Thursday, January 30, 2014

Old Pictures and New Adventures

Today was…. A humbling experience for me. After 730 Days without seeing or talking to my best friend in person, I had the honor of accompanying his anxious family members to the airport and bringing him home. It’s been a long and arduous journey without this man, and I can’t believe it’s been nearly 2 years. Gage Cottle, who I accredit turning me into the person you all know today. He was the first one that treated comic books as a serious art form and was the first one that I felt like I could talk on a serious note about silly, fictional characters. I remember back in 2008, when “Watchmen” was yet to come out into theaters and he was talking about how excited he was for it. I had no idea that seeing that movie on Gage’s recommendation would change the course of my pop culture consumption forever. Gage was the one who put the first comic book into my hand, from that point on I've been entirely changed.

I had a few moments to myself today, thinking about what all it meant that Gage is home. I can lean on him in person and not just over email. I may need it still. It’s been about 1 year and 8 months since my life crumbled down into a million, unusable pieces. From that point on, Gage had always been my wall that I could bounce ideas off of or just vamp a bit about how things are hard or difficult. I knew that I could do this because his emails always came back with words of confirmation or affirmation of what I was doing; they always ended in words of love and encouragement. I knew that if I had reached my wit’s end and had nowhere else to turn to, I always had an audience with this great man. He never judged me or told me that I should change my course of action. In many dark times it was a bright star to receive an email from this kind soul on Monday mornings.

The past few days I've looked back at pictures of Gage before he left, or when we were still in high school. I was a bit remiss to do so, not to say that I didn't enjoy seeing the bright and shining faces of my temporarily departed friends. My biggest difficulty in seeing these pictures was that I didn't even recognize the Dalton in those pictures. Obviously I could tell it was me, but I've torn down every piece of myself since those were taken. I am an entirely different person then I was in those pictures, and I haven’t been that person in nearly 2 years. I know that these changes have been for the better mostly. I just want to go into these pictures and hug the version of myself I was, I just want to hug, comfort and tell him that everything will be ok soon. I would tell him that the immediate future will be the most difficult and trying times in his life, but that there are so many good people around him to help guide him through. Sometimes I wish I could just go back and live, perpetually, in the times of those pictures. All of my friends are together and my life was going well. Because right now, I tell people that “I feel like I have control over a lot of the aspects of my life that I haven’t for quite a while.” But the truth is that I’m still rebuilding my life, trying to find my place and look for my place.
2 Years Ago, Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed.

I realize I’m far off track from where I started, but it ties back into Gage’s triumphant return because this is a step forward. I've taken very few steps forward since May of 2012, and I know that this is one. My best friend is back in my day-to-day life and I could not be happier about that. I wanted this day to come for so long, especially in the wake of my entire life crashing down on and around me. I give a large sigh of relief now. It’s just another piece of the mosaic of my life that I can put up.
But I must move onward, we recorded the inaugural episode of my soon to be published podcast. There is a 5 foot tall stack of movies, TV box sets and comic books that Gage has to catch up on, and we intend to review or just talk out of our asses about them. So that could prove to have some good times that follow. 

More details to come…

Thanks for reading the incessant ramblings that come directly from my brain to the keyboard.

Love Always,

It's difficult to tell which one just came back from a 2 year stint in South America.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Meeting Your Heros

Today I finally ventured into the rich tapestry that is the Sundance Film Festival. I've lived in Utah my whole life, but had never gotten around to seeing a film, panel or Q&A at this life changing festival. About 6 months ago, I was hoping that I would be seeing the new Kevin Smith movie at Sundance 2014, but due to scheduling conflicts he wasn't able to submit Clerks 3 or even make it in time for Sundance. How do I seem to have such intimate knowledge of the working life of such a profound director? Starting in July of 2012, I began listening to the plethora of Podcast that Mr. Smith does on his self-titled website “Smodcast.” Some have even gone as far as to say that it’s become a “Podcast Empire” but nonetheless, I became hooked.

Now for a bit of history.

My first introduction to the work of Kevin Smith was when my step-brother Nick showed me a copy of Clerks 2. At the time I remember him telling me, “This movie is really funny, but you won’t be lost if you haven’t seen the first. It’s in black and white and not that great.” In my feeble 14-15 year old mind I simply glazed over this and took it at face value, assuming that my older and more experienced step brother must know what he’s talking about. We watched the movie and had (many) good laughs over the irreverent humor and sex jokes, but I didn't look into it any deeper. Fast forward a few years to me having a conversation with my dear father after watching one of the “An Evening with Kevin Smith” Q&A specials. My father seemed enamored by the eloquence and storytelling ability of the man in question. He gave me a brief overview of what he knew about Kevin, that he was a film maker and quite the humorous story-teller. I remember my dad saying something to the effect of ‘he’s really smart, speaks very smooth and calmly, all while enveloping you in a humorous story.’ This caused me to look a little bit deeper into the work and career of Mr. Kevin Smith. I remember watching the “An Evening with Kevin Smith” Q&A special and being captured in the same sense of wonderment that I saw in my father. The next few years, I carried on with that basic knowledge of the writer, director and always kept an eye out for anything that he worked on. This is all without seeing a grand majority of his feature film projects; they just weren't on my radar.
Again we fast forward to my second year of college, I’m living at my first apartment away from my parent’s house and The Walking Dead had become quite the social phenomenon. This meant that we, as an apartment, watched the program live on its first airing every Sunday. That season, after The Walking Dead had ended every week a new show called Comic Book Men started its first season. I wasn't much interested in the show, despite nearly being tailor-made for my interests and demographic. The show petered on and I was none the wiser.

We make one last jump to May of 2012 when both of my parents pass away in very quick manners. My life is in shambles. I begin to build my life back from scratch in the months following. I quite my main breadwinner of a job for a full-time, screen printing job. Aside from being one of the first 40 hour/week jobs I've ever worked, there is another drastic difference from the other jobs I've worked in the past; I’m allowed to listen to music. This was perfect because I've always been a major flag-waver for the music I enjoy and am ecstatic that I can now enjoy all of my favorite tunes while I get paid. This heightened sense of excitement is short-lived, for after a few weeks I start to hate the music that I've been listening to on 8 hour loops. I realize that I need a way to shake loose the endless droning on and on of music albums. Sidenote: at this point in my life, I've been listening to The Geekshow Podcast (Utah local) for about 3 years now, but one 1-hour episode a week wasn’t enough to keep me busy for a 40 hour work week. I begin to broaden my horizons and had heard mumbles and rumor of the (now) legendary Smodcast that Kevin Smith does with one of his good friends. I start on current episodes and begin to go through the archives of banked episodes. Pretty soon I’m downloading 5 different podcasts from the Smodcast Podcast Network on the weekly.
Once I’m thoroughly enveloped in this “Podcast Empire” Kevin Smith’s book “Tough Shit” comes out as well as the audiobook format, which is perfect for my listening needs. Within this book are some of the most inspirational words that my ears have ever heard, about following your dreams, honoring those who have gone and just living in the moment and enjoying everything. These words are life-changing to me. I jump with both feet into the realm of the podcast, more interested in it than I ever had been before. Out of this (some would call it) obsession with the Smodcast Family of Podcasts, I hear so much about the movies that Kevin has made over his now 20 years in show business. I slowly begin to become familiar and interested in these movies that I had no previous exposure to, and with it came a profound respect for Mr. Smith.
This all becomes relevant now because in the past several episodes of his Q&A road shows he’s really been promoting the mentality of “anyone can do this” and giving people homework assignments to record a podcast sometime in the next calendar year. At this point in time I’m not quite there but I’m quickly going down that avenue and will report back with more later. The point is that this notable celebrity has become a preacher of sorts for me in my life of trying to build myself back up from the rubble I was left in on May 15, 2012.

Needless to say, seeing my new-found hero speak at Sundance today was more than an emotional experience. I tie it back into the fact that it was my dad who peaked my interest in the writer/director  and his multitude of work. The thing that I've found the most refreshing and easiest to cling to in the wake of becoming so enveloped in the his podcasts and movies are the level of candor that Kevin has with his listenership. This gives the listener a quasi committed relationship to someone who shares so much of their past with someone that they've never met. Even more refreshing than the existence of the candor is the realization that he’s just as nice, kind-hearted and excited in real life. It was just for a brief moment, but in that moment when my iPhone was pointed at the two of us, I felt at home and comfortable like I've known this man for years.

The purpose of this post is not to gloat in any way or name drop that I met and took a picture with Kevin Smith. This comes from a place of utter respect for using his power of spoken word to pull me out of the hardest time of my entire life. I was the lowest I've ever been, the hours and days went by without event and I thought that things were never going to be OK again. But because of this man telling me through my headphones the story of his own father passing, I felt some sort of connection with someone I had never met or seen in person. He was the light that shined on my in my darkest time, through his anecdotal humor and words of “anyone can do this” it not only lifted my spirits, but got me interested in creating art again. Very soon my best friend will come back from his mission and when that happens, I’ll be podcasting away and stepping behind the video camera again for the first time since high school. All in all, it was a very humbling experience today to meet the man I feel like has become one of my good friends.

Take care friends,