Monday, October 29, 2007

Great in '08!!

I didn't have an imaginary friend as a kid - but I did have an imaginary Presidential Candidate. Jim Great was running for President on a platform that solely emphasized his Greatness. How could you not vote for a Great President?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


When I was about eight or nine years old, I went through a period when I thought I wanted to be an architect. Actually, looking back on it, I suppose I was more interested in being an urban planner.

My single greatest achievement? I spent hours and hours creating a cross section of a vast underground city, consisting of sheet upon sheet of taped-together notebook paper. I don't remember too many details, but I remember the feeling of achievement as the plans extended further and further underground. It looked pretty cool as a cross-section. I tried to make a city that was livable, fun and futuristic.

Sunlight and claustrophobia didn't enter my thoughts. Not to mention fresh air- or the very thought of living your life hundreds of feet below the surface...

I wonder what a city would look like if it were designed by kids. Somehow, I think it would be a very scary place...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What Ever Happened to Ben? (Part Three)

The Ben Era

No sooner had I established my friendship with The Shuffleboard Kid that I became acquainted with Ben. I don't know just where and how we met, but we managed to find each other - two kids of the same age seeking an ally in our two week stay in an alien land (i.e. Miami).

Naturally, finding a friend of the same age under these circumstances is like hitting the jackpot. It didn't matter what we actually had in common - we were perfectly in tune in our fight against boredom. While Shuffleboard Kid was happy to find a friend, Ben and I were happy to find comrades.

There were just a few opportunities to establish a friendship, and even fewer responsibilities to maintain it. We could play at the beach of course - naturally, the primary form of entertainment at a beach-front hotel. The beach provided the backdrop for my only record of Ben - a movie of him goofing off for the camera and writing his name in the sand. If Shuffleboard Kid had come down to the beach, I suspect he would still have a name today.

Ben stood by me during the Bingo Incident. Our hotel had a bingo night, and Ben and I decided to join in. After all, there were prizes involved! Mostly, they were pens and pencils and paper wieghts, but that didn't matter. Winning the Prize was important - not the prize itself. We sat down, hoping to win some prizes.

That evening, I was to experience one of my most successful winning streaks, before or since. The Bingo Gods seemed to smile upon me as I won game after game after game. The Game Official (probably some cabana boy), checked each bingo card closer than the last - but my wins were real. Ben and I were giddy with excitement, while old ladies grumbled around the room. I won more prizes than I could handle, and began to hand some over to Ben, whose Bingo cards were sadly devoid of winning numbers. It seemed as if I couldn't be stopped. If I was in Vegas, I would have brought down the house. This wasn't Vegas, however.

The grumbles grew louder, and we grew happier, and the Bingo Gods grew more generous. Then, without warning, I was told to leave. I had won too much. I had to give other people a chance, they told me. WON TOO MUCH? I WAS TOO LUCKY? We were outraged! In this case, that meant it was my turn to grumble, and Ben's turn to grumble right along with me. I am convinced that I will one day have the chance to continue my interrupted streak of good luck, but as yet my efforts to summon the Bingo Gods have failed during my trips to Las Vegas.

Shuffleboard Kid, with an earlier bedtime, wasn't around for the Bingo Incident. As friendships unfold in the much-slower non-vacation world, we drifted apart. Sure, I would see him around the hotel over the next few days, but didn't spend that much time together - not like in the old days earlier in the week.

The unique character of a holiday vacation was always that everyone was there on the same general schedule. Most schools took off the last two weeks of the year, and so most families planned their vacations accordingly. When it was time to go home, we all parted. Nobody was left behind. We ALL moved away.

Ben, and Shuffleboard Kid and I became fast friends, and they were the first of many friends I would leave behind the following summer when my family moved across the country to California. Ben and I vowed to stay in touch - we had been through the Boredom War together - and survived With Something To Do. I guess you could say we're veterans. We might not have been fighting for freedom or our lives, but for the most important value in our lives at that single moment in time: Keeping Ourselves Entertained.

So....what ever happened to Ben? Until recently, I thought that we had attempted to write one another, but I didn't pursue the relationship when I realized how poor his writing skills were. My nephew, however, found a passage in a diary I was required to keep in my sixth grade class (in California) declaring, in bold letters, I GOT A LETTER FROM BEN! Unfortunately, that's all I wrote. Until I find that missing letter, the nature of our post-Miami friendship will have to remain a mystery.

With my nephew's help, I recently thought I found Ben on MySpace. He didn't respond to my odd little inquiry, so I can't be sure that particular east coast businessman is actually him. Of course, if it was him, we really wouldn't have all that much to talk about, anyway. Two Weeks. As an adult, that's practically an instant.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What Ever Happened to Ben? (Part Two)

The Shuffleboard Kid

The suggestion that one year in a dog's life is equivalent to seven in a human's is probably appropriate to kids and adults, as well. Summer can be an eternity to a kid - and two weeks nearly so. While an adult is almost immediately counting down the days when his vacation will end, the kid is generally thinking of the time at hand. Two weeks is an impossibly long time to contemplate.

Survival mode for a kid on vacation almost always means the challenge to Not Be Bored - particularly when the adults are off relaxing by the pool or entertaining themselves with a cup of coffee. Many kids out to dinner with their parents have formed brief alliances with mortal enemies caught in the same situation. They might remain enemies in school, but here in adultland, they only had each other, and put aside their differences rather than Be Bored.

At ten, age really matters. Generally, you hang out with kids your age or older - almost NEVER younger kids, lest you be considered One Of Them. On this vacation those concerns didn't apply.

I was checking out the shuffleboard courts (do they even exist anymore?) when I came across a boy I only remember at The Shuffleboard Kid. He was about seven or eight - an impossibly large age gap at home - and was playing with his mom. I was invited to play, which I suppose was her convenient excuse to beat a hasty retreat, for soon just the Kid and I were playing shuffleboard - and so forming a fast friendship based solely on Nothing Better To Do.

About the only thing I remember with certainty about The Shuffleboard Kid was that he was a bit sensitive - particularly, it seems, about animals. In fact, if he's an animal activist today, I might have witnessed the beginning of his lifelong quest. The Kid and I attended the hotel's sixteen milimeter screening of the original "Doctor Dolittle," which featured Rex Harrison as an 18th century vegetarian vetenarian who also, by the way, talked to the animals. At first, the screening almost didn't happen. Hotel staff couldn't figure out how to adjust the wide-angle lens on the projector to allow the film to project in its corrrect widescreen mode. I'm proud to say that my dad, the film executive, saved the evening by showing them how it was done, and thus making the screening possible.

After the film, Shuffleboard Kid was in tears. Why couldn't we treat animals like people? It just wasn't right! He seemed deeply hurt by the lack of what today I might call Equal Access For Animals. I thought it was really a major over-reaction, but I stood by my friend, tried to reason with him a bit, but generally just shrugged and hoped he would get it out of his system. It reminded me that he was, after all, Just A Little Kid.

For the first couple of days, The Shuffleboard Kid was my Best and Only Vacation Friend. His standing was about to be challenged.

Ben was on the scene.

Part Three: The Ben Era

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What Ever Happened to Ben? (Part One)

When I was ten, my family took a trip to Miami, Florida for the winder holiday - a two week vacation at a (then) typical Miami Beach hotel - multistory, some scheduled activities, and the beach right behind the hotel property. This was before today's "revitalized" Miami Beach, with (I'm told) glitzy hotels, night life, and lots of Cuban atmosphere. There might have been a lot going on, but for a ten year old kid, what counted in Miami Beach was the place where I spent most of my time - the hotel. I think a kid in Vegas might feel the same thing - plenty of lights and activity - but what does it mean to him?

Looking back on it, this vacation was actually one of the more activity-filled trips we took. We visited plenty of local attractions, including Parrot Jungle (where about four heavy parrots balanced on my scrawny arms for a photo), Lion Country Safari, where (I think) I saw the dolphins who performed in the TV show, Flipper (before computer graphics spared such animals a good deal of online work). We didn't get to visit the just opened Disney World (my dad didn't want to fight the traffic), but we did visit Kennedy Space Center - though it was late in the day and only the gift shop was open- I sitll have the Apollo 15 cap we purchased there.

At the hotel, however, there was a entirely new set of adventures. This was in the days before video arcades, wireless internet, or widescreen televisions. The list of activities, in my ten year old's perception, included the ocean, the pool, the shuffleboard court, the nightly bingo games, and a movie night (where they rolled out a sixteen milimeter projector). An adult - or older kid, like my teenage sister - would look at the situation as dire, but at ten, I accepted reality and went about seeing how I could fit into my new, semi-independent limitied-to-two-weeks world.

Part Two: The Shuffleboard Kid

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Back By Popular Demand!

Okay, maybe it depends how you define popular - let's say popular in the world of people who read my blog. I'm going to resume my blogorific experience....

It's been an eventful few months - from my work with FreshiFilms, LLC (where I serve as Director of Production), to my move to Valencia (about 2o miles north of my previous home), and numerous projects of all sizes and types - it's been a hectic time. I'll touch on some of these activities over the next few weeks.

I've a got a few newly-discovered childhood stories to share - and others to enhance. My move uncovered some forgotten artifacts from my kid years, which I'll review here in my own personal anthropological expedition (say that three times, fast), as well as exploring some ongoing mysteries.

The first of those mysteries: Whatever Happened to Ben?