Cabin Fever

No, it ain’t the 20 below mornings of my youth, where 40 below wind chills were as commonplace as a Britney Spears mental breakdown, but it’s been dang miserable here.

We did have that one anomalous 40 degree day on Sunday, but it doesn’t count.  Whereas I am certain God believes he’s tossing us a mid-winter bone, he ain’t.  Days like that are more pain than pleasure.  They simply serve to remind us of what we will NOT be enjoying for the next 60 days or so.

I am sitting here bundled up in my bathrobe, a space heater running at my feet, trying to keep icicles from forming around my nostrils as I breath.  And earlier, I had to bundle up all Ralphie-like and trudge over to Holiday for half-and-half.  Because…?  Neither car will start in this frozen wasteland.

Somethin’s gotta give.

In my head, the constant sound of Sam Cooke crooning, "It’s been a lo-o-o-o-ong/Long time comin’ but/Change is gonna come/Oh, yes it is."

I’m with you, Sam.

Change is gonna come.  Hell, yes it is.

I am also tired of this strike.  I know, I know…I’m supposed to be all solidarity, fist in the air, Hollywood in flames, and all.  And I am, for the most part.  I’ve been "pencils down", and stayed away from talking to anyone and everyone, out of respect for my WGA bretheren.  (and, admittedly, fear for making the wrong move and being black-balled for the rest of eternity)

And I know that I am a,) not the only person in the world affected by this strike, and b.) many people have it far worse off than I do.

But I’m tired of it.

I haven’t said much (read: anything) about the strike because there’s enough crap flying around about the whole fiasco.  No one needs my two cents, or likely cares to hear it.  And, you know…what I said in parentheses a few paragraphs ago.

But I’m tired of it.

Yes, the writers need to get paid for I’net and other digital media.  Yes, people are being buttheads.  This has dragged on so long, however, and gotten so nasty, I am afraid that real, honest-to-goodness recovery will be years in the future.  That, my friends, I further fear will bode worse for guys like me than it will those already firmly ensconced in the industry.

We’ll see.  I am playing Punxsutawney Bill, and poking my head out of this foxhole (though only in appropriate circles) just a smidgen, over the coming days.  See whether anyone notices or I get my head blown off.  If you read my professional obit. in Variety any time soon, you’ll know it was the latter.

In the meantime (and as usual), no one sums it up better than Jim Henson’s Muppets…

Keep warm, all.  Like my bro-in-law sez, "Think flip-flops and margaritas."  Meanwhile, I will continue to experiment with the power of positive bitching.  How’s it working so far?


To Christmases ago, flush with inspiration over this Great Big Love, I blew past my perceived limits and gave my first-ever homemade gift.

This past Christmas, short on cash and long on wanting to make a real difference for both Robbye and my parents (the kids were no-brainers: Zach=Xbox, Sydney=any and all things "girl"), I once again turned to GarageBand for assistance.

For Robbye, I finished one song that I’d been working on (and she knew about) for months.  And just to keep her on her toes, I wrote and recorded another on the Q.T.  Her real present.

For Mom & Dad, another first.  My first-ever cover.

As I get more time behind that other kind of keyboard, I sense my growth.  Somewhat unfortunately, it mostly serves to illuminate how much I DON’T know.  What a neophyte I am.  And how limited, especially in terms of my hardware (read: CPU and mic), I am.

Not to mention that I am increasingly skeptical about my abilities as a songwriter.  And then there’s my voice.  Oy…

But, I’m not in a chase for any recording contract.  This is just for me.  This is my hobby, and so I am overjoyed that anyone enjoys it.  Yet, approval isn’t required.  This is purely a labor of love.

On a positive note, I think these songs represent the best musicianship (if you can call it that) and arranging I’ve done.  I know I am not where I was when I started playing around with this stuff.  With each project, I grow leaps and bounds.  That’s fun.

All that said, here are the three songs I recorded for Christmas…

I Really Love You

This is the song I began this past summer.  I meant to finish it then, but the "dobro" instrument was most vexing.  I got a little frustrated, and decided to put it away.  After more hours than I care to admit, I figured out how to get the sound I was looking for and finished it.

The idea was to make a–you know–happy, upbeat song for a change.  Most other things I’d come up with were–you know–not.  And I had it in my head, "What if I was writing a country pop song?  What would that sound like?"  Apparently, it would sound suspiciously like this one.

For this song, the opening lines of the first two verses were take-offs of lyrics I had written years ago but had never done anything with.  Using them felt like an appropriate homage to the "idea" of writing and recording songs in the past and the "actuality" of doing it now, thanks to a certain Technicolor girl.

City Lights

I am the only person in my family who doesn’t play guitar.  That has bugged me for years.  I don’t know why, but I just never took to it.

25 or so years ago, I tried to pick it up so I could surprise my dad by playing this song–one of his all-time favs (and mine)–for his birthday.  I couldn’t quite manage it.  I wanted to finally make good on that promise I made to myself, and I thought that my folks might be touched in the process…not to mention they might enjoy it.  Done and done.  If the tears of joy in my mom’s eyes are any indication, that is.

Note–this is not my song.  It’s a cover of the legendary Bill Anderson’s hit from, it turns out, 50 years ago.  So, Mr. Anderson, please don’t sue me.  I am not making any money from this–it was a present for my folks.  Just think of it as my way of celebrating your wonderful song’s golden anniversary.

Anyway, because I hate it when musicians simply regurgitate a song without putting their own spin on it–their interpretation–a certain amount of re-imagining was in the cards for this old standard.  My thought was to update it, but honor the spirit of the classic country sound of the 50s, when the song was released.  Also, the version(s) I remember were…faster, so they didn’t quite seem to capture the inherent and luxurious sadness of the lyrics.  I wanted to take a stab at accomplishing that, but to also inject an element of hope–not a lot, just a glimmer.  Tell it from the standpoint of a guy who’s walking down a long road with realization dawning on him.  Okay…enough…listen to the song, eh?


The most important lesson I have learned over the past 2+ years?  Even when you meet your life’s love, the work of love don’t stop.  In fact, it becomes all the more critical.  It’s least easy and most worth it.

While I was working on the other song, I kept saying to myself, "What I really wanna tell her is…"  I wanted to speak the "truth".  Put it out there that everything didn’t always look perfectly rosy, and the way is long and fraught with peril.  But that it was all good.  And that the long haul is what this guy’s all about.  …And that I love her–the noun and the verb.  Always.

The song came to me in a day.  Once the first line coalesced in my head (When will it sink in/Why must we always claim we’re sinking/When it’s miles from the truth), the rest simply fell into place.  It was almost like it wrote itself.

I thought that because it was only one instrument, it would make the song easier to manifest.  Wrong!  Because I "play" the guitar via my keyboard, I needed to go back and edit/refine almost every note just to get it to sound like this.  And I am still not quite convinced.  Or satisfied.  But…it ain’t a piano.

But I think it’s about the best song I’ve written.  At least my favorite.  I think they’re some of the best lyrics I’ve written.


A long December….


I’m sure.

I would think it, too.

But that ain’t what it is.

Here’s the story.

About a week after my last post, my beloved iBook (or, as Robbye dubbed him, "Lappy"), passed away.  In the end, it was a fried video chip on his logic board that got him.

It took awhile to coordinate with Zvie at Mac-in-the-Box to get Lappy in for a check-up (my delay, not his–Zvie rocks!) and see what we could see.  Then, of course, it was a matter of "What the hell?  I’m completely discombobulated suddenly!"

That went on for about a week.  All the time, we’re, you know, getting ready for Christmas, and I’m also trying to cobble together a podcast for the SagePresence biz using rubber bands and paper clips.

A strange week it was.  Most of the time I walked around in a haze.

When I finally came to, my Lappy was gone.  I was no longer "one droll primate with an iBook."

I don’t know if this makes any sense, but out of respect for Lappy, I took something of a hiatus.  I simply couldn’t bring myself to post here without Lappy.  It seemed…I don’t know…disrespectful?  No, that’s not it, I guess.  Not really.  I suppose, more than anything, it felt…pointless.

I guess I was in mourning.


Yet, I have written seven screenplays on that little computer.  Countless other scripts and short stories and the like.  My whole professional writing life is tied up in that little white box.

Although RUNAWAY wasn’t begun on Lappy, it was certainly realized on him.  He took me through the whole revision process.  And through my subsequent screenplays, where I really learned and honed the craft.  I learned to be a screenwriter on Lappy.  I became a professional screenwriter on that damned iBook.

And, of course, Lappy was the impetus for a little thing called TRUE LIFE.  That, in terms of this whole "hiatus"..?  It is significant in the highest.

Now, a month on, I know it’s time to move on.  It’s the way of things, isn’t it?

A few days back, I recovered Lappy’s remains.  Being that the hard drive is still quite intact, I was able to plug him into our aged iMac, which I have commandeered from Zach’s room for the time being.  I spent a couple of days transferring important data to my external hard disk.  Everything is safe and sound.  All is well.

But now he sits on my desk.  Lappy.  Silent.  Dark.  Closed.  Not sleeping.  Dead.  Gone.

Zvie tells me that Apple will charge me $350-$400 to fix Lappy.  For that money, I can buy another computer.

Moreover, everyone’s telling me that it’s probably time to invest in a newer computer.  Ol’ Lappy had just celebrated his 4th birthday before he gave up the ghost.  That’s ancient.  Like…15 in dog years.  He was showing his age, creaking and straining under the weight of these newfangled operating systems and increasingly complex media programs.  He was always happy and willing to perform whatever operation you asked him to, but he was tired.  It was plain to see.

As much as I hate to admit it, it’s time for Lappy and me to day good-bye.

For now, I am double-teaming on the old iMac ("Macky") and Robbye’s former Windows machine ("Wanda").  It’s like working with two cantankerous grammas who rarely agree with each other, much less anyone else.  They’re slow and stubborn, and can be utter crab-apples at times.  We are, however, all learning how to work together and to how get the things done that we need to get done every day.  For the moment, we’re keeping the lights burning on the productivity front.

And it’s time to return to this Life.  That, too, is the way of things, isn’t it?

I don’t know if there’s a Heaven for old laptop computers.  But if there is, I know my Lappy is there.  And I know he’s givin’ ’em hell.

Bon voyage, Lappy.  No matter where you are, I will always embody the spirit of "One droll primate with an iBook."


Lappy, in New York, working on revisions for RUNAWAY–July/August 2004

"The Best of Times"