Posts from the ‘Stories’ Category
I’m driving from Austin, Texas to Washington D.C. this week to cover and participate in the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st, the day after the Presidential inauguration. As a white male, I enjoy a privilege that I did not earn—one that is not shared equally by women and all. I believe that our continued progress in the pursuit of equal opportunity and eliminating racial and gender bias will come under greater threat with the new administration. I’m going to the WMW to demonstrate my solidarity with all women, to help document and add a little more volume to women’s rights and this historic event. Stay tuned for a written account of my experience and a series of photographs from the events and environment there.
Wesley and I were walking with a girlfriend of ours on an old cobbled sea wall that extended far into the waters off the coast of Maine. It was early 2007, I think, and the wall stood steep above the water a good 6-10 feet. The surrounding harbor was dotted with rich sailboats and buoyed lobster traps, all gently bobbing up and down with the ocean waves and our unhurried stroll. It was the kind of setting you’d read about in books and imagine if you were so romantic. My friend and I were holding hands and enjoying our conversation, while Wesley followed behind, raced ahead, fell back, raced ahead, and so on.
Wes has always had a penchant for wandering off, curious with everything and everybody. A trait I celebrate, but one that often left me shaking my head. He shared my ability to get into mischief no matter how difficult the mischief was to achieve. In this moment, given the width and confined length of the sea wall, I was relaxed in the knowledge that he could roam free, but not far. And this is how we spent some time that day.
Fully present in the hand and moment that we were all having, I was suddenly startled by the loud splash I heard behind me. I didn’t see Wes in front of me, or behind me, instead surprised to find the source of the splash was him. Hundreds of yards from shore, Wes had jumped on his own into the cold ocean below. He was swimming with great intent, and was heading… straight… for… a large orange buoy, with lobster trap below.
After my initial shock at his daring it occurred to me what he was doing. I became more proud than worried. He wanted lobster, and why shouldn’t he want lobster?! My friend was horrified and very concerned. My reaction was conflicted. I was like, “Wes, come back!” “No, get it!” “Come back!” “Go get it, Wes!” The water was cold and there was no apparent way to get to him. I’m happier in the belief that he knew there was lobster attached to that buoy. I could think of no other reason why he would dive after it. Tennis balls are yellow, and much, much smaller.
When Wes made it to the nearest buoy, maybe 20 feet out, he dunked his head beneath the water to grab the base and thick rope in his mouth. He was fervently paddling and trying to pull it. Two problems I saw: 1. That trap was heavy and it wasn’t budging. And 2) Where did he intend to take it? It was a long way to shore, and the sea wall was almost completely vertical. I don’t think he thought the whole thing through. He wanted lobster, so he just jumped.
Wesley swam and swam, more determined than I have ever seen him. He snorted in the waves, splashed with his strokes, and stayed focused on swimming back to somewhere not water—to somewhere he could bask in the accomplishment. I was clinging to the side of the wall, nearest I could get to the surface. I was congratulating him, encouraging him, and begging him to swim to me. This went on for some time and I too started to worry a bit. I reluctantly encouraged him to let go, leave it, and come back. Though he finally did, it was not without completely going for it with everything that he had. He swam to me, cold and disappointed, and we both scaled back up the side of the wall to my worried friend looking on. With the concern set aside, she was now shaking her head incredulously at the Davidhazy boys.
I was very proud of Wes that day, and every day since. Though he passed away today, I am very happy with the 14 years we’ve spent together traveling hundreds of thousands of miles around North America. He was a good friend to so many wonderful people, and they to him. In that way, I am no different.
So many people seem to be just like their dogs, but not me. He represented everything that I would wish for myself; genuine kindness, unconditional love, social exuberance, and no patience for feeling sorry for himself. I am at the same time a lesser person without him and also so much better off for the experience of him.
Whenever I just jump, I think of Wes.
And here are just a few of his many starring movie roles…
Wes stole the show with his brief role at the beginning of this movie:
I spent some time over the last couple days taking pictures of some of the old ticket stubs I’ve held onto over the years. Some may be more meaningful than others, but it’s neat to look back through all of them now and see the journey that my life has taken. I’ve moved around and travelled so much that the details and sequence of things can be difficult to recall. But all these tickets stubs have become something like a map. In no small way, it outlines the story of my life. And there’s a story behind every one of these. I think about where I was at that point in my life, and I think a lot about the people I may have been with when sharing that experience. Click here or on the image above to browse through hundreds of ticket stubs from various concerts, theatre, sporting events, and some other interesting occasions.
As you may already know, I had been kicking around the old home place since the third of February. When I left to gallivant around North Africa and Europe for a month, it was Sue that I counted on to look after my dog, Wesley. And given everything she’s already doing to care for others, I knew this was asking a lot. But I also knew she was happy to.
Once upon a time, Sue was the other woman—an unfit title to be sure. Growing up, my family’s house was always interesting, but rarely filled with love. Even so, when my dad sat my sister and I down at the kitchen table in 1984, I remember us feeling so grateful and relieved that he’d found her.
Over the years, Sue has become caretaker, homemaker, financial planner, cowgirl, mother, friend and teacher to so many. She asks for nothing, but doesn’t lack for much either. Sue is thoughtful, patient, sensitive, genuine, gracious, positive, quick to laugh, and brave. If you ask me, she has an unfair amount of each. She is a stoic model to the group of selfish-leaning men that surround her. Myself included.
Five years ago my father was found to have an invisible cancer, which was promptly debated and then treated in Seattle. The after effects of that treatment have altered his and Sue’s life greatly. He’s a walking petri dish, though an outcome far better than the alternative. Instead, he now has eyes made of sandpaper and skin that does strange things. There’s a welcome mat for blood clots and infection, and a pharmacy of drugs organized and administered several times a day. Caring for him is an occupation and one that Sue performs with grace.
When not attending to others, Sue will find peace in the mighty fine sewing room she pieced together in an unused corner of the basement—quite useful in the making of seat covers for my truck. When not sewing, she’s taking piano lessons, adding a new melody to a house of guitars. Gordon Lightfoot and country-western tear-jerkers are her favorites. She joins good friends in golfing, horseback riding, and when spring comes, cheering on the Rochester Red Wings—season tickets, just above the dugout down the first base line. She knows all the players, and has the kit and autographs to prove it. And yes, she will even talk a little trash, but does it in a way far too endearing to offend.
Over the last several weeks, Sue’s job description expanded further, with no raise or corporate benefits to show for it. Not only did she care for Wesley in my absence, and me when I was present, but dad went and added a broken arm to his medical chart and now requires his dinner cut and pants buttoned. One of her dear horses is now crooked, and amidst all the chores and ailments, her best buddy passed away. Riley was a big, beautiful Irish Setter—the perfect antidote for Sue when she lost her previous dog to a fire that brought the house and many memories to the ground.
Every morning, despite darkness, rain or harsh winter, Sue and Riley would wake just before five to trudge out to the barn to care for the horses. I got the sense that Riley offered that little extra sanity and love whenever Sue needed it most. On top of keeping everything and everyone else around her together, she cared for Riley when he finally succumbed to twelve good years. No vet bill was too big and no decision too light. In some small way, maybe it was good that Wes was there.
My father has been a research photographer and professor for as long as I’ve been alive—an interesting guy, carved from the same logical mold as his father. He’s now at a crossroads and I wish he would have accumulated more confidence in his own ability to navigate a path through it. Though he’s not really a philosophical guy and seemingly oblivious at times to the work that goes on around him, I got to hand it to him for finding the best possible woman there is. With her, he has every reason to feel optimistic.
Sue and my dad have been together for 30 or 40 years now, far before I knew anything of it. They go on walks together, swim together, sail together, watch Jeopardy together, and enjoy cheap food—together. But most importantly, they still hold hands. Though dad is not without his charms, when it comes to all the good going on there in Honeoye Falls, I blame Sue.
It was a cold, meandering winter and I was coming to the end of my second month on the road, rounding the Great Lakes to my dad’s house in upstate New York. It was January 25th, but the spring was already here.
On the other side of the world from the cold highway I was on, heading south through Ontario, my car radio was fixed upon a revolution. Days later, dad, Sue and I were watching the dramatic images from the dinner table. I was completely fascinated and inspired by it all—the peaceful pride of the Egyptian people, and the passion and courage they demonstrated. Seeing their movement transpire in real time from this idyllic country place, didn’t seem real at all. Selfishly, I wanted to feel why this was happening, and I wanted to drink what they were drinking.
The news cycle would sometimes pan away from the battle of Tahrir Square to all the Egyptian tourist workers standing disconsolate in the midst of so many wonders of the world. The embassies were shuttered, and a groundswell of tourism unabated for hundreds of years, had now vanished overnight. I would half-jokingly say aloud, “Ya know, now is probably a good time to visit. Someone should go there.” As if I was talking about anyone else but me. I was testing out what I already knew.
Then it happened. The martyrs from Tahrir Square, along with the rest of the civilized world would celebrate. Conceding to the unity of Egypt’s citizens, Hosni Mubarak, their brutal dictator for three decades was now gone. It was at that moment, my decision was made as well. A week later I was walking amidst the intense and wonderful chaos of Cairo.
Duluth, Minnesota. Aside from a warm bed and a decent breakfast, I didn’t give it much thought. But a quick reminder about an old family connection to this area, gave me something more meaningful to do.
My grandfather, Captain Andy, was a Hungarian Merchant Marine. In the 1930′s, he was a bright officer about 25 years old, sailing into the Port of Duluth through the very inlet and harbor pictured above—though not when frozen over like it was today. He would transport various goods aboard the MV Kassa to ports along the way, returning to Hungary with grain from this dock. It would have been an epic journey to be sure—a circuitous route navigating the Danube, across the Atlantic Ocean, up the St. Lawrence to the Great Lakes, the Welland canal around Niagara Falls to Erie, Huron, and finally, Lake Superior.
I spent much of the morning and afternoon driving around the Port of Duluth, doing some research into what my grandfather may have seen and experienced during those arrivals and departures. What did the streets look like? Where did he have a drink with his mates? I spoke at length with a very nice woman named, Adele, in the Port office, studied some historical maps, and read profiles on all the docks and elevators currently in operation here. It was the old ones that interested me most. General Mills’ Elevator A, pictured above, was built in 1908 and would have been run by Consolidated Grain Co. when my grandfather came through.
My family’s migratory path is far too complicated for an abbreviated post, but the short story involves World War II, the Germans, the Russians, some gun ships and gold bullion, and my family’s eventual escape to Argentina via Allied ports in Western Europe. Then it was Boston in the late 50′s. My dad finished high school there before heading off to college at RIT in upstate New York, while my nagypapi moved the rest of the family to Seattle and continued his work as a naval architect. He would sail his grandson around Puget Sound whenever I came to visit.
The pictures of the Kassa were taken during a family reunion in Hungary back in 2001, on his birthday. He was interviewed around that time by a Hungarian yacht magazine. He died two years later at 91, and his hat (pictured) rested proudly upon his casket. Captain Andy is buried in the town of Kenders, next to another of Hungary’s heroes, Admiral Horthy.
I wasn’t supposed to be here tonight. But as it turns out, the four hour detour further north was a good idea.
My evening with Martin Sexton at the community theatre in Fargo, North Dakota, was a great time—at a great time. The theatre was very community, seating just a few hundred people, with Martin occupying the small thrust stage within arms reach of everyone in the room. It was a well-mannered room with a pleasant pitch. Martin equated it to giving a song workshop, a nice surprise to him it seemed. I couldn’t help but take the show personally, for more reasons than just the intimacy of the space.
A long drive to Winnipeg awaited him, but he was still generous enough to spend some time with me, talking at length about my trip, sharing a couple stories about past shows, our lives in upstate New York, and about taking risks, hitting the road, and loving what you do.
I recalled a show in 2003, at the Moore Theatre in Seattle, where Martin’s inspired tribute to hometown boy, Jimi Hendrix, left an indelible mark on my friend George and I. There was also a Christmas show in Syracuse about four years ago, where his father and sister joined in on a catalog of yule tunes. Oddly enough, I was visiting my dad in Rochester for a few days at that time, and I told Martin how I dragged him along on the 90 minute drive down the Thruway on that rare winters night. My dad’s only complaint was that he couldn’t understand the words, but I was happy to have his company and to share Martin’s music and family with him, just as I’ve done with many of my friends since. Tonight, aside from the occasional moan from the PA’s low end, Martin’s vocal was crystal clear.
Two months in and my trip may not have the eloquence of Kerouac or Steinbeck’s Travels With Charlie, or the audacity of a Blues Brothers mission from God—so committed to getting the band back together nothing else mattered. I have a lot of uncertainty. Even so, Martin, nor I, think it’s too late for a 43 year old soul to be a better man. Or that taking off on such a trip means that I’m not already.
Ever since Northampton in ’98 when Kristen put “Diner” on a mix tape for me, Martin Sexton’s music has been a constant companion and soundtrack to my hits, my misses, my romances, and my travels with Wes. Anyway, this evening was a real treat for me and I’m very grateful to Georganne, Kevin and Martin, who warmed my heart in a very cold town. Thank you.
Admittedly, it was a rather uneventful day at the office that prompted this work place ponderance. Granted, it’s a bit off the cuff and flowery perhaps—seemingly untroubled by the realities of running a business. But none the less, this is my motivating vision for what a typical day at the office could be like.
As per usual, my work day begins at the front door of my place of work. Only in my story this isn’t any ordinary door, and it’s certainly no ordinary place. Instead of swinging open with the clinical push and pull of a glass office tower, the double wide entrance to my world rolls up with a proud clatter into the rafters of a building more reminiscent of an old warehouse or barn.
The 80 year old building still looks much like it was found, with it’s massive wood joists and tarnished iron hardware. There are large open spaces that allow us to move with a subtle structure that brings intimacy to those that seek it out. It’s a place that reeks of hard work, yet with the same warmth and comfort that a stone fireplace on a wintery night might bring. The kind of place where when the wind is blowing outside, you would hear it on the inside. Where the remnants of organized chaos left by creative and practical people is the only decoration it requires. And with no dress code or pretension, the afterthoughts of wardrobe find tweed jackets and painter pants equally at home.
In addition to these lofted open spaces, one can retreat to adjoining vestibules and offices that lower the ceiling and din of those collaborating around you. Formulate ideas or contemplate a nap, it’s entirely up to you. This is the kind of place clients and business partners would visit for the first time and be immediately transported into a world that knows no stress, no honking horns, and no misguided crisis. They always look forward to their return. Be it strategies or late night brainstorming, politics or sports scores, cappuccino or hot chocolate—you’ll find them all served well from deep within a pillowy sofa as feet rest comfortably on a fine hardwood table that’s not afraid of scuffs or coffee cup rings.
It’s now 6:00am as the door clatters it’s way open. A new day begins.
As I step inside just beyond the coats, I proudly park my bicycle where it will soon be joined by dozens of others. They are owned by a jovial bunch of talented people who continuously challenge their minds and those that surround them. Yet with every possible tool of the trade at their disposal, ideas remain their most important one. It’s a familiar place that I always look forward to. Doesn’t everyone wish they could say the same?
There’s disconcerting old breaker box on the wall, just waiting for me to shed some light on the day. I’m the first one here and often last to leave, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s an exhilarating bike ride from my home just outside of town, so the mornings usually start with a quick shower in the locker room of our small but well-used gym. We have a basketball court too, which you will soon hear more about. Gathering my things I seek the quiet peace of my office—the last one at the end of a wood-planked hallway that doubles as a bowling alley when the good folks from Ben & Jerry’s come by. My poppy seed bagels are fresh from the oven and the orange juice is still settling from a squeeze. I spend a little time with the trades and morning papers, clipping out the Beetle Bailey and tacking it to my brown cork-covered walls. Gradually settling into the punctuated rhythms of my PowerBook, I attend to email and familiar correspondence from Barry, Carter, Jobs, and my dad.
Even from the bellows of my little brown lair, I can hear the building gradually coming alive. I soon find myself exchanging pleasantries and anecdotes with my peers, and formulating plans for the days work ahead. For the past several weeks, Howard, Gene, Ashley and myself have been building the miniature sets for our stop-motion animated feature, “There Goes My Bus”. It’s a close collaboration with Aardman Entertainment that will start shooting here in the coming months. It’s only one of the many diverse projects playing out in various states of unrest. Never the same from one day to the next, yet we are confident in our abilities to meet the challenges that come. There is an impenetrable calm over the risks that we take.
I spend the bulk of my early afternoon soaking in the creative spirit that abounds, always happy to lend an ear or thought or strong back where it’s needed. On this particular day one can experience the methodical traffic in the halls, the conference room voices and library peace. Moving from one collaborative hub to another you can hear the quirky blend of jazz stylings emanating from our recording studio. There are writers and art directors draped over beanbag chairs with Bennetton ads on their brains. The wood shop is buzzing with photo shoot sets as our web guys complete an all-nighter getting ready for a launch. I look forward to the opportunities to step back and admire the view, the very moment a manifestation of our collective idea comes into focus. We create something real. Something that in turn helps our clients run a business, or entertains a grateful audience, or even moves someone to feel–something. Anything.
Slotted nicely between long periods of productivity comes the ritual escape. Every Wednesday at 1:00pm sharp there’s a rumble on the lower west side. Okay, not really a rumble, but a highly charged basketball game—just out back and a few yards to the left. When my partners and I started this company, the first thing we did was salvage the urban court from beer bottles and thick jungle weeds. Our good neighbors at the Honey Bear Bakery are the usual challengers, and to the victor goes “Dave”, a life-sized cardboard cut out of Mr. Late Night himself. He’s presided proudly over our sporting traditions for the past 13 years. The cardboard likeness has seen better days, but then again so have the Bakers. Our once spirited contests have recently turned predictably one sided. However, as the author of this story, perhaps I’m merely exercising my creative license and wishful thinking.
As we take a deep breath and settle quietly back into our respective projects, we’re all afforded a moment to reflect on the work at hand and how great this is that we get to do it here. It’s three in the afternoon, the place is humming and I’m sneaking away for more dutiful calls. Being in the huddle of this great team is what I love most. Up to our eyeballs in Elmers Glue, X-acto blades and balsa, we find ourselves cutting and pasting a miniature world into a life full of fantasy and wonder. Not unlike this one.
And so this is how it goes. Something like yesterday, but probably nothing like tomorrow. A hammer hammers. The paint dries. A witty line gets a fading cackle. As the clock strikes six, the steam whistle blows like the one in Flinstone’s quarry. It reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously, while serving as an important and democratic reminder that we all have lives taking place outside these storied walls. While most of our good folks don their sweaters and say goodnight, there are always obsessive stragglers that come to embrace their roles as the busy little elves that work secretly through the night. I am one of them.
As the frenzy grows quiet, you might now be thinking that this wouldn’t be your idea of a job worth doing. But I for one will take a shabby old barn over sculptured glass walls and Technion cubes any day. And with that, it’s time to go home. I’ll get the lights and roll down the door.