Jukebox Saturday Afternoon

I realized that when I laid TRUE LIFE to rest, I also sacked a couple of song files that I wanted to keep active.

So, think of these as a little added bonus. A blast from the TRUE LIFE past…and a special bonus track!

All this for no extra charge, folks.

I know. It blows my mind, too.

Okay…all smarmy kidding aside, here are the links and a little commentary about each to refresh your memory about what these songs are and how they came to be. Enjoy.


I had been “writing” songs for years…in my head. My limited abilities at the piano made it difficult–if not impossible–to actually perform them. I always said, however, that if I had a multi-track recording studio and a keyboard wired up to some great sampled instruments, I could ding away and maybe put something together. Because though I am not confident that I could perform, I can compose. Meaning if I can slow time down and work (sometimes literally) one note at a time, I might be able to lay down some tracks.

Enter Garageband. The moment I launched it, I knew it was what I had been searching for. I threw together a few tunes on it, and I was in heaven. And I hadn’t even gotten the keyboard yet. Basically, my composing was manipulating loops and using the musical notation feature to build tracks note-by-note. It was quite tedious. But amazing.

Eventually, I got the keyboard and…nothing. I didn’t touch the thing. For, like, a year.

Then, of course, I met my Robbye. Suddenly, my world broke wide open.

I was waiting for a meeting on the Universal Studios lot one day marveling over this great, big love, when the first lyric popped into my head. It was sprang from a conversation Robbye and I had been having right before I left.

Color blind
Most of the time
Crashing into
The same auld lang syne

It hit me like a tone of bricks. I knew it was a song. I knew it was for her. And I knew what I was going to do with it.

She was the one, and this song was the one.

I would compose it and record it. And I would give it to her for Christmas. I never once asked myself how in the world I thought I could accompish that in three weeks or so, given my overloaded schedule. It was too important.

I sat down and wrote the rest of the lyrics in a single day.

For the next few weeks, I worked during the day, parented the kids, spent time with Robbye, and then came home and sat down at the iMac–sometimes till dawn–as I simultaneously wrote the rest of the song and taught myself how to “play” the keyboard and taught myself how to use the software…not to mention the art/craft of recording. And editing.


I was re-recording the lyrics literally two hours before I was supposed to give Robbye the CD. I was a wreck. But it all worked out fine. When I played it for her, she wept with joy. “No one’s ever written me a song.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

I listen to it now, and I hear all of the flaws. I think to myself that someday I will revisit…apply everything I’ve learned since then to fix some problems and finesse the thing. Then again, after I got done with Sacred Ground, which has enough problems in its own right, I thought again. Yeah…maybe someday, when I have a month of peace and quiet to just play. I have no idea when that will be. Besides, I have also learned, for all its wonder, a guy can only push Garageband so far. ProTools it ain’t.

And there’s a beauty–and I think an honesty–in it just the way it is. So, in some ways, I think that no matter how I improve it in the future, this recording stands on its own.

Anyway, this explanation got loooonnnng! Enjoy. It’s all me. No loops, save for the foundation of the 6/8 drum beat.

And it’s all her. Because the song says it all…with Robbye in my life, all that is old turns into gold.

Tarantino Slumbers

This is the second tune I created in Garageband. I discovered the kitchy 70s horn loop and visions of Kill Bill danced in my head. I imagined him sleeping and dreaming all that crazy shit up.

There ya go.

I didn’t have my keyboard yet, so this is a hodge-podge of loops, both extant and manipulated, and me plunking away note after note. It was pretty tedious, but I really liked the final product. I feel like it sounds like him.

Christopher Pike

I started cooking this up right after I finished Tarantino Slumbers. I envisioned creating this “album” that I would call Chemical Flask (No, Bill. I don’t think you’re over-ambitious. not in the least.).

I’ve been fascinated by the Christopher Pike character for years, and he’s a central figure in the Star Trek script I will never write, Star Trek: Facade. Okay…start cracking up now. Yup…make all the smart remarks you wanna. Knock yourself out. I will still be here when you return.


No..? Okay. I’ll wait.


All right.

Which, by the way (and if I may say without sounding to egotistical), the pitch has gotten rave reviews from everyone I’ve ever told it to–whether or not they were a Star Trek fan. I always thought it was a story that deserved to be told, but then that might simply be the uber-fanboy geek nerd dork freak in me talking shit again.

Anyway, I wrote this thinking about The Cage (or The Menagerie, depending on how you look at it).

I never finished it, and I really don’t know if I ever will. Maybe it’s better that way. For that, in itself, is so Christopher Pike. Or you can think of it like a rare, incomplete and unused take on the Beatles Anthology CDs. Remember those?

Yeah…just think of this like that. Except I’m not the Beatles. Details, details.

Strange Butt True (vol. I)

Here’s an odd little ditty.

Robbye and I were riding in the car someplace the other day. I can’t remember what we were talking about, but somehow this nugget wriggled its way out of memory. I turned to her and said, “I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count.”

So… What?



All of a sudden I had this epiphany. All of a sudden I got it.

So, yeah…I know. I feel like an idiot.

I have lived with this statement for as long as I can remember. It’s one of my mom’s little gems–one of her greatest hits. She says it all the time. I’ve certainly caught the gist of it–at least the spirit in which the statement is evoked: the answer is so apparent, you only need one guess to get it. But the logic behind it has always eluded me.

Because that’s not what the statement is really saying. When you take the statement at face value, it seems to be saying that if I give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count, that means you ostensibly have an infinite number of guesses. Right? On the surface, it’s pretty much an invitation to keep guessing until you land on the correct answer. That’s cool, huh?

I mean, it’s not like I’ve spent the last 40 years pouring over the thing, but… Alright, I admit it. I have spent my fair share of time puzzling through it.

It’s like a sliver imbedded under the skin. Or better…recently, I read an article about this 59-year-old German lady who had a pencil removed from her her head. Apparently, she’d fallen on the thing 55 years earlier, when she was four. It went through her skin and right into her brain. She didn’t die, but she did have chronic nosebleeds and headaches all of her life because medical science wasn’t at a point where doctors could safely extract it.

The “three guesses” thing is like that. Lodged in my brain. A lot of headaches. No way to excise it.

And I feel stupid for not getting it all these years. For not figuring out its painfully simplistic logical framework.

I mean, what’s that all about?

One reason I may have stuggled with it is because the logic is inherently flawed. It breaks down and renders the statement utterly useless.

The machinery behind the statement–the inherent assumption–is, in effect, saying that I am attempting to provide you the correct guess, based on a question you’ve posed to me. Presumably, if my first two guesses “don’t count”, that means you leave me infinite leeway to arrive at the correct answer someday without restriction. In this case, presumably on the assumed third guess. You’ll wait there patiently with me, for the rest of eternity, if necessary, until I say the right thing. Stumble all you want, pal. No problem. We’re doin’ just fine. You take all the time you need. You’ll get it one of these tries. The old “put an infinite number of monkeys in a room with typewriters” routine.

And yet, I make a guess, and it’s discounted. I make another guess, and that one’s discounted. I continue making guesses, and they are continually cast aside. Unaccounted for. No tick mark. Nada.

It turns out I never reach my third (and final) guess. If each answer, i.e., guess, that leaves my lips, doesn’t count, I’m snared in some sort of feedback loop. It goes on forever. I’m always stuck at the beginning. I never make it to square two, much less square three.

Because what if I get the right answer the first time around? The statement doesn’t acount for that. If I nail the thing right outta the shoot? Forget it. That guess didn’t count. I can, in fact, say the same thing again, be bang on with the right answer. Nope. Doesn’t count. What about a third time? Umm…you don’t seem to get it. This isn’t the “third time”. Those other two guesses (What other two guesses?) didn’t count. This is still your first guess. And by the way..? It won’t count either.

Here’s the deal: it never counts. You can have the right answer at the get-go, and it makes no difference whatsoever. Because your answer never goes on record. You’re left screaming at the wall.

Go back to Philosophy 101. The statement isn’t just illogical, it’s non-logic.

Fuck. Maybe that’s why I’ve wrestled with it all these years.

It’s a built-in Catch-22. But it’s more insidious than that. It masquarades as a pleasant invitation to take all the time you need to get it right. The pressure’s off. No worries. Except for one small snag. You accept the invitation, all the while thinking, this is great! And then…

BAM! You’re knocked to the ground by a sucker punch of Sisyphusian propoortions. And to add insult to injury, you’re sucked in FOREVER! You can never pass the test! You can never win.

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Yup… That’s what it feels like. Warm smell of colitas rising up in the air, indeed.


No wonder I couldn’t make heads or tails of the thing. It’s a metaphor for my life growing up.

What does that mean?

I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count.

Runaway Music


iTunes kept me company yesterday as I worked away at my little keyboard. At some point in the afternoon, one song rose above the din. Something I hadn’t heard in a few years.

It was a song called Looking Out a Window, which was written and performed by indie music hero Jason Morphew (of Holding Merle Haggard fame, not to mention my personal favorite, The Duke of Arkansas). The song was one of many composed by Morphew for Runaway, but never used. He was, in fact, hired to score the entire picture at some point.

I was pretty excited when I heard Morphew had signed on. I’d been something of a fan since I’d heard Haggard years before. Arkansas had come out the year before, and I had the CD for awhile. But a pal of mine borrowed it, and it evaporated into the ether.

The songs he created for the movie were, I thought, inspired. Some of them, like Looking Out a Window, were downright great. And the first rough cut of the movie featured Bull in the China Shop of Love (one of the sweetest tracks off Arkansas), which elicited a gleeful belly laugh from me as I sat with producer Bob Gosse in his Pasadena pad and watched the first rough cut of the movie.

After production wrapped, and I stepped away from the Runaway day-to-day, something obviously happened. Suddenly, Morphew’s music was gone. Whaaa-? I had expected more music, not less. I talked to Al Klingenstein, the head of Filbert Steps, and he told me that Morphew was off the project. Something had transpired, it seems, between Morphew and the director. I don’t know. There are several accounts. Look ’em up on the Internet.

The bottom line for me is that, though I love Robert Miller’s haunting score, the movie misses Morphew’s obvious talent and insight. Misses his imprint on it.

But back to yesterday.

I’m listening to the song, and “I wonder whatever happened to Jason Morphew?” pops into my head. Power of the Information Superhighway later, I discover this:


What is this, you ask?

It’s most of the songs I was talking about. The Runaway songs. And, apparently, a lot of the instrumental music he created for the movie.

At first I was shocked. I won’t lie to you; I was knocked off center for a bit. But when I came to, I was flattered and honored. Although Morphew is (and I can’t blame him) not exactly a huge fan of the movie, the script resonated with him at least enough to inspire some this really cool music.

How do I know? For one, he talks about it in various commentary he’s given about his Runaway experience. For another, we’ve exchanged a number of emails over the past 24 hours discussing it.

So…cool. I also got to chat with him a bit and let him know I’m a fan. How often do you get a chance to do that over the pretense of discussing how something you’ve written inspired an artist whom you have great respect for? Not damn often enough, I say.

Anyway, so there ya go. As I told him, he deserved to do something with this music, which he obviously put so much heart and effort and time into. And I am excited to maybe have played a bit part in that.

There’s even a picture of some sort (I haven’t seen it because I downloaded the music on iTunes) of a page of the script on the CD tray label.

Way cool.

btw — you can get your very own copy of Sunday Afternoon here.

What gives..?

I hope you were sitting down. Please don’t faint. Yes…twice in a day!

I got done with the last post, and realized this would be a good place to insert this link…

Click here.

I composed and recorded this for Robbye and surprised her with it on her birthday a couple of months back. She asked whether I was going to post it on my blog. I told her yes, I thought I would.

And now I have.

There are rough patches. And Garageband, I am learning, for all its beauty and functionality, ain’t ProTools. Then again, I ain’t Elvis Costello, either.

What you are about hear is, nonetheless, all me.

Here it is. For Robbye. Forever. Plus 20 days. Our Sacred Ground.

The Gospel of St. Billy (part II)

I wish it wasn’t this way…

Just like a boxer in a title fight
You got to walk in that ring all alone
You’re not the only one who’s made mistakes
But they’re the only thing that you can truly call your own

I wish life was such that someone could take a magic wand and wave it and make everything all better. Make everything work. Make everything easier. Make everything…well, less work, I guess.

I wish at the very least there was someone there who knew the future and helped us to avoid the pitfalls we (or at least I) seem to step into. I hear you, Billy. I hear you, and I do. I own them. Every last one of them. But there are days when I wish I didn’t have to carry them anymoe.

I have forged a suit of armor for myself over the years, rivoted together with this notion that I am a go-getter. That I can’t stop pushing, can’t stop working, can stop moving forward. Part of this is true, but I would characterize it a little differently, I guess. Because in no small measure all of this movement had to do with my wanting to move forward–at least move toward the life I envisioned for myself. But I think I got a little carried away with my rivots. Me thinks I may have rivoted too much.

Because I have, in the past several months, felt quite deficient in the rivot department.

I know, I know. It’s not very apparent. I mean, everyone skips out on their blogs, stops keeping in touch with people, and basically feels paralyzed in their work, sitting in front of their keyboard for hours unable to tap even a single key. Happens every day, right?

Well, not to me, it don’t.

Damn it!

But I have to admit, no matter what it looks like–good or bad–stress tuckers you out. I’ve been tired, my friends. Dead dog tired. I’m embarrassed; I hate it. But it is what it is. My fear is that it will never go away. That I will be like this forever.

Don’t forget your second wind
Wait in that corner until that breeze blows in

I have, over the course of that last several months, tried to keep this in mind. Thank you, Mr. Joel. Point well taken.

And yet, it’s not as if I have completely sat on my hands, either. Since October of 2005, I won a major writing award, met the love of my life, got financed to develop a movie (whilst staving off financial ruin in the process), got engaged, moved into a new house (so to speak), got married, done major renovations on my house (painting ad naseum, redid the downstair bathroom, redid Zach’s new bedrom, put in a new floor throughout most of the top level of the house), refinanced the house, painted the outside of the house, researched something (hockey) I know nothing about for the movie, developed the story, paneled at the 2006 Austin Film Festival, became partners in a great start up business venture (and everything that goes along with keeping something like that afloat and growing–nationally and internationally–and creating two new “products” and then launching them), lived through teenage angst, lived through graduating high school again, lived through packing up and heading off to college (worse when it’s your kid than when it’s yourself), made two gardens, built a patio, re-wrote a screenplay (which moved from “I hate it” to “I think I like it”), worked with a group to develop and pitch a sitcom to a major celebrity (which everyone associated with him loved, but he…well, charitably speaking, no so much. It was the “This doesn’t suit me at all” that was the dead giveaway. In spite of his lawyer/trusted advisor, the person who runs his production company, the person who runs his show, and his wife all saying “This is great! He’s gonna love it!” Now picture me sitting right next to him at the table. And, oh, yeah…the guy, himself, is a writer. And a writerly institution, nonetheless! And he frowns. Can’t meet my gaze. As Austin Powers says…”Awkward.” But I digress. That’s probably a story for another day), started another screenplay (the hockey movie), redid my website (of course, first I had to teach myself how to do that), created Robbye’s website, and made (according to Robbye) the most delicious coffee known to humankind most every morning.

Okay…my friends are right. On one hand, it feels bad–like bragging–to put it all out there. But it also feels good. To see it. To force myself to think through it. List it all. Show myself.

Okay. I am not paralyzed. But why does it feel like I am working three times as hard to get everything done lately? Why does every day have to feel like I am trudging knee-deep through muck?

You’ve been keeping to yourself these days
Cause you’re thinking everything’s gone wrong
Sometimes you just want to lay down and die
That emotion can be so strong

Yes, I have. I admit it! In fact, I will go you one further. I stare at my inbox and all the messages people send me…friends, colleagues, people I need to connect with. And I hit the “new message” button. And I tap out a few words, then nothing. Half the time, I just can’t do it. So I close the window and tell myself I will do it later. And later never comes.

I don’t answer my phone. I conveniently “forget” it at home. I wait until my voicemail box is nearly overflowing. And then maybe, just maybe, once a week or so, I slog through the messages. Half-listening to half of them.

It’s gotten to the point where some people don’t reach out anymore. I feel bad about that. I want to turn that around.

Because it’s not me, I tell you. It’s not me.

But hold on

I am, I am. Every day I am getting out of bed. Every day I am wearing my clothes and chewing my rice. At least as best as I can.

Every day I am owning that I am the sole arbiter of success in my life. That I make it happen. That my actions determine the outcome. Some days I don’t like it. Especially when I am tired. Especially when I am tired of carrying the mantle. Especially when I am feeling decidedly mojo-less.

That said, the tide is turning. I can feel it. Rather, I should say, I am turning the tide. Because I think we’ve established that there is no omnipotent someone or something turning the tide for us. I am moving the ball downfield again on my screenwriting career, and I hope to have some cool news about that soon. Every day, Robbye and I are putting it together better and better: our home, our life, our love. I am trying to be a good father and business partner. I am trying to get back in touch with friends and others whom I have too long neglected.

And I am trying to cut myself a little slack. More to the point, I am trying to forgive myself. Recognize that, though more than “worth it”, it sure as hell ain’t “easy”. And own that, too. And, as Robbye would say, that “I maybe a superhero, but I am only one superhero.” And be okay with that. And be okay with me, warts and all.

So I step into the ring every day, in spite of everything. Many times, in spite of myself. And I keep slugging.

Till that old second wind comes along

Brave Little Soul

I was lying on a wicker couch on the porch. It was boiling outside, but I was in the shade.

An iPod-induced quiet. And then I hear Zach.

“Boy is Brave Little Soul sleeping hard. Is she okay?”

I have to ask him to repeat, picking the pills from my ears. As I do so, I open my eyes and look at his outstretched hands.

Her body is spread across his palms. Her head lolls. I know immediately.

I get up, keeping as calm and casual as I can. He looks up. His eyes are looking for answers. The kind you’re supposed to get form your dad. The comforting kind.

I don’t know what to tell him. In spite of the teenage bravado he’s been trying on lately, it was the little boy that stood in front of me. I didn’t have the heart to tell him. It was a moment not dissimilar to the one where you say, “Of course, Santa’s real.”

How would you feel? You’re holding her in your hands. You’ve named her, and it’s the name that’s sticking. You’ve connected with her. And though she looked a little peeked earlier in the day, this is the last thing you would have expected.

So I lied. I told him that’s the way kittens sleep sometimes.

“With their eyes open?”

“Yeah. Sometimes.”

I lifted her paw and let it fall. She’d just left. But she was, indeed, gone. I put a hand over her tummy. I held it there for a moment.

“Why don’t you put her down and let her sleep.”

“You’re sure she’s okay?”


He listened to me. He trusted me. And I sold it. The lie. He trusted me over his own better judgement.

That’s the power of a parent, I suppose. A power I wield very carefully. Because I know. How easy it corrupts.

He set her back down where he found her. His mind couldn’t resist one last skeptical glance, but that was it. And that was that. Satisfied of his dad’s assessment, he shifted gears and asked me if I wanted to go four-wheeling.

I told him we’d go in a few minutes.

“Head on in, and finish watching your show with Grandpa Bob.”

“What are you gonna do?”

“I need to go to the bathroom, get a drink…”

“I’ll wait for you. Get ’em ready.”

Visions of a driveway, a Jeep full of little boys all ready to party down 12-year-old style, Sydney rounding the corner of the house, her face all agony and tears. Head to the park and play for an hour. No, don’t ask any more questions. Just go for one hour, then we’ll have your birthday. Go. Now. …She saw a mouse in the house. Now. I’ll take care of it. Go.

“No. You head in for a few minutes. I’ll be right behind you.”

I smiled.

He left.

I poked my head inside and called out to Robbye.

Brave Little Soul needed to be laid to rest. And for Zach, there was all the time in the world for harsh reality. Today was the last day all four of us–Robbye, Sydney, Zach, and I–would enjoy the farm together. Because in a few day’s time, Sydney would fly. Of course, she would come back, but never to the nest. Never quite the same. So this was a day for enjoyment. And peace for Zach.

And once again, it was my job to keep that intact. That is, after all, what a parent does. Whenever possible, protects and preserves things like that. Conjures tender mercies from dust and air.

But all the while my heart was broken. Not for Zach. Sometime soon, we would reveal the truth, and he’d by fine. He simply deserved to be spared the shock. He deserved a buffer. He was, and would be, all good.

For me, it wasn’t quite so easy. How could something so small fill up your heart so? And not just me, but everyone who crossed her path? Pot belly, mangy fur, and rheumy eyes and all. That tiny cat was twenty ounces of personality plus. She’d risen above her station with class and gusto. Farm cat be damned! Brave Little Soul could have ruled the world.

It had been on the tip of my tongue all day to suggest to Robbye we take her home with us. I almost asked the last time we were up there, but better judgement–not too mention my knee-jerk revulsion at bringing a sixth pet into the house–took the day. Sometimes better judgement sucks ass.

As I buried her, Robbye kept me company. And then she hugged me and held me as I cried a little. And she cried with me. For Brave Little Soul, who was just another little farm cat–one in a zillion. Nothing to be remembered. Nothing, by the world’s standards, to even merit a moment’s pause. But by our reckoning, and by virtue of touching our lives so profoudly simply by showing up and being her amazing little self, had earned a pause and more. She deserved to be mourned, if only for a moment. And she derserved to be remembered.

For years to come, when I recall the animals that had the most significant impact on my life, Brave Little Soul with be right up there. I don’t know why. She just will.

At the edge of Rob’s parents’ yard, there is a little pet cemetery. A touching memorial garden of all their beloved pets who are laid to rest. Robbye promised me someday soon we’d make a small paving stone in honor or Brave Little Soul and lay it there. That made me smile.

I’m looking forward to that.