Friday, June 18, 2021

Three Good Men

In November, a ballplayer and a good man - Bernie Gerl - passed away at age 94.  He was the last remaining survivor of a bus crash in 1948 involving the minor league baseball team Duluth Dukes. Since I wrote a novel on the 1946 bus crash of the Spokane Indians team - called "Until the End of the Ninth" - I was well familiar with the 1948 Dukes, and Bernie, for having suffered a similar fate - a fate nobody wants to have. I never met Bernie but I'm a big fan, and learned about him through the years via his son Chuck (we're friends on Facebook). 

When I heard of Bernie's passing, I knew I wanted to write a remembrance for him.

Then in December, Tommy Lasorda passed away at age 93.  His fame is already known. But his connection to the Spokane Indians team, where he managed from 1969 through 1971, is not as well known (though the 1970 team is considered by many baseball scholars to be the best minor league team at the time) . Nor is it well known - unless you have a copy of my baseball novel - that he gave us an endorsement for that book, saying, "This is amazing book. It's a must for any baseball fan."

When I heard of his passing, I knew I wanted to write a remembrance for him. I started to think about how to intertwine a blog post about Bernie Gerl and Tommy Lasorda.

Then in January, Henry Aaron passed away  at age 86.  Just like Tommy Lasorda, his fame is already known. Just like Tommy Lasorda, his connection to the Spokane Indians team - through his minor league manager Ben Geraghty, a survivor of the 1946 bus crash - is not so well known. Not known by anyone is how, with a finally-ready screenplay, I was (nervously) getting ready to try to contact Henry Aaron in 2021 about this story I'd written that included Ben Geraghty - one of his mentors.

Three months. Three men. I had to write about Henry Aaron too - a hero of mine, through the years. All three of them were. But I hadn't yet written my remembrance of any of them. Now there were three. It overwhelmed me, to think of how to do right by each one, and now all three, now all at the same time.

So rather than one post, I've made three separate ones - for Bernie Gerl, Tommy Lasorda, and Henry Aaron - and then this post, to unify.  

They are unified in my mind - inextricably intertwined with Spokane's baseball men of 1946.  

They are unified through each other. Bernie Gerl caught for the Dukes in 1952, when Henry Aaron played for the Eau Claire Bears. Henry Aaron became the Home Run King on April 8, 1974 against the Dodgers, when Tommy Lasorda was the third base coach. (As Aaron rounded the bases, he shook hands with Dodgers infielders Davey Lopes and Bill Russell, who both played for that 1970 Spokane team).

And they are unified by a love for the game. Baseball lives on in our hearts, through them.  

      Bernie Gerl, 1953                              Henry Aaron, 4/8/1974                           Tommy Lasorda, 1970    .

Bernie Gerl

Bernie Gerl, former baseball player for the Duluth Dukes, an all-star, a leader of that baseball club in 1948, and an all around good guy, passed away on November 7, 2020 at the age of 94.

I initially learned about Bernie because he played for the minor league baseball team Duluth Dukes back in 1948 and so was on the bus that crashed that year, killing 5 on the bus. That and the Spokane Indians' bus crash in 1946, killing 9, are the two terrible accidents that minor league ball suffered over the years - but they occurred within 2 years of each other, causing concern at that time around baseball about bus travel.  Readers of my blog will know that I wrote a novel (and now a screenplay) about the Spokane men of 1946, imagining their spirits living on after the crash - a silver lining to the worst pro sports accident in U.S. history. 

What readers don't know - what I did not know myself, during the writing - was that my father saw Bernie and his Dukes' teammates play in Eau Claire Wisconsin, against the Eau Claire Bears, the last game before that 1948 crash. My Dad told me after I told him of the novel I was writing. "I think I saw them play their last game," he said. No, it was the Dukes' last game, not the Indians' team. I know of that crash, I told him. It's the only other one in minor league baseball...

So a 12-year-old was one of about 1,500 people to see men on the 1948 Dukes' team play that final baseball game - he grows up, has a family, never talks to his kids about that game - and then one of his daughters happens to move to Spokane, Washington, happens to learn of the other bus crash from 1946, and finds herself compelled to write about this other 1946 crash.

I don't think there are odds for that kind of coincidence. It's like the story was in my DNA somehow.

So Bernie Gerl - the last survivor of the 1948 Dukes' crash - well, he was a special man for me, tied to history as he was (both baseball and mine). Though the bus crash derailed his rise to the major leagues, it also left him as the holder of memories for those on that Dukes team who died too young. It never left the memories of some.

It must have been strange for Bernie, to be forever tied to one day in history - and to have that day be so tragic.  He survived because a nearby farmer braved the flames and pulled him to safety, but he was still in the hospital for 40 days. He went into the hospital weighing 190 pounds, and left weighing 120. Yet  he was one the lucky ones. Others did not survive. The grief must have overwhelmed both him and the other survivors, all while they received the public's condolences and concern.

From what I have heard, Bernie turned out to be a perfect steward for the 1948 Dukes.  He was a big storyteller, with sound effects and hand gestures. He loved remembering moments from the field, and moments from life. He would go to Duluth every year, starting in the 1990s (the 50th anniversary of the bus crash) - until the trip became too arduous from his home in Joliet, Illinois - to relive those stories, to remember his teammates, at the exact same stadium where he had played so long ago. Duluth's Wade Stadium remains standing, and still has a team - it's the Huskies now, not the Dukes - a collegiate team, not minor league. But it's baseball, and has been for decades.

I went once, to that stadium. It was sobering, to realize how many dreams it has held. Few stadiums still exist from that time - but both Duluth and Eau Claire, WI have held on to theirs.

All of this comes up for me when I remember Bernie Gerl.

I remember too, how Spokane's local baseball historian, newsman Jim Price, interviewed Bernie in 2016 as a way to remember both the 1946 and 1948 teams, and how I let Bernie's son Chuck know about the article. Chuck appreciated the heads up. It turns out, Bernie had told Chuck he'd gotten a call from "some guy in Spokane who knew about the wreck and just wanted to talk baseball" - but hadn't remembered the part where Jim had said "I'm writing an article for the newspaper." Mystery solved!

A great story of Bernie and Hank Aaron - Bernie was catching for the Dukes, a young Hank Aaron was playing for the Eau Claire Bears. Bernie had seen that Hank's lead off 1st base was often too large, and concocted a plan with the Dukes' first base man to throw the kid out. The next time Hank Aaron was on first, Bernie signaled his first base man... next pitch... we'll catch him... The next pitch, Bernie caught the ball, gunned it to first and - the first base man had forgotten all about the plan. The baseball sailed into right field. Hank Aaron got his stolen base. Of all the baseball stories over all the years, Bernie had kept this one to himself until one of his last visits to Duluth, when someone asked, "Hey, do you have any Hank Aaron stories?"  It was a glorious telling, from what I understand - with sound effects and all.

Bernie's grandkids have shown real sparks of baseball talent - gifts inherited from the man himself, no doubt.  I have loved, via Facebook, watching the kids play ball. Ben, the oldest, has become a noted pitcher. He's headed to the pros, as far as I'm concerned - combining natural ability with hard work.

A tragedy occurred after Bernie died - just a couple months after his passing, on January 27, 2021, his wife Bernadine Gerl passed away. They had met through baseball. They postponed their October 1948 wedding because of the bus crash (with the wrong dates engraved on their wedding bands for always). They had lived a rich life together, raised a family together. May they rest in peace together too. 

And then there was a gift. Grandson Ben Gerl - the talented pitcher - was signed to play in Duluth this summer. He is making his way, following in Bernie's footsteps. "A chip off the old block," the headline read. The day Ben takes the field for the first time, to pitch that first pitch, with another catcher behind the plate where his grandfather caught, decades ago... That will be a special day. Bernie would be so proud.

          Bernie at the scoreboard                     Poster of the 1948 players                          Bernie going to Eau Claire




  Bernie and Bernadette (photo by John Gilbert) 

Grandson Ben Gerl (photo courtesy of Chuck Gerl)

(Scoreboard photo: source Chicago Sun Times, The Herald News, July 12, 2013)

Tommy Lasorda

He was a man bigger than life. It's a great expression, but few can pull it off. Tommy Lasorda did.

I can't think of a time when I didn't know who Tommy Lasorda was. I grew up north of San Diego during the 1970s, so my childhood baseball memories of course include him as the Dodgers manager (a job he began at the end of the 1976 season (after a few years' stint as the Dodgers' third base coach). He managed there for 20 years (!!), and even as I grew older, he remained a favorite through those years (as did Lou Piniella - but that was later, after I'd moved to Washington and he was managing the Mariners. Hard not to love Sweet Lou.)

What I never knew - not until I wrote the baseball novel, that is - was that Tommy Lasorda had some of his managing roots in my adopted hometown of Spokane, Washington, and the Spokane Indians minor league club here.  He managed the Indians team (Class AAA at the time) from 1969 to 1971. Baseball American named his 1970 team the best minor league team in the second half of the 20th century. That team posted a 94-52 record (26 games ahead of its closest division competitor), and swept the Hawaii Islanders  - who had won 98 games that season - in the final PCL championship. 

On that 1970 team roster was Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Steve Garvey - virtually the L.A. Dodgers' entire outfield from 1973 through 1980. (The Dodgers' third base man Ron Cey played in Spokane in 1971). Bobby Valentine was on that 1970 team, as was Bill Buckner.  Charlie Hough pitched. In total, the players would go on to account for 23 World Series appearances, 21 All-Star selections and one National League MVP award (Garvey, in 1974).

"The other teams hated us, no doubt about it," Bobby Valentine is later quoted as saying. "Tommy was louder than any other manager, and we were better than any other team."

Three Tommy Lasorda quotes (of which there are many):

"The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person's determination."

"There are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens."

"I bleed Dodger blue and when I die, I'm going to the big Dodger in the sky."

When I wrote the Indians' 1946 story, my life became intertwined with Tommy Lasorda. It was not a two-way street. I never met him - though I did get a quote from him for my "Until the End of the Ninth" book jacket, as he was friends with my publicist and gave Milt the nod to include the quote from him.  

When he let me use the quote for a second edition (this time with a small publishing house), I imagined him picking up the new copy from Milt, nodding like "glad she's getting somewhere with the story," tossing the book somewhere else, and not worrying about it again.

I've been grateful for the endorsement.

I wonder about his years here. He was a young manager, getting his feet wet, gifted with what soon was seen at the major league level as an amazing managerial talent. Did he kick up dirt in Spokane? Did he yell at umps? (I'm sure he yelled at umps.) Did he wonder if he would make it? 

I worried about him when he got heavy. I was happy when he lost weight. I cheered for him - the least I could do, as he'd been cheering for me. But I was a cheerleader long before that.

I have the story of the bus crash, and the 1946 men, in screenplay form. I'd hoped it would be a film by now. I wanted the chance to pick up the phone, or see him in person, and say, you may not remember me, but thank you for keeping the faith and lending me your name while I got from there to here.

Now I'll never have that conversation with him. When I heard of his passing, I felt so sad. I'd lost a hero. I'd lost a cheerleader. I think I lost a would-be friend.  And the world? The world has lost one of the greats. 

    Tommy Lasorda with the Indians (photo: Jim Price)                      In 2006                             White House initiative

  Tommy Lasorda, and Dodger Stadium (stadium photo credit: Ken Lund)

Tommy Lasorda with some of the 1970 Spokane team (from left, manager Tommy Lasorda and 
players Bobby Valentine, Steve Garvey, Bill Buckner, Tommy Hutton and Bob O'Brien)
photo credit: Spokesman Review

Henry Aaron

Oh, the great Henry Aaron

I've always known about him. Most of us have known of Hammerin' Hank. 

Information is readily available. He told his own story in "I Had A Hammer." Documentaries abound, including "Hank Aaron: Chasing The Dream."

What I didn't really know, growing up, or even before I wrote my baseball novel, was what a wonder he was - a gentleman and a scholar, is the expression. Born in 1934, he is oft described as a shy teen from Alabama, swept into major league baseball out of the Negro Leagues on the heels of Jackie Robinson's major league breakthrough in 1947. Hank Aaron played minor league ball in Eau Claire, WI in 1952,  Jacksonville, FL in 1953, and Puerto Rico in 1953 (winter season) via the minor league system of the Boston (then Milwaukee, then Atlanta) Braves, before graduating to the majors in 1954. 

We know the end of the story with Henry Aaron - how he became the best home run hitter in his time, how he handled his ascent to stardom with grace.  The resistance to him - the racism - was palpable as he verged on becoming the new Home Run King (supplanting Babe Ruth, another absolute great).  He dealt with death threats as he stood at the edge of breaking that record at the end of the 1973 season - got hate mail (and fan mail too). The U.S. Postal Service gave him a plaque to commemorate his receipt of more mail that off season (930,000 pieces) than another person, other than politicians.  

As 1974 began, he needed one home run to tie Babe Ruth's record of 714, and two to break it. While there were protests against it, there were so many excited to witness it. Babe Ruth's widow is quoted as saying, "The Babe loved baseball so very much. I know he was pulling for Hank Aaron to break his record." Then Henry Aaron hit his 715th home run on April 8, 1974 - against the Dodgers. 

He ended up with 755 total home runs when he retired after the 1976 season.

Racism in baseball was clear to Henry Aaron as young man rising in the ranks too. So yes, it was clear when he chased Babe Ruth's homerun record in the 1970s. It remained throughout his life, getting better at times (then bad again). Whatever the environment, he did not waver in public - for his life, he was a consistent voice for equality.  I have a favorite interview of him that I now can't find (and watching all the old videos, trying to find it, is a journey in itself) where he is young, a little nervous, but 100 percent firmly standing in integrity as he talked about racism. In interviews, he spoke humbly, and often gave credit to others first - but stated his opinion, diplomatically but also in truth. He was a remarkable man.

Here is an interview from the Dan Patrick Show, on baseball racism - he's saved most of the hate mail letters from the 1970s, to show his grandchildren so they can understand where we've been.

He would later say he almost didn't keep with baseball when he was young. He was a shy 18-year-old who had used sticks to hit bottle caps as a way of learning hone his batting skills, who now was far away from his Alabama home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (where my father saw him play), then sent the next season to the deep South to the Jacksonville Braves and the segregation there, that still existed (like in his home state), now with the hostility directed at him and the other African American players. He almost quit at one point, he was so homesick. Mentors along the way helped keep him in the game. I expect he would have found his way, regardless. But early-on mentors made a difference as he grew up into the man he became.

Ben Geraghty was one of those mentors.   

I began studying Henry Aaron in earnest after I learned the kind words he had about Ben, who was his minor league manager in Jacksonville, Florida, and who was also one of the 7 men who survived the bus crash of 1946 (which inspired my field-of-dreams style novel "Until The End Of The Ninth," where 9 of 16 men died, which I also am working to turn into a film).

I don't know how I realized the tie between Henry Aaron and Ben Geraghty. But soon I was reading "A False Spring," by Pat Jordan. And there it was. The connection.  Pat Jordan wrote about how Ben was considered one of the best managers at the minor league level, and how the 1946 bus crash helped turn Ben into that kind of manager, with an almost "mystical" quality, that helped him see a player for who he was and what he had to give to the game.

I found this quote from Henry Aaron, about Ben (who died at age 50 back in 1963):

"He was the greatest manager I ever played for, perhaps the greatest manager who ever lived, and that includes managers in the big leagues. I've never played for a guy who get more out of every ballplayer than he could. He knew how to communicate with everybody and to treat every player as an individual."

As I learned all this, I admired Henry Aaron even more, and wanted to let him know I was working on a script for this story that involved Ben Geraghty - his former mentor and manager. I'd gotten the script in shape. I'd met someone long ago (a scout for the Atlanta Braves) who offered to connect me to him when I was ready. I was ready. In the fall of 2020, I knew I was finally ready to try to talk to the great Henry Aaron, and just let him know what I was doing, in honor of his old manager Ben Geraghty.

And then the great Henry Aaron passed away.

People around the country, and the world, mourned. I mourned. Hearts broke. My heart broke.

He was a great player, and an even greater man. 

First Bernie Gerl. Then Tommy Lasorda. Then Henry Aaron.

Here's to hoping these baseball men are playing a pick-up game in the heavens right now.

Henry Aaron in 1953, with the Jacksonville, Florida team, and with manager Ben Geraghty
(photo courtesy of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp)

Preparing to bat for the Braves

Accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom - and signing a baseball for a fan
(baseball signing photo credit to Arturo Pardavila III)

photo credit:  Wally Gobetz

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

A Poster For My Screenplay AGAIN

 I have a thriller feature film script I'm developing called AGAIN. It's partly set in the USA and partly set in China. Here is a poster for it, capturing the script's climax - a helicopter flying over the Yanqing Ice Festival during nearby Beijing's new year celebration: 



Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Bringing in the Wings

When I was a kid, I read "Jonathan Livingston Seagull." It inspired me, in a schmaltzy kind of way. Even at that young age, I knew schmaltz when I read it. But I also couldn't put it down. It mattered, to a young teen whose parents just divorced, whose life was a storm on the outside (and in), to imagine this bird - this outcast, too - who kept trying despite it all.  It was likely the right book at the right time. 

I grew up near San Diego - inland, but we saw seagulls - so it was a bird with whom I had affinity.

I haven't read it since, and I don't remember a heck of a lot of details, other than that it was about a bird who tried - who really, really tried.

Except I do remember one thing. I remember how he soared higher because he brought in his wings.

JLS was learning to fly high, and then dive. He'd dive towards the ocean. He'd try to keep his wings stiff as he flew towards the sea (is how I remember it). The wind would beat his wings back, and he wouldn't succeed - time after time, the wind would pull a wing and flip him before he could reach his highest speed.

Then he had an idea. He'd pull in his wings. The wings were what stood in the way. If he brought his wings into his body, there would be less wing to disrupt the flow.

So he flew high up - brought in his wings - dove from the height - gathered up the greatest speed he'd ever experienced.... it was heaven.

And then he went to bring himself out of the dive. And crashed in the ocean. He was going so fast, the ocean was a brick of water.

I thought he was dead.

And then, when it turned out he wasn't dead - I thought he was done experimenting.

That was crazy! To nearly die, just to go fast. Just to feel like heaven on earth. 

I thought he'd have to stretch out his wings again. He could still dive, just not as fast. It would be safer.

But I wanted him to solve it, too. I wanted him to touch the sky, ride the wind, live to tell.

And then he figured out a different solution - he figured out that he could still do the deep dive with his wings pulled in - he just had to change how he came out of the deep dive to survive it. Instead of trying to spread his wings there at the end, he needed to move a feather or two. With his speed, that slight move would create enough shift that he could scoop himself out of his dive before hitting the water.

Genius.

It took him awhile to figure out that would work - and to figure out the right combination - it took a lot of practice, and many more crashes. But in the end, he made it work, and soared higher than ever. 

I've forgotten most of "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" - other than the sense of connecting to a bird who felt a little like I was feeling, in the new life thrust upon me because of my parents' divorce.

But I do remember his bringing in the wings. And I do remember how the tweak of just one feather saved his life. It all was easier than he first imagined. And it was worth the risk.

Time to practice.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

"Until the End of the Ninth" Reviews

I have received reviews on both my novel "Until the End of the Ninth" and its screenplay adaptation. This is a baseball tale, inspired by the true story of a minor league team from Spokane, Washington that died in a bus crash midway through the 1946 season.  Nine of the 16 men on the bus died. Eight of the nine who died had served in World War II. They came home to baseball, expecting one destiny and meeting an altogether different, devastating one. It remains the worst professional sports accident in U.S. history.

When I learned of the story while living in Spokane, I wanted to imagine their spirits living on. So that is what I did, in both novel and script form.

In recent months, and over the years, I've received reviews of what I've written. I've compiled some of those reviews here:

This is a “gorgeously-rendered historical drama … sporting impeccable research and detail…”

“Montages, flashbacks [and] narration that dips in and out throughout the script… give UNTIL THE END OF THE NINTH a unique and genuine touch…”

It's “as if you’re sitting around a campfire, listening to an impassioned storyteller give you details about the ‘worst accident in modern American sports history.’”

"The screenplay features a keen understanding of cinematic language: it is packed with stylistic flourishes and employs unconventional storytelling throughout."

“This is not only a story of a baseball team, but a story of men who have survived the hell of war only to be thrust into it one more time…”

“The writer adds a spiritual dimension that makes the story so much more meaningful.”

“I was moved by this story. I was absolutely moved to tears.”

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The King

Alex died. My 16-year-old cat passed away.

I know he was old. But he was my baby too.

He came into my life like a whirlwind. And I knew he was on his way. I told a friend that I was meeting some guy that day, I was sure of it. My intuition told me. And there he was that night, a kitten full of life, trying to get a leaf from under an abandoned building. He was homeless, dumped. He was my guy. He wasn’t exactly what I’d expected earlier that day, but he was absolutely the right guy to show up.

Alex was not fond of other cats, liked some dogs, and loved people. He usually (not always) tolerated my other cat Annie - the true ruler of the home, which bugged him.  But when Annie became sick a few years ago, he became kind.  When she passed away, he grieved (kept cleaning himself and then coughing up hairballs). It turned out, she was his friend and he was just so terribly sad she was gone.

He had this way of walking with his tail held high. He sure thinks a lot of himself, said one friend who saw him. It’s just how he walks, I explained. It was impressive, though - as if he knew he was all that.

He slowed down as he aged, became an indoor kitty and left the outdoor frolicking behind (I used to say he brought new meaning to the term “cat about”). But he still had the ornery in him. Just this last summer, he got out to go after a little neighbor dog - head first, which is how he had always fought - and the nearby road workers marveled. “I’ve never seen a cat do something like that,” one guy said, over and over. I had - seen it before, that is. I just hadn’t realized that he still had it in him.

Alex was turning a corner before he passed. It was a seizure that came - which makes sense, that’s about the only thing that could take him down - no slow illness was going to do it... I think we all can turn a corner and then slam into a wall. That’s how it happened for Alex. I sobbed to let him go, but knew absolutely that I had to let him go, and put him to sleep.

The day before, I decided to take him outside to a nature center nearby.  Oh, how he loved it! He sniffed at the air and smelled the flowers. He greeted people who walked past. It made him hungry, and he ate with enthusiasm for the first time in a couple weeks. I was hopeful - that corner looked to be turned.  Then the next day came and the grand mal seizure took over.

Alex was the kind of cat who generated lots of stories. There’s that time he got lost - the time he tried to jump on my head from the roof - the time he wore a cone because a neighbor cat got the better of him in a cat fight (that Alex started) - the time he stood at my car window meowing, telling me to get off the phone and get out of the car already - the time he made my neighbor get up from the chair on my neighbor’s own porch because that’s where he (Alex) liked to nap - the stories do go on and on.

But what I remember, and what I miss, is my sweet Alex, handsome boy, soft as a plush toy, always ready for what’s next. We all should live life with such tenacity and verve.







Friday, August 3, 2018

The Baseball Story, and LIIFE

Very excited to announce that my baseball script "Until the End of the Ninth" (an adaptation of my novel by the same name) was the runner-up in the screenwriting competition at the Long Island Int'l Film Expo - LIIFE!   I particularly love the acronym, and its parallel to the baseball story - which is about death, but life too.

I went to Bellmore, New York - on Long Island - for a weekend of events.  What a fantastic group, and festival.  I was really impressed.  I appreciated the opportunity that they gave me to talk about the baseball script, too.  All in all, it was a fun and productive trip.

"Until the End of the Ninth" is inspired by the true story of the 1946 Spokane Indians' minor league baseball team that died in a bus crash midway through that season.  Nine of the 16 men on the bus died. Eight of the nine who died had served in World War II.  It is the worst ever professional sports accident in U.S. history.  They died as a team - 9 - the number of players on the field at a time.  It was a terrible tragedy and one that moved me greatly when I learned of it.  I wanted to imagine that their spirits could have lived on, so I wrote a novel (and screenplay) as if they did.  It is heartwarming to have LIIFE acknowledge the work but, more importantly, the story of these 1946 men.




Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ochi

She came in the summer, and stayed for the rest of her life.

My friends take on greyhounds from the track - rescue dogs.  They are invariably precious, sweet dogs.  They have lived hard lives, and when they come to the comfort of a real home, they seem amazed and grateful.  Always grateful.

So it was with Ocho - "eight," in Spanish.  She came to my friends' home in 2013, after they had lost a great girl named Ivy.  They were looking for a dog who would be a good match for their older gentleman greyhound Scruff - unaptly named before the adoption (unless you were looking for irony).  Ocho was a perfect fit for him, and for their family.

Though Ocho wasn't exactly the right name for her, either.  It needed to be softened just a little bit, in an endearing way.  "Ochita" was a favorite.  "Ochi" was, as well.  Ochi seemed to be the name we called her.  I can almost see her wagging her tail in joy as I think of her name.  She loved her humans and she loved when they would call for her.

She was a brindle-colored dog, a color name unfamiliar to me before I met her.  She truly was beautiful, both in color and in demeanor.  She had this way of walking with her toes splayed out a little - a condition that likely didn't help her much on the track (probably to her benefit, as she was able to "retire" a little earlier because of it).  But it didn't stop her from going down stairs. Another dog may have refused - her gait was slow as she would make her way down the stairs, one by one, to go outside - but Ochi insisted on making her own way, mostly because my friends asked her to try and somehow she knew (early on) that she could trust them to know her limits.

She was such a perfect match for Scruff too - a beautiful dog in his own right, but slowing down with age.  She was gentle, and so was gentle around him.  Scruffy passed away awhile ago, and so she was an only dog for awhile.  I think she missed him but also accepted, with grace, that cycle of life.

In the meantime, she aimed to please.  She kept us company quietly but insistently.  She was one to "hold space" for others, I think.  She was at home, finally.

Last fall, she had a cyst on her leg that the vet drained, but it was expected to return.  It would be her demise, my friends knew.  So long as she wasn't in pain, they'd continue.  And she did well, after that. I was able to see her many times, and wondered if she wouldn't just beat that cyst.  Walking down the stairs became a struggle, and sometimes she had to be carried, but she fought her way back and insisted on trying until she mastered those stairs once more.  I admired her for trying - walking at an angle (as she always had), figuring out how to make it to the landing, always trusting that my friends would not ask of her more than she could do.

The cyst came back, and the day came when life was more than she could manage.  She trusted my friends then, too, as they made the difficult - but right - decision to put her to sleep.  She'd arrived at their home as a ready-made friend - to them, to Scruff, to me.  She seemed happiest when she made others happy.  She was perhaps the sweetest dog I've ever met.  I'm glad she's not in pain anymore - but I can't help but miss her.  She was a good, and great, girl.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Exciting News - "Until the End of the Ninth" screenplay

Exciting news!  The screenplay UNTIL THE END OF THE NINTH is a semi-finalist in the Seattle International Film Festival, and is one of only ten scripts to be recognized!  We'll be headed to Seattle for events during the last week of the festival, which runs from May 18th through June 11th.  I'm excited not just because of the success, but also because this story is such a compelling one, about great men who played good baseball, but who tragically died in a bus crash in 1946, before their time. It was the season just after World War II.  Nine of the 16 men on the bus died, and 8 of the 9 had served in the War.  I chose to tell the story as if their men's spirits could have lived on after the crash, and imagined what that may have looked like.  Would they have gotten help from the other side?  I hope that is true. I'm grateful that SIFF sees the merits of this story.

Here is the news article, announcing the winners:  http://variety.com/2017/film/festivals/seattle-film-festival-announces-catalyst-screenplay-prizes-1202422157/


Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Man From Rome/Seville Communion


I'm happy to announce my writing work on THE MAN FROM ROME, a film in development that is the adaptation of Arturo Perez-Riverte's novel "The Seville Communion."  A plot summary:  
A computer hacker penetrates Vatican security and sends an urgent anonymous plea to the pope. Handsome Father Quart, of the church's Institute of External Affairs, an arm of the Vatican intelligence, is dispatched to investigate. The message of the hacker concerns a crumbling 17th century Baroque church in the heart of Seville that apparently "kills to defend itself".

Here is an IMDB page for the project:  http://m.imdb.com/title/tt4194974/fullcredits?ref_=m_tt_cl_scc

Here is my IMDB page (which will be growing in the next couple weeks as I add all my projects):  http://www.imdb.com/name/nm8884862/

Here is a link to the book's Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Seville-Communion-Arturo-Perez-Reverte/dp/0156029812

THE MAN FROM ROME is a great project.  Watch for it as it goes from script to screen.



Friday, March 3, 2017

Socially Relevant Film Festival - Finalist!

We are finalists in the Socially Relevant Film Festival screenwriting contest for the script AGAINST.  I am the screenwriter and Chicago director Justin Jackola is a co-writer as well as the concept creator of this compelling story.

Our website is:  www.againstmovie.org

A portion of the screenplay will be read at the Film Festival in New York City on March 16, 2017 - the film fest's website is: https://www.ratedsrfilms.org/srff-2017-scripts

As noted at our website and the festival's website, the log line is:  Portrayed in a fantasy world of medieval combat that parallels her ordinary world, a girl joins an unusual suicide prevention group to figure out how to stop her secretly abusive father and reclaim her own life. 

I will be in NYC for the reading.  We are all very excited!

.


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Blue Bloods, Gangs, and "This Is Not Chiraq"

I watch the show Blue Bloods.  I like it.  I expect I'm not the typical viewer, since I'm not conservative - at all.  But it's usually well written, and only slightly expository (an Achilles heel for many hour-long procedurals on TV).  Sometimes the dialogue is clunky, and I usually am able to identify the writer on those occasions.  It's the same one who wrote the last clunky episode.

This most recent episode - taking down gangs - was particularly painful and wooden, however.  The writing had its problems, but it was the substance of the writing that caused the most grimacing for me.  Basically, gangs are bad and weak - some lip service to "I had it tough as a kid" is sandwiched between "we are evil people."  I'm not saying gangs are good - far from it.  But this portrayal did little to create any bridge of any sort - usually a hallmark for Blue Bloods.

There is a proposed TV show out of Chicago, all Chicago made (including actors), called "This Is Not Chiraq."  Although not yet picked up as a show yet, it has all the right makings of trying to figure out how to address gangs and violence from the inside out.  It's a well thought out drama with a realistic approach to solving very real problems on the street.  Since its inception, I've noticed some of the Dick Wolf Chicago shows attempt real conversations about gangs and violence (admittedly with a little more success than Blue Bloods did on 2/3/17), but the approach is still law centric.

We need a show like This Is Not Chiraq.  It was shown at the Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago this past August, with a great audience and an incredible talk back session. 

Here is its trailer:



Here is its Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/ChiraqTVseries/

Here is its website:

https://www.chiraqtheseries.com/


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The First Video Game - Pong

Ta da.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Go Cubs, Go #GoCubsGo

You may say this is a corny song.  You likely are right.  But I love it:



Maybe if you knew its history...

Steve Goodman.  An American folk music singer-songwriter.  From Chicago, Illinois.  The writer of "City of New Orleans," made popular by Arlo Guthrie.  Winner of two Grammy Awards.  And a diehard Chicago Cubs baseball fan. 

In long-suffering mode, he wrote this song and sang it from one of the Wrigley Field rooftops:



He smiles as he sings it.  It brings him joy, even with its lyrics of hopelessness.

"Year after year after year."  "After year after year after year."

People didn't know Steve Goodman was dying from leukemia back then.  It made the song have a double meaning, once Chicago found out.

The Cubbies banned the song from Wrigley Field.  Later, on the radio, Steve Goodman agreed to write a new song.

And so was born "Go Cubs Go."

I love how the Cubs go from the "doormat" of the National League in one song to winning it in the next.  I love its joyful tone, and joyful lyrics too.

Steve Goodman died on September 20, 1984 - just months after writing "Go Cubs Go" and just four days before the Cubs went to their first playoff appearance in decades.  His brother did try to spread his ashes as he asked. The wind blew, and it didn't quite work.  So goes the story.

"Go Cubs Go" has been the Cubs' theme song at various times, most recently now - 2016.  It's Steve Goodman's voice that plays.  The announcers give time, before doing post-game analysis, to allow the song to play through - and allow the fans to sing along - when the Cubbies win at Wrigley Field.

Of all years, this one makes "Go Cubs Go" particularly poignant.  If Steve Goodman hadn't written the song about his long-time suffering, we would not have such an optimistic song now.

Life can be tough as a Cubbies' fan.  Not this year.  Not too bad.

Yes, they get paid oodles of dollars to play.  But doesn't it feel like they also are playing because they love the game so much? 

So yes - "Go Cubs Go" may be a corny song. But I love it.  Steve Goodman would love it too - would love to hear it played, game after game, win after win - would love to watch the home runs land out on Waveland Avenue, like they do right now.

This song matches this team right now. I suppose, in a way, it always will - just like a Dying Cub's Fan Last Request is the team's iconic match, on the opposite side of the coin.

Hey Chicago! What do you say? The Cubs are going to win today!

#GoCubsGo

Friday, June 24, 2016

70th Anniversary

An anniversary today. The 70th. Of the bus crash that took nine vibrant lives, of the Spokane Indians' baseball players back from World War II - playing the game they loved, waiting for a turn at the Show. I found the story and wrote a novel and screenplay, imagining their spirits living on. A silver lining. But every year on this day, my heart still weighs heavy. They were great men who played good ball, who loved their families, their town, their country and their game. They had a way of winning when down in the Ninth. What spirit. Still so missed by those they loved. RIP.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Earth Landing

This is amazing:



Here it is, from our view:

 
 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

70 Years Ago Today

70 years ago - May 15, 1946: The Indians' team came from behind, tied it in the Ninth, and won it in 12. It was that kind of season, that kind of team. They saw a destiny. 40 days later, their bus crashed and nine died. Destiny's detour. Here are pages about that May 15th win - the first pages I ever wrote in my novel about these men, UNTIL THE END OF THE NINTH:

 



Monday, March 14, 2016

Scruff

If your name is Scruffy, you must either be ugly or ironically beautiful.

The Scruff I knew was the latter.

He was a gentleman, too - a gracious host, a kind soul. 

He lived a long life, in greyhound years.  His life's beginning was stressful I'm sure - at the tracks, bred to race, caged when he was not in a race.  It is a difficult life for these sleek, fast dogs who only look to please, and connect.

His second life was not much better, as far as we know.  It did bring him Ivy - what a good girl she was, another greyhound from the track - a powerful chest, and runner.  They were adopted to a home, as happens with retired greyhounds, but it was a home that did not work.  By the time Scruff and Ivy were returned, they would not leave the other's side.  I've wondered often what happened there.

It was in his third life that I met him - with Ivy by his side.  My friends adopted the two together.  They had had other greyhounds before, saved from the track, to live with love and comfort in their final years.  It was time for a new pair - a male, a female - one of each.  My friends understood that, by that time, Scruffy and Ivy came as a pair.  They liked it that way.  It was a perfect match.

I'm assured I was Scruffy's favorite visitor.  I'm sure he wouldn't play favorites like that.  He was too much of a gentleman.  But I did love how he would stand at the window in the mud room when he heard my car drive up, and how he would dance a little dance as he watched me walk up the driveway to his house.  I loved how, once the greetings calmed down, he still stood with me and leaned into me as I stood.  I knew, always, to give him some moments to lean - to give us both those moments.  When he finally would pull away, I would be sad.  Yes, it was time to stop the greeting.  But it was a such a nice moment, each time.  

My friends thought of changing Scruff's name.  After all, he was a beautiful tan - nearly elegant in stature - not Scruffy in any way.  But a name change never came.  He answered to Scruff, wagged his tail when he heard that name, and seemed so grateful that this name was said with love, that there seemed no need to change it.  We all knew how pristinely beautiful he was.  My friends didn't need to change his name to know that.  And all that mattered to Scruff was protecting Ivy, loving his new family, and appreciating the gift of his new, comfortable life.  So Scruff he stayed.

Scruff had a fourth life too.  It was after Ivy died.  She died abruptly, unexpectedly, on a walk - while relishing life as she always did.  It was devastating to lose her.  It was Scruffy who'd been aging at that point, not Ivy.  But it was Ivy who passed, who was sorely missed by everyone - I think by Scruffy most of all.

We worried that, without his Ivy girl, Scruff would have no will for life.

But he did.

When Ocho came, she lightened his world.  She was almost a puppy, compared to him.  He was not quite sure what to make of the brindle-colored little greyhound, but then again - well, he was Scruff. He was the gentle gentleman, humble in spirit, kind, aware - always aware - and he welcomed her to his house, to Ivy's place, just as you would expect from such a grand boy. 

I ended up moving away, and so saw him less.  I came to visit a time or two and watched he and Ocho do so well together.  We'd go for walks - short ones, now.  Scruff couldn't go far.  I'd still get my greeting, though - the dance, and the lean. 

The last time I came, I saw him through the window in the mud room.  "Hey, Scruffy," I said.  "Hi, honey...."  He lifted his head, struggled to his feet, and stood at the door, dancing his dance, slowly now but still with a lift in his step.   As I opened the door, he came to my side and leaned in to my leg.  We stood there awhile, until he had to lie back down.  I stroked his beautiful fur, and talked with my friends of his sweet spirit.  He listened, I think, while he napped.

Scruffy passed away a month or so ago.  It was his time, so it was all right.  I'm going to his house soon.  I won't see him, I know.  But I will look for a flash of light that dances in the mud room just as I arrive to the home that he loved so much.