It’s a beautiful May day when you once again make your way to visit him to chat over coffee. You walk through the now familiar gate–this time not jumping at the odd little squeak and clang of it opening and closing. You cross up to the front porch, dodging the little pile of bird poop that’s collecting on the steps. You look up and notice the very occupied bird’s nest beneath the eave of the front porch. You knock, and wait patiently for him to open the door–the sounds of a dog barking, shuffling, someone yelling to “go to the kennel” and locks being opened.
He opens the door with an obviously tired smile, and a croaky “Hey, nice to see you…come in!” You walk through the open door, through a mass of books, toy trucks, boys’ dirty socks and shoes to find a seat at the round table that dominates the dining room area of the house.
He offers you a cup of coffee, and all the fixings–including–again–an extra large bottle of whiskey. “Help yourself…” he says, and takes a seat beside you.
“How’ve you been?” He asks you, folding his odd looking newspaper away. “Me? I’ve been working. A lot–on this TV show for cable…it’s been fun, and stressful and super tiring.” He smiles, takes a long hard swig from his coffee, and fiddles with a spoon as you ask a couple of questions.
“Where have I been?” He echoes a question of yours. He smiles, sits back in his chair and contemplates for a moment before putting on his best vacant wide eyed kid face and saying (almost in falsetto) “Well, if there’s a bright center to the universe, I was on the planet that it’s farthest from.” He laughed at his own joke (lame) and then he’d say “I’ve been shooting out on location waaaaay up in Santa Clarita–about thirty miles north of Downtown LA. You know–where cell phones barely work, there’s no lights, and every TV and movie western was shot for nearly 50 years.”
“It’s been fun, heartbreaking, hard and a great experience all rolled up into one; but that’s how it often is, with these things.” He takes a sip, stares down into the cup and says “It’s too bad it ended a bit prematurely for some of us. They let the whole A.D. staff go after this second week…” He smiles, and before moving to refill his cup, he says “…and, believe it or not, I’m OK with that. It’s good for my wife, and honestly, for me at the moment. Go figure.”
He refills your coffee, and then his, and then sits back down. “In the meantime, I’m still playing catch up on sleep. Me and my wife both. But hey, now I can nap with the baby again, since it’ll be me and the little one again, so that should be ripe of awesomeness.” He smiles.
“You watch The Force Awakens?” He asks, expectantly, his mood seeming to brighten. “I’ve watched it only four times so far–only once in the theater. It’s surprising, really. I really like it, but it’s like…I dunno. It’s like I’m watching the whole of the first trilogy again. It’s too big–especially knowing that there’s more. ” He points to the disk sitting on a table next to the TV. “I keep threatening to watch it with friends, but…I dunno…if you hang around, maybe I’ll convince you to watch it with me?” He smiles devilishly.
“Oh, speaking of things worth watching–” He motions with his hand, sloshing a little coffee over the edge of the cup. “–my wife convinced me–ha! convinced me!–to get season tickets to the theater here in LA. Hell, I’m stoked; there are two shows that I’ve wanted to see for a long time and the last show…it’s Hamilton. Please tell me you’ve heard of Hamilton? ”
He pontificates on Lin-Manuel Miranda, Alexander Hamilton, actual color-blind casting, historical melodrama, and U.S. history for what seems like hours; after checking your watch, you realize that it’s only been about fifteen minutes.
He excuses himself to the restroom, simultaneously instructing you to make yourself at home. “Go on,” he says, “take off your shoes; curl up your feet.”
While he’s gone, you peer over the debris on the table: A broken and bare DVD case with a copy of The Peanuts Movie in it; a couple of folded up call sheets with notes scribbled all over them; a water soaked Little Golden Book about The Paw Patrol; a dog-eared copy of The Shining; a chewed and splintered Jenga block; a beat up looking iPad case; a couple of toy trucks; a stack of diapers and baby wipes; and a little notebook stacked on top of a pile of folded laundry.
He re-enters the room, and almost splashes down into the chair. “It’s funny, you know?” He picks up his now re-filled mug of coffee, and hugs it to him in both hands. “The thing about being on set is like you’re in a little bubble. It’s like you’re on another planet when you’re working. It’s a long day of just one thing, and then another, and then another. If you don’t look up, or if you don’t check in with reality, you’re out of the loop.”
He stops to meet your eye, reading your questioning look. “Two weeks. Two weeks and I barely know how my wife is feeling. I barely know how my kid is doing in school, and how fast the little one is growing. Did you know he’s started saying his ABCs? Yeah. Full on. He’s ready to potty train, almost. I’m just finding out. There’s a HUGE wildfire in Canada…just found out. That’s from like days ago. Days. I’m behind on my reality TV shows, on the mail, on my bank account, on the state of our house, on who’s the likeliest presidential front-runner of the moment; it’s like you’re out on an alien planet, an hour out past the last town in the middle of the desert on some backwater farm.”
“Movie and TV production is a lot more tedious and mundane, more removed from the world than people actually know. There’s paperwork galore, there’s time and money to consider, a schedule to keep and way too many rules on how to do everything. And everything happens way, way, way away from the real world. I’ve often said if we were in the middle of shooting and WWIII broke out, folks on set wouldn’t know until an hour after the fact–and we’d be told by someone rushing in to tell us.”
He shakes his head, and flicks on a picture of his kids on his phone. “You miss a lot.”
“So!” He leans forward, peering at you, tucking his phone away. “Do tell…what have *you* been up to?”