he wanted, shortly thereafter the group disbanded so it didn’t matter anyway, I got a nice sample reel and resume listing that never did me any good, wasted my time, missed my family, and have a really frustrating memory that I wouldn’t trade for anything because for one glorious night, I got to be the director of a rock and roll music video with cameras, lights, a whole mob of screaming guys and gals – all under my command. For one shining moment, I was cool.

Story of a Screenplay

These are the notes I took back around 1981 for improving a script I was hired to analyze called Static One. It was a movie script about people being turned into assassins against their will, written by George Bamber – a successful convention display company owner.

He made those big wooden and cardboard custom booths with all the color and fonts and graphics your see at trade shows.His company was Blue Thumb. He had a dream of being a writer and producing a script of his own, saw my resume, which included a feature length film I had directed in 1979, and hired me to help polish up his script.

Alas, the story, though representing a lot of work and a great deal of passion, had so many holes I had to report to him that I didn’t think it could be made. And this, even in the face of him being inclined to have me direct. Had to be honest.

But, as luck would have it, at that time I knew a fellow who had a much better written family script called “Brothers of the Wilderness.” I brought it to George and he said he would be willing to produce that one instead.

And so, we began pre-production on a movie that would end up being filmed over a 24 day schedule in the hills around Big Bear, California.We all lived in the same rented cabin for that month, cast and crew.

During that time, it snowed partway through so we had to re-write to accommodate. The writer got pissed at me for wanted to rewrite another scene, jumped over the couch and grabbed me by the throat trying to choke me. I didn’t respond and he eventually realized how idiotic he looked, let go, and the next morning we were all back in production.

Many more stories to tell about that, but for now I want to get back to George Bamber. We got the film completed, but it was only released to video. Not sure I even have a copy any longer. The budget was $50,000 – twice what my first movie cost.

But, at the same time George was paying those bills, his company hit some hard times, and eventually it folded, even though he had dozens of employees and a big building. I really hope t wasn’t the costs of our production that scuttled it.

Last I heard, back in the 1990s, he had become a motivational speaker and was supporting himself with gigs doing that. And as for the writer, well I gave him a wide berth and lost track of him shortly after completing the editing.

Wow – so much spews forth from just a few papers on top of a stack in a box in a stack of many stacks of boxes. So many stories – so little time.

Hope I someday get the chance to tell you about the wild ride into town crammed in a Volkswagen with no chains in order to get snow equipped, or my friend Tom (our soundman on this production) tuning out with his headphones each night to listen to the score from Das Boot, or the white knuckle ride I had one weekend driving up through dense fog on the winding mountain roads from having spend Saturday and Sunday with my family in Burbank.

No time for details now, however. Back to the boxes…