Butter on Everything

Earlier this week, I met up with my Mom for lunch. The kids are on school vacation so whenever one of these weeks roll around (which seems like every other week in the current curriculum) – we try to make plans to connect the distance that spans us; seeing as how her grandchildren are growing up in a region so far removed from my earlier South Shore beginnings. Simply put, my Mom misses them (and presumably her son, too) so we always make time to break bread – as often as we can.

We had a lovely lunch – punctuated with many tales and lots of laughter – and at one point, we briefly touched on memories of my grandmother, Nellie Louisa Clarke. It was the second time in three days that I spoke of my grandmother, who passed away almost four years ago – on February 28, 2014. A few days before, Colin and I had been visiting my Dad in Plymouth. Colin – ever the history buff and bastion of famous dates – remarked that we were approaching the 4th anniversary of her passing and we weren’t that far away from where she enjoyed her final days. Four years before (almost to the day), she had passed away in Plymouth – close to the coast she cherished so much since she made landfall in the United States in 1946 as a war bride to my grandfather, Ronald Clarke.

Last week, I wrote about the songs that make up your life’s soundtrack. Sometimes you don’t even need music & lyrics to whisk you back. All you need to do is let the world quiet for a moment and your mind will make the leap to whatever treasured memory you have stored for safe keeping. All of this talk of my grandmother put me in the mind of something that happened towards the end of her life; a crazy happenstance connection that was almost too good to believe but absolutely happened at the right time and place.

This one’s a keeper – and one for sharing, too.

I thought for sure I must have written about this at some point but an extensive review of my archives turns up nothing. Now – I’m no idiot. I’m not using these pages to divulge every innermost thought of mine – nor am I ever going to use this site to share every little personal thing about me. We all need our secrets.

But there are some stories that are too good not to share and that is exactly what The Ed Zone is all about.

When I think of my Nana Nell – three things come to mind.

  1. She had the most refined British accent I’ve ever heard (one that she kept with her through all of her days). Every word sounded lovely lifted by her accent.
  2. She loved her family and the Red Sox in equal measure. She never missed a game (Not. One. Game.) and she would tune in to the NESN pre-game show and watch all the way through post night-after-night. When they finally won in 2004, shortly after I had moved westward towards the South Central Worcester area, I immediately thought of my Nana and her dogged devotion for this team that had crushed hearts better than they could fastballs when it meant the most. Finally, they had lofted this win out of the park and straight to her. It was late so I called her the next day and she went on and on about how happy she had been to finally see a World Championship. That joy and elation married to that lovely, refined speaking voice is the call of the game that I will keep with me the rest of my days.
  3. Butter on Everything. Seriously – she put Butter on Everything. Even Tuna Fish sandwiches!!! Don’t ask me why – it’s a British thing. Butter on some things (tuna?) may be a little gross – BUT – “Butter on Everything”?!?!? I guess sometime’s it’s quite a bit rich, too.

My parents came from different backgrounds, although both are technically the children of immigrants. My Dad is an immigrant himself, having been born in Newfoundland and then moving to Canada proper at the age of 1 before heading down to Miami, Florida. I know that a Canadian planting roots in South Beach is a strange route to take, so I presume somewhere around the same time, some Cuban family settled way up north in Bangor, Maine just to bring balance to the force. Eventually, his family moved up the coast (presumably in a bid to find a good hockey town, eh) – and ultimately settled in the Boston area.

My Mom’s father (Ron) grew up near Boston as well and his tale is fodder for a post all its own. All I know is that guy seemed mythic to me when I was little. He was drafted by the Boston Braves (before they moved to Atlanta) but threw his arm out throwing batting practice for the team. He also did some modeling work and ended up out near Hollywood among the starlets for a time. At least, that’s what he told me. And, like most men his age – he ultimately found himself in World War II – where he served as an airman for the United States Air Force.

This is where the story turns and this is also the whole reason for this post. This is one of those “what happened happened and couldn’t have happened any other way” moments. An entire family legacy spins out from a chance detour down a random London street. Two roads diverged and fortunately he went the way this story (and my life) needed him to go.

When my Grandpa Ron was a young airman, he was stationed in London. All you need to know about him for this story to make sense is that he was a smooth talker. So smart. So erudite. So effortlessly charming. Everyone loved him. Even in his more mature days, when he found himself chatting up medical staff on a regular basis, you’d pity the poor nurse who caught his gaze because they would end up talking to him for days. That guy had a way with words and was quick to make so many swoon. He was (and is) memorable. A real gentleman – the kind they break the mold after.

One day – while taking a break with a couple of his brothers-in-arms, my grandfather wandered into a London tavern; beckoned by the siren’s call from within. The three guys had been walking down the street when they heard music coming coming from that establishment; a lovely piano piece. My grandfather urged the guys to follow him in so he could linger a little while and find out who was making such beautiful music.

You can’t script this. You can’t make this stuff up. Truth is sometimes so much stranger than fiction.

They entered the pub and immediately he saw her, his future wife and my beloved grandmother, Nellie Louisa Collins (her maiden name at the time). She was playing piano for the troops – something she absolutely loved to do, and a good respite from her job at a munitions factory. She was 22 but like many of her contemporaries had already lived a lifetime – having witnessed history by living through the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. The latter event saw her dashing for safety into subway tunnels as bombs rained down from the sky above. But if life is best measured in chapters, her story (and mine) was about to change for the better in the next one.

My grandfather wagered that he could get that lovely woman to talk to him. Those fools! There’s no way his compadres stood a chance – not with this guy’s gift of gab. So he approached her and began to talk and charmed her with his knowledge of music. From there a courtship was struck and they married on May 25, 1945. A little later, my grandmother gave birth to her first-born, a daughter. While my grandfather still had work for do in the service, my grandmother climbed aboard a ship headed for the states – with other war brides in tow – and made way for a new country and a whole new life.

When she arrived in the United States, she posed for a photo with her fellow passengers and their babies (all British women who had met and married American servicemen) and then headed to Massachusetts to take residence with my grandfather’s family; his French-born mother and Canadian-born father – who shared a home on the outskirts of Boston. She was truly a stranger in a strange land. But she was brave. She had already lived so much.

Eventually my grandfather made his was back from the war and reunited with my grandmother. They moved to South Weymouth, MA where they lived for 45 years – and in that time, their family grew to include three daughters (including my mom, Claudette) and a son (my beloved Uncle Ron). From there came the next generation – who without, you would not be reading this tale.

Flash forward to 2011. My grandfather had passed away a couple of years before and my grandmother was in need of assistance so it was with a heavy heart that the family brought her to reside in a Life Care Center in Plymouth which could provide around-the-clock assistance as she lived out her sunset days. On the first day that she moved in – she met a roommate (Selena) who as fate would have it, was also from England.

My Mom and Uncle got to speaking with Selena’s family and the more they compared their notes – a startling plot twist presented itself. Selena had come to the United Status under similar circumstances as my grandmother. They had both met their husbands in the war. They had both married and had children while in England. They had both arrived in the United States around the same time.

My Uncle knew of a picture he had stored back at the house – a snapshot in time taken as the ship’s passengers – the British war brides – made landfall on American soil. He dashed home to get it and returned to share with the group. My grandmother immediately pointed herself out, holding her child. Selena took one look and spied herself – standing mere feet away from my grandmother. The two women had come over on the same ship under the similar circumstances over 65 years earlier and then went their own separate ways before finally meeting in the same room on the same day.

If it was in a movie, you wouldn’t believe it.

But here it was – an honest-to-goodness amazing twist of fate that saw my grandmother coming face-to-face with her past on the day she needed it most.

When I really think about my Nana Nell and her story, I am completely leveled. I can’t even fathom what she must have been feeling when she boarded that ship and said goodbye to her homeland; headed to a land where she didn’t know anybody. A girl in her low-20s suddenly shouldering all the weight in the world while seemingly making her way halfway across it. It’s staggering and humbling in equal measure. And yet – if she doesn’t make that journey, I cease to be. If my grandfather doesn’t step down the street, I cease to be. So, what happened – happened – and couldn’t have happened any other way.

And once she was here, she hardly went back as there really wasn’t enough money to afford frequent travel. My grandparents were comfortable but not well beyond their means, so once she was in the USA – she was pretty much here for life.

So it comforts the entire family to know that as my grandmother got to the end of her life – knowing she had never really had the chance to get back to England (save for a trip or two here and there over many years) – her homeland came back to her. Over those last three years, she bonded with Selena greatly – sharing her love of the Red Sox with this woman. If you went to visit them between 7 and 10 pm on most summer nights, you better bring peanuts and Cracker Jacks – and you damn well better root, root, root for the home team.

Their dueling accents were a treat, too – with my grandmother offering up a more refined lilt and Selena’s tinged with a bit of Cockney. When I would go visit them, I would say “I’m off to see Adele and the Queen” and those visits were as wonderful as that meet-up sounds.

Four years ago – on February 28, 2014 – we said goodbye to my Nana at a lovely ceremony in Plymouth, MA – using the historic church that is billed as the direct through-line to the Pilgrim’s original meeting-house. That structure stands a couple of blocks away from the Atlantic Ocean – the great, vast expanse that my grandmother returned to so often to just sit, sip a coffee and look out onto the horizon. It’s that wide blue sea that carried her home time-and-time again.

My Uncle delivered a beautiful and moving eulogy that morning; one that recounted this tale and Selena’s role in my Nana’s life – as she came in to play a very important part just when we all needed it most. That’s the type of grace note we should all get in this life.

A couple of days later, I went out with my good friends for our monthly Guys Night Out and we found ourselves playing bar trivia. I had just regaled the guys with this story; punctuated with much fond reminiscence of growing up with such an amazing woman playing such a pivotal role in this boy’s life. When pressed for a name for our trivia team – the group took a beat and decided in unison – ‘Butter on Everything’.

We won that night. Of course, we did.

And here I am now. Four years later. 45 years old. Doing well with much to show for it, in that I have two amazing children and an army of unbelievable friends and family. I’m hiking mountains so I must have my health. I’m still writing so my wits are about me. I’m at the point where a new chapter is beginning again. It’s a blank page and part of me is a little weary of that. Eventually you want to put the pen down for a spell and just settle into your story; to live in it for a long stretch. Well, sometimes life goes the other way, too. So, you adapt. But that’s my ultimate goal – to start this next chapter and let it meander to a happy conclusion somewhere way off in the far-flung future. The type of life my Nana enjoyed.

So, while life tells me I have to get writing again, I have a feeling this next time will be the long chapter and verse. That’s my hope.

And when I think on my grandmother and the courage she showed in coming to a new land without a single friend here – and then I see how she went to town creating a life (and then from there – an entire legacy of lives), I realize the power in second chapters. There is so much possibility and such beauty just waiting to be uncovered.

The page is blank but the story is yours. You’ve just got to write it from the heart.

That’s what my Nana did – for she knew no other way.


We all have a soundtrack to our lives – those critical songs that take us back to some precious memory the second we hear a few quick notes while surfing the dial. A good song – tethered to sweet, sad or blissful memory – will drop you right back to that spot, day and date, every single time – allowing you to re-read the story of your life.

Green Day’s Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) may be a little on the nose for this story – but it was playing the day I drove off from the apartment I shared with my post-college roommates; as I said goodbye to the frivolous single life and moseyed on to what would eventually become an engagement, later a marriage, then homeownership, parenting and ultimately divorce. A lot happened after I loaded up that Ryder (and while I have songs that mark pivotal moments along that journey) – it’s Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) that played at the pitch perfect moment.

The same goes for my wedding day – a postcard perfect beautiful swatch of mid-October Indian Summer. I was married at 10 am (the beginning of an afternoon and evening full of festive parties and after-parties (yes – the plural is intentional)). As my wedding party exited the church and made a beeline to the limo, we stepped into the car as U2’s Beautiful Day came over the sound system. It wasn’t planned – the driver actually asked if he wanted us to hunt some music (this being the age before Pandora’s box would open and grant us all On Demand streaming music of our exact choice). Once he hit WBCN (which was still a thing thereby proving my sage status), we barked the order “THERE! RIGHT THERE!!!” We drove off to the reception thinking back upon a lovely ceremony capped by U2’s celebratory anthem and while later down the road, my marriage would ultimately end – I offer these three truths:

1.   Nobody stands before a rapt crowd of their friends and family and says “I do” (while secretly dreaming of a day when they “Don’t“)

2.   If pressed to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing because what happened – happened – and couldn’t have happened any other way. All roads led to here, where I am at this very moment. They made me the man I am today. I like this guy. So yeah, I wouldn’t change a thing – for better or for worse.

3.   It was a Beautiful Day indeed.

And then there is Pearl Jam. I cottoned to the Seattle-based alternative rock band when I was a Sophomore in college at UMASS Amherst. I remember the exact day I heard them and it was probably a day or two, too late.

My first exposure was when they appeared on Saturday Night Live to perform a two-song set; Alive and Porch. They were promoting their debut album release ‘Ten‘ – which was just started to attract some crossover attention. The night that they were scheduled as musical guests was also the night that Sharon Stone was set to host – hot off her blistering performance in Basic Instinct. That’s a film that had totally captured the attention of the mainstream filmgoing audience so this was a big show, indeed. (As an aside – it’s interesting that what is largely a fever-dream rendition of the types of flicks that often play on Cinemax After Dark could cultivate such a national obsession. I chalk that up to time and place. No way a movie like that makes the same type of box office splash in this day and age.)

Stone clearly drew us in that night but Pearl Jam was my takeaway.

At UMASS, there were three Must See TV shows if you happened to be in the dorm at that time (pre-DVR):
The Simpsons on Sundays, Seinfeld on Thursdays and SNL on Saturday nights of course (the latter of which was often missed due to more extra-curricular concerns off campus. Hey – those kegs of discount, room-temperature beer weren’t going to drink themselves.)

But if we came for Stone – we stayed for Eddie.

Pearl Jam absolutely slayed that night – tearing into both sets with such sound and fury, signifying everything. Things were changing in the music industry – moving from bubblegum pop to something with a bit more substance. Nirvana arguably led the charge BUT they were always destined to burn bright and then eventually fade out no matter what fate befell Cobain. They were too punk to handle megastardom.

Pearl Jam felt like a different animal – as much a product of the grinding, grunge movement as they were the natural evolution of what artists like Neil Young had started. All I know is they got my attention pretty quickly and I scampered out the next day to buy their CD – one that I put on heavy rotation throughout that Summer and into the next school year.

When I think of college, I think of Pearl Jam. The sad thing is – I could have had a more indelible image (than that SNL appearance) tattooed to memory if I had taken my buddy Joe up on his offer to go see them live at our Student Union Ballroom two days prior. I offered up some pithy excuse (“Sorry dude – Seinfeld’s on.“) and let him fly solo. I’m sure my rejection had more to do with the fact that at the time, I was making roughly $12 a week at my student job minding the residential area’s Munchie Store (so named because it sold Munchies and was obviously built by a stoner). The $8 fare for front row tix in a room that held maybe 200 people was just too steep. Let that visual paint itself. 200 people at a Pearl Jam concert in a room smaller than most Starbucks for a ticket roughly the cost of a Venti Mocha and I said “No“.

OK – I take it all back. If I could go back in time, I would change ONE thing. I’d sacrifice one week’s worth of D.P. Dough Money to see Eddie and co. take to the stage at the split second before their careers would rocket to the stratosphere. I missed out the first time. Joe didn’t. I still kick myself for it.

After I graduated UMASS in May 1994 – I had a tiny bout of depression settle in. That’s probably one of three times in my life that I felt that affliction as I am usually more of the sunny, happy people. But – I loved that school and that surrounding area. UMASS was as essential to me as food and water – and suddenly I was on the outside, looking in. I still had friends there – underclassmen who had semesters to finish and more memories to make – where as I was now in the Big Wide World trying to make something of myself with a degree that I wasn’t even sure was really for me. Not anymore. Not wanting to be a Journalist (no matter how many articles I had published to date) and not sure of what I should do, all I could say is “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” That was my sad mission statement.

So, I took a job at Putnam Investments in Boston, MA. I only did this because I made the foolish mistake of ponying up for a car – my first car – and each month when that payment came due, I saw my savings shrink exponentially. I just wasn’t making enough money at my job manning the grill at Papa Gino’s to afford a sparkly blue Dodge Neon.

If there has ever been a more depressing sentence than that last, I challenge you to find it.

So – when one day – one of our miserable delivery drivers bellowed this proclamation – “Does anybody want to make more money then you are making here?” – I followed that ape right to his sanctuary which would turn out to be working as a client service representative in the corporate world, right in the heart of Boston’s Financial District. I applied, interviewed and was hired in rapid succession. Here’s a friendly tip, kids. That’s how you make it big in the Corporate America. When they are desperate for phone monkeys, any pulse will do.

I took that job in August 1994 and promised myself “One Year and Then I’ll Get Back to Doing Whatever” (I presumed writing, teaching, giving the world Zumba – anything but what I was presently doing). A couple of months later, Putnam had relocated me from their swanky Boston high-rise to a nondescript office park in the middle of Franklin, MA. I didn’t have to wear a suit everyday but what I traded in high-end couture I gained in dead-end obscurity. The only saving grace was the bar that was perfectly positioned at the end of the street leading to our office. Once I arrived with a battalion of equally thirsty twentysomethings, we brought that place back from the brink of tax armageddon. Alas, that’s a tale for another day.

Still, I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do and now I wasn’t even in the place that made consolation at least palatable. I mean – Boston in your early-20’s is seductive. A guy can choke down a lot of aggravation and stress by merging into the hustle and bustle of the Big City. It makes you forget how miserable you are for a little while.

But that arduous commute from Weymouth to Franklin every day (70 minutes at a spell) just made me think long and hard at who I was, what I wanted (or didn’t have) and where I was going (which was to freakin’ Franklin!!! Aghhhhhh!!!!) My buddy Justin called me one Thursday afternoon – before the long Columbus Day weekend – and offered to have me come out and visit him on campus (and see all of those old friends I had left behind). I took him up on it without a moment to spare. Sure, it was a 2-hour drive BUT once I got there – I’d be home.

At that time, I had a nicely assembled Pearl Jam catalogue that I would just throw on repeat. So the two-hour ride to Amherst would fly by as I loudly sang along to all of the songs. I knew (and still know) all the words. Whenever a beloved track would come on, I would listen and then step back to replay it all over again.

That first weekend trip led to many. I wasn’t out there every weekend but it was enough to feel like my home away from home. Actually – at the time – I’m pretty sure I looked at my Mom’s place in Carver, MA as my home away from home. That’s just where my stuff was. It was out in Amherst, among my people, where I truly felt cozy and warm.

So 5 o’clock would roll around most Fridays and I would point my nose westward – getting out in time to join the group for whatever they had planned – which was usually hitting The Pub in downtown Amherst for libations followed by pizza at Antonios or following Justin and his new friends as we ambled out to Hobart Lane or someone’s off-campus apartment to guzzle lots of cheap keg beer. I’d stay the whole weekend so it wasn’t all parties, all of the time. Far from it. We’re renaissance men with a wide range of tastes. We would check out movies, play whiffle ball, grab food – and talk. Lots of talk. To this day, I always say I am the greatest fan good conversation ever had and I credit those days for expanding my communication skills (both while I was a student and when I was merely visiting). That’s where and when I learned to talk my talk.

Every time I would make the trek, I would pop in a Pearl Jam CD – often times bringing it to Justin, Rich, Joe and the others and sharing what I had found (although Joe was and is the music guru so he always had it first. I just did a better job of selling it.) Vitalogy led to No Code which led to Yield which led to Binaural and so on and so on. Of course, Ten and Vs. were always in the playlist, too.

There was one song (off of Vs.) that I played every time I got in the car – my own little ritual – whether I was headed there or back again.

Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town

I seem to recognize your face
Haunting, familiar yet – I can’t see to place it
Cannot find the candle of thought to light your name
Lifetimes are catching up with me

That song stuck with me.

After awhile, I didn’t go out as often as I used to. I think that song spoke to me on some deeper level. It’s haunting, bittersweet and sad – but a little wistful, too. It sort of hit me right time and place and in some way warned me about sinking too deep into the well of nostalgia.

It is my favorite Pearl Jam song – hands down, bar none – maybe because it became my cautionary tale. There is something comforting about finding your place in the world and then growing roots but the more I listened to that song, and the more I made that trek – the more I realized that lifetimes are catching up with me and that getting stuck in one place – or one frame of mind – is not the way forward.

Nostalgia is a tricky thing. It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy for the good old days. But these days are pretty damned good too – and if that’s the case – the future is bright. It’s important to let the past inform who you are now. Those who do not learn from history are indeed doomed to repeat it.

So I looked to another Pearl Jam song to pave my way forward.

I was headed to Putnam’s annual Summer BBQ (something that companies just don’t do anymore and this one was probably the last big corporate blow-out I attended). Pearl Jam’s Wishlist came on the radio – the first time I had really listened to it. As Eddie Vedder wound through a vivid personal checklist of all the things he wished he could be, I saw my future and my hopes for it.

I wish I was a sailer with someone who waited for me
I wish I was as fortunate as fortunate as me
I wish I was a messenger and all the news was good
I wish I was the full moon shining on a Camaro’s hood

I made my own list – one that is always growing, no matter how many items I check off of it. Keeping your wishlist well-stocked is a healthy way of life.

Right now, I wish I had Pearl Jam tickets for their big show this Summer at Fenway. I tried to get them through a pre-approval offering this week on Ticketmaster but got waitlisted. Following that, I had a last-minute saving grace offered by another friend with an extra code but he got blocked at the gate, too. After three unsuccessful attempts to score me tickets (each time getting unceremoniously booted to the beginning as my payment began to process) – all of the tickets were gone. I was disappointed for a moment but then realized that my time will come.

I’ll get to a live show again – and when I do – I guarantee that show and the music that Eddie and co. sends into the night will find me exactly where I am – exactly where I need to be – wrapped in the gauze of newly made sweet memory.

And I’ll always remember where I was when it hit me just right.

Don’t You (Forget About Me)

Don’t You (Forget About Me)

That’s the buoyant, hopeful alternative-rock anthem that opens and closes The Breakfast Club; that great John Hughes-scripted flick that took a representative from every walk of High School life, tossed ‘em in a closed room and got them talking. It says something that the Simple Minds tune still gets fairly significant airplay well-over 30 years since it topped US charts.

My son and I have a little ritual where most Fridays – once we retire home for the night – we’ll pick out a flick and just fall into it. My daughter used to partake as well BUT as soon as her brother started taking an interest in disaster  movies, she tapped out. Although truth be told, I have my own little cinematic tradition with her as she is always happy to accompany me to the theater to see things the way they were meant to be seen; in the dark, on the big screen, larger than life. It helps that they cotton to different genres and I pledge allegiance to none – usually finding something to like about any discipline – meaning if I were pressed to list my favorite movies of all time – you’d get a list chock full of Oscar winners, monster movies, chick flicks, kids stuff and everything in between. I just live to love the movies.

I am pleased to note that even though Aria took a little hiatus, my fair lady (of whom I’ve escorted to many a Disney Princess flick) is also my fellow comic book movie junkie. I’ll never forget the slight wound in her voice this past November when she inquired “You went to see Thor WITHOUT ME?!?!?” We remedied that by taking in a second screening on Thanksgiving Eve – and just this morning, she was arranging our schedule so we could see Black Panther as soon as it opens.

Colin – on the other hand – will have none of these superhero shenanigans, preferring to stick to things that he says could actually happen (or have in the past – hence our awesome IMAX-infused screening of Dunkirk last summer which thoroughly put us right in the middle of all that chaos.) On the other end of the scale, he grooves to things that are so far removed from reality, there isn’t a chance on Earth that they would play out the way Roland Emmerich & Michael Bay seem to think they will. If the world has ended, we’ve been there to see it all come crumbling down. And while there are pleasures to be found in some of these silly flicks – I swear, if I have to see The Rock jump through another skyscraper again, it will be too soon. Oh wait…

Colin is the type of viewer who likes to chase themes so first we worked through the world’s end ad nauseam – and then saw it come to the brink of it with a whole bunch of World War II movies (which fed my history junkie son’s interest in understanding every nuance of that conflict). I minored in History alongside my Journalism degree and I didn’t learn half-as-much in 4 years of collegiate study as I have from car rides to and from track practice with him. If you are looking for a college professor who will work for scale – have I got the guy for you!!!

Lately, we’ve spun around to real-world teen dramas. I think his interest was piqued when he realized my play (The Lost World) was starting production soon. He knows a little bit about the show and has always been interested in the fact that I cast teenagers to play flashback versions of my principal adult characters. The play lands in the PG-13 territory so the first time I produced it, I didn’t let he or his sister linger around rehearsals for fear of catching an errant F-Bomb. The play is not rife with this stuff but there are a handful of words sprinkled throughout that lend gravity to the situation (or properly punch up a joke) and there is definitely some thematic material that was way above their heads at the time.

Now that he is in High School and Aria is chasing on his heels – this thing should land right where they live – or where they are about to take residence. If anything, it’s nothing they haven’t heard on the bus (they grow up so fast in that lawless land). Also – I wrote this with quite a bit of real-life High School memory fueling my thoughts so the stuff I invented for the plot are not conclusions I came to at this advanced age. These were real-world concerns of mine during those days when I was young, gawky and awkward (gawkward?!?!?) and still trying to figure myself out. This play is 100% fiction but my thoughts, dreams and memories help flavor it.

So Colin is interested in seeing the show – and helping out however he can – although not to the point where he would be on stage, delivering lines. He was VERY CLEAR about that!!! With this upcoming play (we open in April) dominating some of his thoughts, he asked about seeing the two movies I told him might help ease him into High School this past Summer when we were hunting for something to watch. At the time (late August) I offered up two movies – tales of High School then and now – that speak honestly and don’t really blow the plot up to Hollywood disproportions. I thought these two films would be the perfect pitch he needed before wading in those waters.

The Breakfast Club and The Perks of Being a Wallflower should be essential text for all incoming High School freshman. Both films find a through line of universal truth that I really think could help kids make sense of themselves and simmer the bubbling cauldron of thoughts and emotions that are churning at such a pivotal age.

At the time I first offered them up, he had no interest – so it was another screening of San Andreas. Yay!!! Yeah, I place all the fault there. (Pun FIRMLY intended).

Two weeks ago, he and I had a great Guy’s Night Out – hunting down some amazing pizza at Antonio’s in Worcester and then returning home for a movie. That’s when he surprised me. Expecting him to lobby for World War Z or something else with bite, I was staggered when he brought things down to Earth with – “Can we watch one of those High School movies you told me about?” Hell yeah! Any time! Any place! So, I gave him a little synopsis of both and let him decide. He chose The Perks of Being a Wallflower first but made sure I knew The Breakfast Club would reconvene one week later.

There is a deep well of empathy that waters Wallflower and I think that because this personal story is told by someone who clearly walked those halls and sat with those early teen thoughts – that this drama feels so authentic. The movie was adapted from the book by its author, Stephen Chbosky. An author writing and directing his own screenplay is rare and given how tricky adaptation is; I think it’s amazing that Chbosky is able to keep the heart of his story pumping while reconfiguring some elements from the book to fit the visual medium. It helps that the film is expertly cast. Emma Watson is lovely and radiant, Ezra Miller emerges a born star and Logan Lerman inhabits his character’s sensitive skin with heartbreaking tenderness. The story follows the freshman year in the life of a quiet, sensitive soul as he navigates the class system of High School and befriends two outgoing, older “wallflowers”. It’s under their nurturing care that he blossoms.  I loved this film the moment I saw it and as a guy who is as in touch with his former self as he is the doting Dad you see before you now – I can honestly say that the 16-year-old Ed (or Eddie – as way too many people knew me by way back when) would have been head-over-heels in love with this movie. I was happy to share this with my son and I think it landed so well on my boy’s life.

A week later, we made good on the promise to check in on The Breakfast Club; chasing our Father/Son Dinner & A Movie Date with a screening. Although I feel like I’ve lived with that movie my entire life – it wasn’t until 4 years ago when I was prepping production on my original play (The Lost World) that it suddenly dawned on me I had never actually seen the movie in its entirety. My play – about six people who claim to have HATED High School the most and end up as the only six people to attend their High School reunion – was inspired by my own 20-year High School reunion where I gazed upon a full crowd of former classmates and was struck by the increase in size and scale from our 10-year reunion where nobody came. I did the math and deduced that at the 10 year, some wounds were still too fresh – while at the 20-year, everyone is looking for any excuse to get out of the house. “ISIS Recruitment Convention, you say. Where do I RSVP?”

When I wrote the play, I did so utterly sure that I had seen the movie as so many of the details were wedded to my memory. I know the thought of throwing six High School students in the same room – each cast off from different cliques – and then stripping away the outside world so they could get to know each other a little better was such a genius idea that John Hughes had. It’s so good that they would never make that same movie now. There’s no action in it. It’s just a lot of straight, honest chit-chat among strangers who slowly but surely grow a little closer; even if those bonds aren’t likely to hold come Monday.

It’s a timeless thought though and that merged with my feelings about the great decade I grew up in. A child of the 1980s – I came into my own in that age where we spied the slick tendrils of high technology making tentative inroads into our daily lives yet we still went out and played in the neighborhood and surrounding woods from early morning light until the fireflies glowed at night. I loved life back then but I thrill to it now. I see the good and bad in both eras. I love my good memories but I hold tight to the fact that it’s dangerous to sink too deeply into the well of nostalgia. It’s so much better to be moving forward in this life than falling backward.

So, I wanted to do something with all of those thoughts and tie them together with something that would bind. Then it hit me. I’ve known lots of people in every phase of my life. When I was in High School I never fit into any one box. I didn’t have a clique, I just sort of buzzed them all. I was always paying attention and feeling this great swell of empathy in me – a gift handed down by my Mom and Dad who truly went to town bringing their kids up right. I listened and the things I heard found their way into my subconscious. I have a photographic memory for so many moments in my life. I may not be able to recall day & date but every other detail of so many incidents and experiences is neatly stored in this great neural filing cabinet. So, I had a lot of real world anecdotes to draw inspiration from when sketching together my own story about six different people brought together by mysterious means. While my tale is completely original, there is no doubt that it never exists without my experiences and that movie connecting the dots just right in my mind. It’s always about right time and place.

Watching the movie with Colin last week, I realized it’s only the second time I’ve seen it straight through and both screenings have only come in the last 4 years. As I said, after I wrote The Lost World in 2012, it dawned on me that I never did sit down and watch The Breakfast Club all the way through so I quickly remedied that. (See – I told you I like technology. I hit up Netflix and two hours later – voila – I was all caught up). But prior to that viewing, I had never seen the movie straight through. Not in one sitting.

The Breakfast Club was released in 1985 and hit HBO just around the time my quaint little corner of southeastern Massachusetts was infiltrated by cable. It was Rated R and my family came down hard on the rating system until we were “of age”, so this was off-limits. But unbeknownst to my Mom and Dad, I could easily survive on a mere 5 hours of sleep each night – meaning many mornings, I would rise and shine bright and early, quietly fill a bowl with Cheerios and sneak peeks at the forbidden fruit of pre-dawn pay cable.

One such morning, I sat spellbound by the ending to The Breakfast Club. Yes, those Hollywood “teens” looked old enough to be my Dad BUT there was an authenticity to the way they spoke. John Hughes could turn a clever phrase but at his heart, he knew the fears, anxieties and hidden desires that all teens covet. Simply put – he spoke our language. That movie (or the parts of it that I saw) hit me square – right time and place. I felt it in my bones. A shy, awkward kid – I yearned for the same happenstance connection. Sure, it’s just a movie but hey, that’s what they do – they let us dream. Although to this day, I still don’t know what a “neo-maxied zoom dweebie” is. I suspect Hughes didn’t either.

25 years later – with a lot more self-confidence – I found myself in the middle of that 20-Year High School Reunion; marveling at the sheer numbers of old friends (and fellow alumni) that had turned out. As I mentioned, that huge reception stood in stark contrast to the middling returns we had for the 10-Year. Suffice to say, I had the time of my life that night but still, something gnawed at me.

Why did they all come back now? What had changed in the last 10 years?

Well, for starters – nobody can hide. Not anymore. Not in the age of Facebook.

But there’s something else… something a little more subtle that worked its magic.

It doesn’t matter whether you attended High School in the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties or now. Those 4 measly years hit at the most pivotal, precious time in our young lives. They leave their mark.

I see that in my son as he is just beginning his High School career – learning the ins and outs and discovering so much of who he is – and in the process – finding himself and his people. These two movies made an impression in the last few weeks; leaping beyond the screen into that fertile landscape of the self-conscience – where who we are is constantly coming together; adapting and strengthening with the times.

Those four years hold such power – such precious, potent memory is forged in four swift years. Just as Hughes did with The Breakfast Club and Chbosky intended with The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I wrote The Lost World for everyone who ever walked those hallowed halls. For every single person who ever looked across the aisle at a fellow classmate – be they friend or foe – and felt a stirring inside.

A whisper or a shout commanding something so simple and yet so vital…

Don’t You (Forget About Me)

The Lingerie Year

Earlier this week, a little birdie helpfully reminded me that my Blog has been in operation for 12 full years. Only in this tale – the little birdie is a giant stork named Sean who is not only my tallest (and earliest) friend – he’s also the designer of this site. I asked Alexa if he was right and while she was a bit mum on the subject, she did helpfully inform me that the 12 Year Anniversary is “…traditionally known as the silk and linen anniversary. Common gifts include lingerie. It also known as the Pearl Anniversary.

Far be it for me to title this post Pearls of Wisdom when lingerie is dangled before me.

But it’s all true – The Ed Zone has been in operation since January 29, 2006. My first post can be found here – a slight opening salvo quickly etched on digital parchment while my brain feverishly tried to figure out how I was going to fill these pages week after week.

The dream was born at the world’s worst tailgate. Sean and I arrived at a Patriot’s game completely unprepared. He had scored two sweet tickets pretty much last minute so we had to cobble together the essentials in rapid-fire fashion. We visited the local grocery store and grabbed meat (then got busy shopping – buh dum dum – I’ll be here all week. Remember to tip your waitress.) We then went to secure some libations (or “hit the packie” as is traditional in these parts). Finally, we scored a cooler to secure our burgers and beer – and somehow had the foresight to borrow a small propane grill.

If only we remembered to bring a spatula, lighter and beer opener.

No worries – we would MacGyver the hell out of that day. There isn’t a beer bottle that won’t spill its secrets to a car bumper provided you angle it just right. A little pillow talk helps, too. The cardboard flaps on a case of Winter Warmer make for a nice makeshift spatula. And rub two sticks together over a pile of dried leaves and you got yourself a… OK we borrowed a lighter.

In fact – 20 minutes into our mockery of a pregame display – a random guy wandered over from his tailgate and offered us the use of his bottle opener and spatula. He had laughed his ass off at our bad fortune enough for one day and finally the time had come to take mercy on our hapless souls.

Once Sean and I rejoined modern civilization – he hit me with his bright idea. He was getting serious about web design and wanted to build a space that he could tinker with. The thing is – he’s not a writer so he needed someone to provide content. A deal was struck. He would build the house and I would make it a home.

That was 12 years ago and in that time, I’ve written close to 700 posts (with this one we’re at 680). There have been times where my mental synapses have been firing on all cylinders and I’ve written a post a day. Other times, I’ve taken close to a year off. It’s just nice to know that when the mood hits me, this site is out there for me to jot my thoughts and let you read all about it. Fortunately for you – this is an “On” Year – especially since I’ve made it my resolution to publish at least one post a week.

To celebrate – I curated some of my favorite posts. There’s no rhyme nor reason to the order (and there are others out there I like just as much – as surely as there are those that make me cringe). But this is a pretty-good cross section of what I’ve been up to in the last dozen spins around the sun. If you haven’t read these before or want to take the time warp again, have I got the posts for you.

  1. A Boy and His Dogs

    This one runs the gamut from happy to sad. I wrote it about my beloved labs – Abby and Chatham; the first (and only) dogs this boy has ever had.

2.   Underwire: One Year Undercover with the Monkeybar Mafia

A couple of years after I wrote this post, I would write my first play – The Monkeybar Mafia. I totally forgot I wrote this piece. I always say that play is 90% fictional (and that’s true) but I see so many threads from this that ended up tying the whole play together.

3.   Off He Goes

I wrote this after Colin headed off to his first day of kindergarten. Still hits me right where I live.

4.   This Used to be My Playground

In this one I take my own little trip back; reminiscing about the great neighborhood I grew up in – one that I wish my kids (and children of their ilk) had these days. Seeds were planted way back then – and those grew into The Lost World.

5.    Monster Garage

Halloween is best spent on the razor’s edge of creepy and fun. In this post I recount a Trick or Treat excursion with Colin & Aria that ended up at a “haunted garage”.

6.     Top 5 Scary Movies

I checked it out and yup – my list still holds up. They may not be SCARY per se (it takes a lot to scare me – I ain’t afraid of no ghost) but these are my favorite horror movies. Somewhere on my site I list my favorite comedies, top 5 movies that made me cry, etc – but this was one of my favorite rundowns.

7.     Home Movies

Oh wait, these are the Top 5 Movies That Made This Grown Man Cry!!!

8.     The Streak

In college, I joined the No Boxer Rebellion. That’s just a coy way of saying I went streaking – in an age just before camera phones really would have sunk the political aspirations I never had.

9.     The Adventures of Gutt and Pole

Sean is the big, tall thin one so I guess that make me the Gutt. This is the tale of how my longtime bestie and I first became friends. Spoiler alert – we didn’t always like each other so much.

10.    Along Came a Ryder

But eventually we became friends and later, roommates. Who knows what fate holds for us in the future. It is our Silk & Linen anniversary, after all.

11.    Fourteen

My parents got divorced and my beloved grandfather died. Age 14 was a big year for me. This is that story.

12.    Theater of War

I once got punched out for real on stage. Show Business is a bloodsport. Fortunately I lived to tell all about it.

13.    Where the Wild Things Are… Dead

The incredible true story of an ill-fated housesitting excursion. Nobody told me I would be watching animals in the House of a Thousand Corpses.

Now where’s my silk teddie?!?!?

My Top 5 Favorite Movies of 2017

I love movies.

It’s been that way since I was 9 years old. That was the Summer of 1981, when the Internet was barely a blip in Al Gore’s neural processors and my next door neighbor – an older kid named Jay – wandered over and asked my Mom if I could go to the movies with him. There was this awesome new adventure flick that he was dying to see and he had sweet-talked his Mom into dropping him off at the theater. She agreed as long as he brought a friend. While she shopped at the neighboring Sears, he could take in the movie. So – my Mom asked me if I wanted to go – and although I had no idea what this film was about, I signed on.

Talk about a different time. A 12-year-old and a 9-year-old were parked at the movie theater for 2 hours with no parental guidance and nobody blinked an eye. My kingdom for Department of Social Services.

Fortunately for me, the Feds never swooped in and I walked into Raiders of the Lost Ark stone cold on the cold, hard facts. I knew nothing. Hadn’t seen a trailer. Never read a description. Knew Harrison as Han Solo. That’s it!!!

In this day and age where you can practically stream the reboot of a new movie before the original is even released, it seems unheard of to walk into a major summer blockbuster with not one single story thread to hang onto. But that’s how I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I walked in a total virgin and walked out feeling very promiscuous for whatever else Hollywood wanted to send my way – although definitely not Harvey Weinstein!!!

So, no matter how busy my life gets, I’m always making a mental checklist of all the movies I have to see – whether it is up there on the big screen or while cozy at home – and while the list of movies I see at home versus the theater has swung firmly in favor of the pajamas & slippers domain – I still make it out for spectacle. I’m a sucker for it.

In my prime time, I was probably at the movies at least once a week – often with my bestie Sean in tow. Don’t believe me? Well, of the following flicks – only one of them was seen by me while escorting some fair lady – the rest were all fodder for the bromance:

a.   While You Were Sleeping
b.   Sleepless in Seattle
c.   A League of Their Own
d.   Deadpool

I’ll let you decide which one made it to a legitimate Date Night.

All of this rambling preamble has a point. Every year I like to pick my Top 5 Favorite Movies of the Past Year and write a little something about it. I’m not handicapping the Oscars here. I have no intention of telling you what was the Best Movie of the Year because I’m not looking at these things through a critic’s eye. There was a time – a long time ago – when I used to review movies for a college paper. While I loved writing about movies, I found that the more I dissected them, the less enamored I felt – and that was no way to treat something I felt genuine affection for over such a long period of time. So, I took a long hiatus from writing about movies before finally working my way back to it out here on this site where I have only one rule – write off the cuff. Say what I mean to say.

For this year’s list, I decided to do things a little differently. I’m going to list out every movie I saw that was released in 2017 (in no particular order) and write one or two quick sentences about that movie and what I thought. I’m not putting a lot of thought into those sentences either. I’m not looking to boil a master’s thesis down into a blurb. This will be done completely off-the-cuff. At the end of the post, I’ll select my Top 5 Favorites. And then – presuming you make it to the end – your job is to chat away in my handy-dandy Comments section and let me know what you loved or didn’t last year. I’m a sucker for a good movie suggestion so show me the way.

Let’s do this.

Hidden Figures – This was a compelling true-story about the African-American women who made a massive contribution to the moon landing; and while it is well-cast in the lead roles, the film comes across as made a little on the cheap, like a Made-for-TV movie blown up for the big screen. Worth the watch but it could have used a little more nuance and polish.

Split – M. Night Shyamalan was once the biggest thing going in suspense before he started believing his own hype; putting too much stock into his Twilight Zone-esque twist endings. Here he works lean and mean; crafting a truly satisfying thriller with some surprising ties to his earlier work. It’s encouraging that I can’t wait to see what he does next.

A Dog’s Purpose – A movie featuring a cute pup dying every 10 minutes should have wrung every last ounce of liquid from my tear ducts but this one was too cheaply cloying and never earned the sentiment. Josh Gad’s voiceover was the wrong fit for various reincarnations of the dog, too. Who wants a furry Olaf? If this comes on again, I think I’ll just roll over and play dead.

John Wick: Chapter 2 – Keanu Reeves, like Arnold Schwarzenegger before him, is always best when a film leans into his wooden strengths; which is why the John Wick series has proven to be so much fun. Dialogue is kept to a minimum as the mysterious Wick makes his way through a secret society of international assassins – never shooting the breeze, just lots of heads.

The Lego Batman Movie – All you need to know is that I now rank Lego Batman as the best incarnation of Batman; slightly above Christian Bale and Michael Keaton and leagues better than Ben Affleck, Val Kilmer, George Clooney and yes, even Adam West. I mean c’mon – he ends his days by rematching Jerry McGuire and laughing his cowl off.

A Cure for Wellness – Director Gore Verbinski may have hit the mainstream with his Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy but this creepy flick feels more in tune with an earlier hit, The Ring. While I didn’t love where this film ended up (and I am decidedly against Dane De Haan as a lead actor who has all the charisma of an auto-tuned Leonardo DiCaprio) – I was completely sucked into the air of menace that Verbinski lends to this tale of a mysterious spa catering to the whims of the super rich. It’s just too bad it goes so far off the road in the end.

Get Out – I saw this movie right after A Cure for Wellness and similarities in plotting aside, Get Out gets so much right that A Cure for Wellness botches by the time it reaches its overheated finale. Nice to see director Jordan Peele’s smart, funny, scary and very timely thriller get some Oscar love when nominations were announced last week.

Logan – This film showed there is rich material left to mine in the superhero genre. These films don’t always have to be about chasing the glowing doodad in order to stave off the apocalypse. Sometimes it’s OK if the stakes are simply finding one’s way in a changing world. Logan was bruising at times and hit harder than I expected.

Kong: Skull Island – This was an absolute blast – a “boys with toys” movie where Kong was treated with awe and reverence, like a primal force of nature – and less like a romantic interest (which I think is where Kong movies always lose me because I mean – how is that going to work?)

Guardians of the Galaxy vol. II – A shaggy sequel that loses some of the pleasant surprise of the original but was still very weird and enjoyable. I love that the first film kicked open the door to the crazier corners in the Marvel universe – allowing the company, and films like this, to let their Freak Flag Fly!!!

Alien Covenant – I want to love these movies because I am an unabashed fan of Ridley Scott’s original and James Cameron’s action bent in the sequel – but Covenant and Prometheus before it, are too enamored in retelling the Frankenstein myth; leaving the aliens as scuttling busywork lurking around the edges. Covenant looked beautiful though as Ridley Scott shoots the hell out of every picture he ever makes but pretty will only get you so far in life.

Wonder Woman – I saw this on my birthday and absolutely loved it. Once would have been enough though because on repeat viewings I feel there is some drag and bloat in this that weighs the story down. That said – it’s a gorgeous film with real chemistry between Gal Gadot (who owns this part) and Chris Pine. Based on where this ends up; that chemistry will be sadly missed in the sequel.

Baby Driver – I’ve been a fan of director Edgar Wright ever since I saw Shaun of the Dead, his debut film. He followed that with Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim, The World’s End and finally Baby Driver. He’s always been so inventive with his filmmaking and the way he sets his action beats and car chases to an infectious soundtrack makes every Fast & the Furious movie look like old school Mario Kart from here on out.

Spider-Man: Homecoming – If we’re to believe that “with great power comes great responsibility“, then I say Spider-Man lives and dies by its Peter Parker. In Tom Holland, they have found the definitive Parker – infusing the newly Spidey with a great wiseass teenage wit. This is pure fun though-and-through; a John Hughes flick through the Marvel prism that absolutely gets the appeal of putting a kid in the suit.

War for the Planet of the Apes – There would be no ‘War for the Planet of the Apes‘ without bleeding edge special effects but what makes this film so special is that unlike most blockbuster tentpole flicks – the effects are not there in place of the story; they are absolutely essential to painting the fractured world upon which director Matt Reeves brings this trilogy to a bruising and soulful ending. We live in an age of casual magic where computer graphic designers can wish almost anything into reality – so it takes a lot to wow me these days. Over three movies – Andy Serkis as Caesar has done just that and then some.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Watch this for the bravura 10-minute opening sequence – where we see the city grow from its humble beginning as the International Space Station to this mammoth world of a thousand diverse alien cultures (all set to David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’) and then shut it off when Dane De Haan appears. Seriously; I’ve met more interesting manilla folders.

Dunkirk – I have seen countless action and war movies in a theater and heard the barrage of a billion bullets in senses-shattering Dolby Digital Surround Sound. None of them have carried the weight of that the first bullet you hear in this harrowing survival tale; as it rings out early on while soldiers slowly walk down a deserted city street. From that moment –  every sense is attuned to Christopher Nolan’s clockwork thriller. This film is less about telling you the same old war stories – tossing us right there in the midst of these boys just trying to get home and live another day. This was the one movie I saw this year that ABSOLUTELY has to be seen on the big screen.

The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro is passionate about cinema, monster movies and old-fashioned romance; so this one could only be called his passion project. That type of direction can sometimes lead a director down the rabbit’s hole – just because he loves something doesn’t mean it will connect with an audience – but in this film, easily his most personal and heartfelt – del Toro delivers a fable that feels timeless and unique. This is a truly lovely film and now that it is leading the pack in the Oscar race, del Toro should get the capital he needs to make more of what he loves – and that’s good news for film fans like me.

It – I am a huge unabashed Stephen King fan so when I saw that both The Dark Tower and It were getting big Hollywood productions – and being released mere weeks apart – I was thrilled. The word on Dark Tower was bad so I have yet to see it but It proved that audiences will follow a story into some pretty dark corners so long as they have characters to care about. This film absolutely nailed the casting of The Losers Club which was critical to getting us in their corner. Bring on Chapter II.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle – This one shares a common thread with Guardians of the Galaxy vol. II. I was head over-heels-in-love with the first film but the follow-up loses some of the magic. I love the world they’ve built here BUT they lost some of the well-earned gravitas by bringing Colin Firth back. He was amazing in the first film and they wrote themselves into a corner by killing him – losing their secret weapon in the process. That death was important because it showed this was not going to be your ordinary James Bond-style spy caper. By bringing him back and then going the Moonraker route of getting too crazy with the sci-fi shenanigans, Kingsman loses that which made it stand out from the crowd.

Blade Runner: 2049 – Here’s a sequel some would say 30 years too late that actually plays like a day hasn’t passed. The world is as broken and decayed as we remember – and I found myself completely absorbed by the central mystery Ryan Gosling is chasing down, so much so that I completely forgot Harrison Ford would eventually show up. Unlike his recent return to Indy and Solo, Ford feels genuinely engaged in this film. His appearance is no stunt casting, either – with Deckard deftly woven into the very human plot twist that pushes this to an emotional conclusion.

Thor: Ragnarok – This was my favorite comic book flick of the year; which is a surprise because as much as I really dig Chris Hemsworth’s turn as the God of Thunder, his first two movies have been slightly creaky affairs. Here, director Taika Waititi goes all in – given us a sly Big Trouble in Little China homage. Thor: Ragnarok is a crazy, go-for-broke action movie with ingenuity and invention to spare.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – This popped on my radar early in the Fall when I read it was written and directed by Martin McDonagh, a playwright who in recent years turned his attention to the big screen; notably with his poignant yet pitch-black comedy, In Bruges. Billboards improves on Bruges sly plotting and deft wordplay – equally fierce in its dark comedy and throbbing-emotional heart – as it pits Frances McDormand’s “mad as hell” mother against the genial small-town police chief (Woody Harrelson) who she blames for not doing enough to solve her daughter’s murder. Less of a whodunnit – McDonagh’s flick is more concerned with asking “how do we move forward” when leveled by tragedy. This one leaves a mark.

The Disaster Artist – I wrote about this here BUT this one felt real close to home. I was The Original Disaster Artist. Don’t believe me – just ask my friends who are still waiting for that film to finally be finished.

I, Tonya – I first noticed Margot Robbie in a small but luminous role in the equally lovely About Time. She’s continued to impress ever since. In I, Tonya she absolutely owns the ice – which is no easy feat with Allison Janney absolutely torching the place in her role as Tonya Harding’s mommie dearest. Both scored well-deserved Oscar nominations.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – A solid Star Wars flick that goes to some strange places (and the movie is better when it does). This is also the one Star Wars movie where Luke Skywalker finally becomes the badass samurai warrior he was always intended to be (which makes sense when you realize Star Wars: A New Hope is just George Lucas’ sci-fi gloss on Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress).

The Big Sick – Midway through Kumail Nanjiani’s autobiographical look at how he and his wife survived culture shocks and even more bracing health scares – I came across this line – “I am overwhelmed by you” – said in the sweetest, most loving manner at a moment when the two leads put it all on the table about how much they mean to each other. May everyone find themselves overwhelmed. That’s a good life, right there.

And my Top 5 Favorite Movies in 2017 are (in no particular order):

5.   Dunkirk/War for the Planet of the Apes (cheating because I want them both on the list)
4.   Baby Driver
3.   Thor: Ragnarok
2.   The Shape of Water
1.   The Big Sick

The Accidental Playwright

Three produced plays under my belt and I still do a double-take whenever someone refers to me as a playwright. This role was certainly never in my career trajectory nor my intention but if our life paths are traced along an interconnected series of “two roads diverged” choices – I’m happy to say that at one point (and not so long ago) – “I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference”.

A couple of weeks back, my producer Dave notified me that a reporter from The Southbridge Evening News would be contacting me to discuss our upcoming auditions for The Lost World. With two sessions scheduled for Sunday January 28th and Tuesday January 30th, we’ve been engaged in a full court press to get the word out. Sure enough – she and I touched base and the results of that conversation made its way into a front page article that was published in the Friday January 19th edition of the paper.

That conversation made me reflect upon what I’ve done in the last few years – hitting some true high points in a life that has been quite beautiful. Still, there was a point (right around my mid-thirties) where I really thought I had missed my calling and squandered the chance to do something that I really love to do. I sat in that moment for a little while – feeling a little deflated – before finally realizing that I could either resign myself to that fate or get out there and do something about it. To paraphrase one of my favorite movies (The Shawshank Redemption) – “I could get busy living AND get busy writing.”

The Lost World is the second play I’ve written of the three – the middle child that just so happens to buck the trend by being my hands-down favorite. Back in 2011, I wrote my first play The Monkeybar Mafia after successfully finding a job following a one-year bout of unemployment. I had been employed in the Financial Services tech world prior to that which was actually a far cry from what I set out to do way back when I exiting college. So, I wrote The Monkeybar Mafia in 2011 (which was produced by The Gateway Players in 2012), The Lost World followed a year late and finally – Lost & Found was written and produced in 2015.

But as I mentioned, The Lost World is easily the tippy-top of what I think I can do and I always wanted to see it come to life again – especially with the involvement of The Gateway Players to whom I completely owe my second chance at an extracurricular creative career to.

You see, as far back as I can remember – I wanted to be a writer. As soon as I had a handle on the alphabet, I was making up stories – although usually my tales featured Godzilla facing off against any creatures that he hadn’t already battled in those movies I caught each Saturday on WLVI’s Creature-Double Feature. That was in my formative years spent growing up in Rockland, MA (a modest-sized town in the South Shore region of Massachusetts – roughly halfway between Boston and the Cape).

In my sophomore year at Rockland High School (the first year they let you choose electives) – I made a beeline for the Journalism department and began writing for our school paper; a weekly called the RHS Veritas. While on staff, I contributed movie reviews and some ‘slice of life’ features on select faculty members and students. After three years of that, I was pretty sure that the newspaper business was the life for me so when I enrolled at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1990, I immediately made Journalism my Major and added History and Spanish as complimentary minors. Over the 4 years, I wrote for The Daily Collegian – where I was on the Arts & Living Desk and largely penned movie reviews with the occasional feature article sprinkled in. While working for that paper, I wrote alongside a great writer – Jon. He and I would survey the upcoming movie release schedule and divide & conquer. I’d say we were the Siskel & Ebert of our day but there was already a very real Siskel & Ebert in our day – so our reviews may have been read but our thumbs remained largely ignored.

It was on the eve of my college graduation on a warm night in May 1994 – literally hours before we would toss those mortar boards skyward – when after a celebratory night out with friends, I found myself in an impromptu 4 am whiffle ball tourney in our residential area’s courtyard. As I stood at bat – with graduation looming a mere 6 hours later – I looked at my friend Eric (who just wanted me to swing the bat) and offered up this sworn confession:

“I don’t want to be a Journalist.”

That’s all it took: 3 years of high school writing and 4 years of college (plus a decent amount of tuition) for me to decide that my heart just wasn’t in it.

At the time, I didn’t know why – not really. So, I just accepted my diploma feeling legitimately proud of what I had accomplished and then decided I would take the Summer to figure out my direction. I could still put that degree to work for something. I hadn’t lost my love of writing, I just knew that I didn’t want to have to get an internship and scrap & scrape to hopefully nail my big break. As the Summer wore on, I started failing the nagging itch that I needed to figure something out – especially as I watched my bank account savings dwindle. This Dodge Neon was not gonna’ pay for itself. While working at a local pizza place, one of the delivery drivers asked if anyone wanted to work “anywhere but here”. I took that as a sign and followed his lead to an interview with a big financial services company in Boston. I was hired immediately (because they were desperate and I had a pulse) and I told myself “one year and I’ll get back to writing”.

Cut to fourteen years later.

It’s mid-Summer 2008 and I had since relocated to the Central Massachusetts region having jumped jobs to a Westborough-based financial services tech company. While I was generally happy (good health, family and friends made sure of that) there was a restlessness in me. One August night, I went to go see my wife-at-the-time (Andi) in a performance of The Sound of Music; produced by The Gateway Players. I didn’t know what they were capable of but obviously I knew her – and I knew she could really belt out a number – so, the evening would certainly be pleasant.

Aside from that – walking in, I had NO IDEA what to expect from the rest of them.

Three hours later, I walked out awestruck. She was fantastic as was the whole production. On that warm summer night – as sure as I was (once upon a time) that I did not want to be a journalist – I was now equally hellbent on getting involved with theater in some capacity. This coming from a guy whose only previous acting experience was during my Senior Year in High School when a girl whom I had a massive crush on asked me to follow her to our High School Spring Musical auditions for Annie. I never did get the girl but I walked away with a supporting role as Rooster Hannigan. I remember at the time thinking I should have auditioned for something earlier in my school career and then just chalked it up to lost chances.

So on that summer night in 2008 – as the last remnants of a storm front exited (with slight booms still heard in the distance), I stood in the parking lot waiting for my then-wife to exit the auditorium and really gave thought to the announcement Gateway posted in the program. They were doing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest next and needed a lot of men to audition. With a cool breeze sweeping the last of that warm, humid muggy air out – I decided that instead of doing what I normally do (which is go to work, come home, play with the kids, put them to bed, eat dinner, go to bed, rinse & repeat) I would go outside my comfort zone and audition. That thought was exactly the breath of fresh air I needed.

I auditioned and got a role as Aide Warren – Nurse Ratched’s right-hand man in the show. It was a minor part (all told roughly 38 lines) but I was on stage a lot and was called upon to be a menacing figure. I’m 5’ 9” and average build so instead of looming over everyone, I decided I would just make my character into this pathetic, bellowing pitbull of a guy – which is so far removed from who I usually am.

I remember loving the rehearsals because it injected something so fresh and vital into my life and in turn that made me view where I stood in a more positive light. I may not have pursued that career in writing but I realized there is never a moment where it’s too late – so long as you are drawing breath.

Following that role – I performed in several others with Gateway over the next couple of years – “learning on the job”.

In 2010, at the rock bottom of the economic collapse, I was laid off from my company. As I was unemployed and feverishly searching for work (especially with a little boy and girl at home) – I decided that when I finally got a job and got back to work, I would filter that experience of being a temporary “stay at home Dad” into something more creative. That spark ignited my first play – The Monkeybar Mafia – which was loosely-based on that one-year bout of unemployment. While that play is fiction through-and-through, there is no doubt that I layered in a lot of personal experience into the story I came up with. For my first play, I took the old maxim to heart – “write what you know”.

Having had a great experience working with Gateway on stage, I approached their Board and petitioned for a slot for Monkeybar in their upcoming 2012 season. I also sought out my former Cuckoo’s Nest director, David Corkum – and courted him to direct. He agreed and in October 2012 we premiered – performing six shows to packed audiences at the Gateway Barn in Southbridge, MA. I’ll never forget that opening night and the first time someone in the audience laughed at a funny line. Or the moment midway through Act II when there was a loud, audible gasp from the audience as the story pivoted on a painful spot. We did THAT to them and it was so much more than rewarding. Hearing a reaction to things I wrote and the cast brought to life nourished me – providing a sustenance just as vital as food and water to my continued existence.


The thing is, there was a one-year span between when Gateway approved my play for their 2012 season and when production actually began. They met and made their schedule in September 2011 and we weren’t due to audition for Monkeybar until August 2012 – with the show going up in the Fall. As excited as I was to see this come to life, I had the creative itch nagging something fierce the moment I found out my dream was destined to come true.

With ideas constantly churning in my head, I went to an unofficial class reunion in September 2011. That was during my 19th year removed from High School so my graduating class was still a year shy of the big 20th. Because Facebook had exploded and so many “old friends” had connected on that site, a bunch of us decided to meet up in Boston one night in September 2011 to eat, drink and be merry in person.

Although I was a bit of a quiet guy in High School (keeping to my smaller circle of friends due to an innate shyness that vexed me at times) – college saw me burst from my shell – so by this point in my story, I was largely comfortable with who I was and was very happy to help organize that big city get-together. I had gone to our 10-year reunion and was slightly saddened by the middling turnout. I graduated with roughly 165 classmates in 1990 and when we reconvened at a Holiday Inn ballroom in Taunton, MA in November 2000 – I was shocked to see only 60-or-so people show up; and half of those were significant others that were dragged along by people who wanted to make sure they had at least a Plus One to keep them company.

With that older image in mind of a reunion attended by so few people compared to the roomful of people I was surrounded with these 9 years later, I suddenly knew exactly why that was the way it was. The first time around, we were only 10-years removed. It was too soon and for some people the sting of High School (which is only four years but sometimes feels like forty and the longest, most momentous years in a life) anyway – that leaves its mark. People need time; or they need to get a little older and accumulate kids and bills and then have any excuse to get out for a night and rekindle the relationship with who they were way-back-when – and realize why it’s so important to not let that go completely.

So, when I went to this quasi-19 year reunion and walked smack into a room bursting with people (close to 100 which was AMAZING since we didn’t spend too many calories trying to find anyone not on social media), I knew that we were living in an age where so long as you remained on the grid, you could find someone. Nobody could hide anymore. Not really.

At one point, I was at the bar getting a drink when this guy (the sturdiest, stockiest guy I’ve ever seen close-up) paid for it. (And no – it’s not the guy in the pic above nor the one below). I’m very good with faces BUT I just could place his so I politely asked his name. He told me and immediately my stomach dropped. This was the guy who used to torment me back in Middle School – when he was the Biggest Man on Campus and I was just a gawky, scrawny pre-teen. We had not seen each other since the day we grabbed those diplomas. I’m sure he never gave me a second thought in that first decade. I know he was the last person I wanted to think about. All that went by the wayside when he remarked “That’s for cracking me up on Facebook all the time.” My first thought was “When (AND WHY) did I befriend HIM?” and “Was I drunk?!?” The second thought was “Drink up!!!” For the next 10 minutes, this guy and I talked – not about the old days but about now; about raising kids – especially daughters which we both had in common (he with 2 and me with 1). I thanked him for the drink (and the nice chat) and wandered off for a moment to sort of let that whole surreal exchange process. That guy was easily the last person I wanted to see that night and suddenly, he was the #1 reason I was happy I came – because so much can change in a life from then to now and it’s not until now that you realize we’re really not all that different.

As I thought through this I looked out at the crowd of people – everyone having fun and most speaking to someone whom I don’t recall they ever hung out with back when we were young. So many cliques disassembled and so many different people recombined into something better. I took that all in and it hit me – “What would happen if you threw a reunion now (in the age of social media) and the only six people who showed were the six who claimed to have HATED High School the most.” Essentially, I looked at my reunion and saw it through the prism of The Breakfast Club.


See, I grew up in an age where we played outside (in the neighborhoods and surrounding woods) from dawn until dusk; always hoping against hope that your Mom wouldn’t notice when the streetlights came on and you could stay out deeper into the night. At the same time – cable, VHS and Nintendo made its march into our homes leading the way to AOL, Facebook and eventually the Twittersphere. We had the best of all possible worlds. We could see the future coming down the road with all the gleaming techno-wizardry it brings with it (although no flying cars because no generation ever gets the Jetsons’ flying cars – AND CAN I GET AN AMEN!!!) – but we were kept cozy by the simple pleasures of playing Hide & Seek through the neighborhood while the fireflies flicker and light.

The morning after the reunion, I decided to stave off my restless need to begin production on The Monkeybar Mafia ASAP and decided to distract myself by writing what would become my favorite exchange in The Lost World because it’s what the whole play builds upon.

From there – and those two characters – I started working backwards and forwards, looking for a reason to bring them together with a few long lost classmates after all these years. The title itself holds dual-meaning. While this is another complete work of fiction, I sprinkled some of my own memories in the tale – gifting each of the adult characters with either something I experienced or heard of when I was in their shoes.

For instance, when I was a kid – there was this amazing area in the woods that ran behind my best friend’s house. One day while exploring them, we came across these huge sandy depressions in a vast clearing that was ringed with trees. I was probably 8 or 9 at the time and yet running around the woods with nary an adult in sight was not that big of a deal in the early-80s. So we returned to the pits day-after-day and imagined all of the ways that they came to be. Most of the time, we pretended it was dinosaurs that lurked there in the evening after we had left – making the imprints with their massive feet – so would just come back and “hunt them” by rigging up makeshift traps. We never caught anything, naturally – short of a few nicks from the briers we crashed through on our way to-and-fro. I was obsessed with dinosaurs as a kid and used to check out the same book from the elementary school library all of the time – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (which was about Victorian-era explorers finding a savage land ruled by dinos). We cribbed the title and dubbed our discovery ‘The Lost World’ and that place quickly became something we found again-and-again all summer long.

As kids so often do, eventually I started hanging around with other people and our Lost World faded – becoming nothing more than a real-nice childhood memory. In fact, as the years wound on – I never really thought of it.

But when I started writing this play, I decided to gift that memory to two of the characters (former best friends) – mainly because through them I wanted to explore the difference between then and now; of living in a time of social media where you literally can find everything and anything you need in a nanosecond (Siri & Google have rendered the fine art of arguing trivial facts with friends a moot point) versus a time (not so long ago) when if you wanted to talk to someone you had to (as the old AT&T commercial said) “reach out and touch someone” or you know – go knock on their door.

Personally, I love the fact that everything I ever need is in this cool little Apple-imprinted rectangle I can store in my pocket BUT I’m the greatest fan good conversation ever had so I love being face-to-face with people. It’s all about maintaining a healthy balance in life – which is why I eat asparagus BUT I’ve never met a donut I don’t like. I have a lot of good childhood memories that I wouldn’t trade for an instant and if there’s one thing that slightly diminishes my usually “glass half-full” view of our current age of techno-wonder, it’s that I wish my children had experienced some of the same childhood I did. But it’s a changed world and largely one that my generation altered when we grew older, more hyper-aware and suddenly feared all the worst things that could possible happen. I blame social media! 😉

My Lost World is truly The Lost World.

That said, this play doesn’t preach. I think it finds the beauty in the now – and if anything – it warns against getting a little too cozy with nostalgia. You can miss some beautiful sights if you are always looking back.

But I admit, from memory I found a way forward and in the process became the accidental playwright.

… and that has made all the difference.


The Original Disaster Artist

I am The Original Disaster Artist.

And if I believe that, I guarantee you all of the poor, unsuspecting friends and family that I roped into starring in my own little film in the late 90’s – Two Roads Diverged – would absolutely agree. In fact, nary a day goes by that I don’t anticipate their angry return – torches and pitchforks in hand – looking to reclaim all those lost weekends I stole from them as we filmed impromptu action scenes all over New England. These were scenes ripped from the pages of a feverish script that I wrote with reckless abandon all because I thought it would be fun to make our own little movie and some great memories in the process. From the ivy covered halls of Harvard University to the winter solace found in a snowy forest surrounding Walden Pond – Massachusetts absolutely made for a great tax-free backdrop for my semi-hardboiled riff on the type of tough-guy posturing Tarentino was churning out in his sleep. It didn’t matter that the script was rubbish – we were having fun. Or, at least – I was.

We spent 8-months on weekends cobbled here and there making that film. Sean and I nabbed the starring roles as Ryan Coulton and Ed Winters – stealth assassins and longtime besties. Truth told, a little nepotism may have been in play there. Anyway, the two of us were written as geniuses who draw the attention of a clandestine government agency that works in the shadows of a college campus. The program – dubbed Road Scholars (and not Rhodes Scholars to avoid any pesky lawsuits that could derail the entire enterprise) – essentially La Femme Nikita’d our characters – taking our scrappy young smart guys and making them into vicious assassins. So, in essence – I turned Will Hunting into Jason Bourne 5 years before Hollywood decided that was a thing. Don’t get me started on how La La Land cribbed its ending from my play, The Lost World – that’s a story for another day.

For the supporting roles, the casting call went out primarily through our circle of friends – meaning Joe, Dana, Mark, Andrea, Kathie, Ollie, my cousin Jason and his Dad (my Uncle – who sadly never even filmed his part) all got strong-armed into appearing in this thing; and this was in an age before camera phones and social media so we had to assemble the cast the old fashioned way without benefit of blackmail material. Somehow they all decided to join up and actually read the lines I’d written – as terrible as those lines may be. Memorizing them was a whole different story; a tall order when you’re not getting paid – meaning in almost every shot that my character wasn’t in, I would be just out of the line of sight barking the next line. And still, they’d all yell “LINE?”


It’s a shame we never finished it despite working on the film for almost a full year and through several haircuts and weight gains & losses. Had we brought this thing to the finish line, it could have made for a spectacular failure. For now, it lives on in memory and a handful of old Sony High-8 video tapes that are doomed to degrade unless I somehow get them ported to digital. Hmmm – maybe next year’s New Years Resolution?!?!?

I started thinking about that old project earlier this week when I caught James Franco’s The Disaster Artist. That film is a loving tribute to the bizarre path writer-director Tommy Wiseau took to Hollywood infamy when making his stunningly awful drama, The Room. Wiseau is arguably the second-coming of Ed Wood (Plan 9 From Outer Space) and what’s fascinating about his story is that he is absolutely flush with cash and able to self-finance his own film from a seemingly bottomless bank account (that nobody is quite clear where the money comes from) – unlike Wood, who cobbled his fever dream sci-fi epic using nothing but cardboard, shoestring and imaginative incompetence. Wiseau has the financing and the drive BUT he is absolutely the least self-aware actor in an industry where knowing your place and face is half the battle. When nobody else would cast him, he took matters into his own hands and ended up spending so much money to make something so awful that it was inevitable it would eventually find its way.

I like Franco and I know that’s not exactly a popular sentiment these days. Let’s just put this disclaimer out there. If the recent allegations about him are true, he’s deplorable until he owns it and repents. I’ve written about this before but it bears repeating. Not assaulting or harassing women is NOT that hard. It really isn’t. I’ll never understand the guys that do it. NEVER! For this piece (which is actually more about me than him), I’m separating the art & artist from the headlines.

In adapting Greg Sestero’s non-fiction tell-all about how Wiseau spent a fortune making the “Best Worst Movie Ever” – Franco seized on the one thing that unites all great creators (no matter how wonderful or terrible their works come out). With love, passion and the best of intentions – even the most pathetic creation can find its fandom.

… but enough about Anne Hathaway. 🙂

I know because as I’ve said, I’ve been there/done that… or mostly done that. Sure, Two Roads Diverged never wrapped and honestly, if we were to pick up now – exactly 20 years later – the continuity errors alone might make for something even more special. Hell, one leading man would get all bald & beautiful before your very eyes and the other would grow a beard that on its best days looks exactly like a silverback gorilla somehow landed on his face. Yup – we be handsome.

So what made me decide to make a movie in the first place? For the answer to that question, we have to do the time warp again and head back to my waning days of college.

When most people part ways, they take a few photos or fall into a great big bear hug.

Me? I make a movie.

Or – at least – that used to be my M.O. back when I was young, dumb and surrounded by chums; those glorious college days when I thought nothing of cobbling together a screenplay overnight and then coercing my buddies to drop everything they were doing in order to do my bidding – turning my surrounding area into our very own private soundstage – all so I could add a few more memories to my synaptic scrapbook.

This habit was born during my Senior Year at UMASS Amherst. I firmly believe that when the end is nigh and you know you’re not going to see someone for a little while – or forever (who ever really knows?) – you fall into those hugs and try to hold on tight to blissful sweet memory, making damn sure someone snaps a pic or two. Me – I decided to go in the opposite direction. Knowing we were nearing graduation, I thought it would be fun to make a little movie and not just some little talking head documentary where everyone acts crazy in front of the camera and one out of every two dudes flips it off. I thought it would be more interesting to write a little screenplay, casting all of my friends and our dorm acquaintances in little roles and then just let the camera roll.

Of course, this was the front-end of the mid-Nineties when home video cameras were the size of a Boeing Dreamliner and battery time was approximately 2.3 seconds before needing a charge – so we were constantly running through the dorm with a life-line of extension cords, racking up the lawsuits with every student and circuit breaker we tripped; all in service of the asinine story I cobbled together when I should have been taking notes in Western Civ 301.

In my college film (Dumb White Guy – a riff on Single White Female), we opened on the bucolic campus of Turner Cove College (the same fictional institution that got a shout-out in my first play, the much more mature The Monkeybar Mafia. In the play, it was the setting of the screenplay the lead character, Ryan, was unsuccessfully pouring his heart into. That was my little tribute to me and my foolish dreams.) My long-time friend and college roommate Rich was cast as Chaz Perkins – the lothario with a secret yearning for pin-up photos of Winona Ryder and a penchant for dressing in women’s lingerie. My great buddy Justin was Juice Sawyer, the hockey-crazed member of the group who finds himself on the business end of a Sharpie at one point – the closest we would get to practice visual effects. And playing the leader of this motley crew was me WITH HAIR as their ring leader, Ed Winters. You have no idea how much we spent on CGI (or was it Aqua-Net) to get my hair feathered just right.

As this intrepid trio goes about their days having fun and occasionally going to class, the plot twists when Winters’ gets a new roommate – the mysterious Joe Roma; a silent but deadly assassin played by my great friend, Joe. (And yes – I realize I just described him as both a ninja AND a fart).

A series of murders has rocked the campus and suspicion quickly falls upon Roma; who is seen night after night fleeing the dorm room and returning with a strange, bulky military rucksack. In a third act twist, we discover that Roma is actually an FBI Agent who has been tracking a serial murderer across the country – the trail of blood ending at Turner Cove College. It’s there that Roma comes face-to-face with the true guise of pure evil; a dumb guy – or specifically, my character, Ed Winters – who in the coda is revealed to be a multipath; a psychological term I made up out of thin air aimed at describing this psycho’s condition. That’s all the proof you need to realize I never paid much attention in my one and only Psych class.

At one point, Roma explains – “a multipath cobbles together a personality from other personalities – most of the time from characters found in movies” – to which Justin’s character offers “That would explain his Crying Game phase”. Here’s where I should interject, “Don’t blame me – I don’t write this stuff” – but then I remembered, unfortunately – I DO!!! Or did. Look, we all gotta’ start at the bottom.

The film finally ends with my character unmasked and tossed off a cliff (or the most gentle rolling hill we could find and then film to look menacing). It was a stunt that I performed myself and I was so proud to show it off at our World Premiere (and only mass screening to date) which was held in our dorm’s rec room. We packed that hall with a poor, unsuspecting audience of our fellow dorm mates; mostly friends when they walked in but easily switching their future status to “It’s Complicated” on the way out. That night, the crowd was into it but then again, they had no recourse. They couldn’t congratulate us to our face and then wander off to rip it to shreds. There would be no merciless tweeting in 1994. Anonymity didn’t exist in this dojo, pre-Internet.

Now, I know my limitations. I’m no world class writer. I’m passable. I can get by. I can string words together to form a sentence and occassionally pull the right punctuation from the pile BUT I’m not Shakespeare nor Tarentino. I’d like to think I’m a step above whoever wrote Saw and Spooky Buddies. That said – I am shocked that the same guy who later wrote The Monkeybar MafiaThe Lost World and Lost & Found (all three of which I am genuinely proud of), once upon a time scribbled a screenplay titled Dumb White Guy on a cocktail napkin and then suckered a group of guys to give up their free time to film it. The same guy who once upon a time wrote:

“Yeah, I studied abroad. I studied a BROAD last night. Human anatomy. Biology. You know – the bare facts!”

– later wrote –

“Mike happened. I met him – one night as me and a few of my cast mates trekked halfway across Manhattan in search of the World’s Best Mojito. We never found it. But I went one better. I came home with Mike. And then – you know – a girl’s fairy tale. He was my white knight. Swept me off my feet –so high I never saw my dreams come crashing down. Not his fault though. It was my choice. I was in love.”

Poor Rich. If only he’d met me later, he could have had a meatier role as a Mafia Wife rather than the sick deviant I saddled him with all those years ago. Although, he did pull off that pink cardigan with style to spare when we reconvened for another film project a few years after college. You’d think that if I was going to coerce him into wearing a pink silk teddie for his role (which strangely took very little negotiation), I could have written him something a little more substantive like the latter and a little less foolish than the former. Oh well, I can’t take it back now – and he can NEVER run for public office EVER! You people owe me for that.

At least we finished that film which at a lean 20-minutes may be terrible but never outstays its welcome. It currently sits degrading on ancient VHS tape – although I snagged a few shots from it, tethered them to footage filmed later for Two Roads Diverged and pulled it all together to create the little digital trailer you’ll find at the end of this post. That alone  grants us all Internet immortality.

When I look at what I accomplished in writing my plays The Monkeybar Mafia, The Lost World and Lost & Found – all written and produced in the last six years and well into my late-30s and early 40s – I realized I never could have written any of these back then. At that stage in my life, I hadn’t lived and loved enough to realize what really matters most. Had I attempted to crack that nut when I was in my mid-20s (when Two Roads Diverged was suddenly the only thing I wanted to bring together) – there is no doubt that what I lost in nuanced character drama would have been gained in were-lizards and robotic ninjas. I’m not saying we would have been able to film any of that but that wouldn’t have stopped me from writing it and somehow convincing Justin to get all cybernetic for our cinematic art.

But as silly as Dumb White Guy, Dumbguy Forever and Two Roads Diverged are – my dalliance with disaster led to better things. It kept me writing and refining and that eventually led to the stage where real people who actually have a clue about what they’re doing, got up in front of a paying audience and brought my words to life. Better words than what I wrote way back then.

I’m not saying I’ve become Spielberg but I’m no Wiseau either.

And I never would have arrived here without flirting with disaster first.


In 2018 – I resolve to write more.

That one’s been a long time coming; in fact so long that I’m sure the people who used to stop by here on a semi-frequent basis would do so only now for the same reason you go to a museum. Pay your respects, linger a little longer when something spies your interest and then move on to something a little more current – or just grab a bite to eat.

Every year I come up with a half-dozen New Years Resolutions. I pick six because it seems likely one will stick. Over the last few years, I’ve found very few made it anywhere near the finish line likely because I simply lost interest.

There was one year when I resolved to not watch movie trailers for a full year. Those hopes were dashed exactly one week later when I settled down to watch the Pats AFC Championship game and came face-to-face with a Deadpool preview. As a long-time movie junkie, it’s hard enough to suppress the urge to click everytime someone posts the latest link to their Facebook page but when studios see fit to release 10-second teasers for 2-minute trailers for 3-hour epics coming 6-months from now every 35-seconds or so; avoiding all the hopeful noise becomes a fool’s errand.

This year I aim to keep it simple stupid and actually do a few things that will be good for me. Sure – I could eat a little better but I don’t nosh half-bad in the first place so that’s a wasted resolution. Also, I could get in a little better shape but I’m already hitting the gym 3-4 times a week for about an hour or so each time; all in my bid to just keep equilibrium between good bod and Dad bod. As long as I maintain that routine, I’m resting somewhere comfortably in the middle.

So this year, rather than choose six resolutions I’ll fail at – I chose three that I think will all make it to the end. One is rooted in common-sense, one is for fun and the last one I absolutely need to do just for me.

First comes common-sense.

In 2018 – I refuse to text and drive. Look, this has never been a major issue of mine BUT it is absolutely something I’ve done enough infrequent times to realize I need to quit while I’m ahead (if that’s an oxymoron than what do you expect from a moron). I don’t carry on major conversations but I have been guilty of the one-hand read & response and while I always keep my eyes on the road, clearly my hands aren’t TEN and TWO. Bottom line – it can wait and so shall I.

As for fun, over the last few years I’ve been bitten enough by the hiking bug to realize it’s something I really enjoy. I kinda’ sorta’ wish I had been doing this all along – especially since as a young boy, my Uncle Ron and Aunt Sharon used to invite me along their hikes up New Hampshire’s Mt. Chocorua – a pike I late ascended with my parents as well. That’s when I was younger and after that it was all sea level for the many, many years that spanned in between until about four years ago when I discovered Purgatory Chasm in Sutton, MA and the spring-time hikes up and down our local Mt. Wachusett.

Two years ago I made my first ascent up Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire and hooked on the view the moment we crested the tree line. I’ve been back numerous times since for it’s modest hand-over-hand challenge which at times really makes sure you’re paying close attention. While I love the challenge of these climbs, I find they make for a better experience when going along with company – especially since peaks like Mt. Monadnock offer cool local watering holes like The Lab & Lager as a nice treat when you’ve finally made it back down.

Last year, I attempted to climb Mt. Washington in June – shortly after I turned 45. On the morning of, temperatures promised high-60’s at ground-level. That said, we eventually hiked to a point (about an hour & 1/2 in) where suddenly the air took a turn for the ominous. Stopping at a quaint rest station – my small group layered on the winter gear due to reports we heard from fellow climbers that ice lay in wait up ahead. Standing in the relative warmth of a small wooden ranger’s cabin, my eyes found a wall sized mural dedicated to the memory of the many souls that tried and died on the mountain. Names, dates and reasons ran ceiling to floor and the message was heard loud & clear. Heed Mother Nature’s sage advice: Keep your wits and common sense about you, be careful and for goodness sake – WEAR YOUR JACKET!!!

As I read on, the day grew noticeably darker. I peered out a nearby window and saw dark clouds pouring off the mountain, filling in the path where we were headed onward and upward. With our protective shells firmly in place, we headed out of June and hiked straight into January; finding much more than ice above. Freezing rain, snow, frozen fog and the occasional airborne Yeti came hurtling our way. As we headed up Lion’s Head path, I spied a mammoth edifice emerging from the mist above. This rocky formation absolutely resembled the fearsome King of the Jungle – thus earning the trail its name. As it stared down at us, it dared us to hike further.

About a half mile from the top, we stopped at a plateau to rest and strategize. Already buffeted by 70 mph wind gusts that made our ascent along a frozen ridgeback extra treacherous, we could tell the winds at the summit would pack an extra punch. While the summit station was only a 1/2 mile away (and promising warmth and food) – that small stretch promised some of the more arduous conditions yet. The three of us weighed our options. We didn’t want to go forward but the way back was no better. Still – tracing our steps felt like an inconvenience while plowing forward could potentially be one of those decisions that gets your name etched on a ranger’s station wall. Ultimately, we chose wisely and made our way back – steadily (and slowly).

I remember two things about my return to Earth. Coming out of the woods all decked out in wind cutting shells and three layers of warmth while confronting girls starting their hikes in yoga pants and T-shirts is never not a surreal sight.

Secondly, I asked our companion Scott – “Can I really say I hiked Mt. Washington if I never made it to the top?”

“Dude – you hiked the Hell our of Mt. Washington”, was his reply.

But in 2018 – I resolve to get it done, son. I’m going back and this time I’m hitting the top, dammit!!! Who’s with me?

Finally – comes my third resolution, which I’ll spend so much less time writing all about because I kinda’ sorta’ just made my point.

In 2018, I resolve to write more – especially right here on my Blog. This resolution calls for at least one post a week. Some weeks will feature more. None will feature less. They won’t all be this long but I promise I’ll always have something to write about.

I think I walked away from this place because I feared nobody cared to read what I wrote or hear what I had to say. That may be but I realize that while every writer wants to know there is an equal and willing reader out there, I’m doing this stuff for me too. It does my mind and body good.

So in 2018, you’ll get to read all about it.

The Lost World – Auditions

It’s Saturday morning, January 5th. Normally around this time of year in New England, we’re just starting to feel the first stings of winter chill. In fact, the last few Christmas Eves have found me outside by a fire pit – enjoying the temperate 50 degree weather while sipping a fine beverage and remarking on the absence of bugs whose sole purpose seems to wreck such idyllic moments like that. Sure, that may be proof positive that The Day After Tomorrow is NOW but if it means I can clink Moscow Mules without a pesky horsefly buzzing my tower, than I’ll take the early Ice Age.

And now I take that all back because as we all know, Global Warming has a wicked backhand. The unseasonal Christmas Eve gave way to a post-New Years tundra. It’s presently -1 degrees at 9 am in Auburn, MA. The wind chill is predicted to drop that to -23 degrees. Ah, my kingdom for molten lava.

Which brings me here – to my handy, dandy MacBook with a nice hot coffee at the ready and some warm L.L. Bean slippers doing their best to prove their worth as the best Christmas Gift ever. With the wind howling outside and blowing all that snow we steadfastly removed from the driveway the other day right back to its original location – I’d rather hunker down inside where it’s all cozy and warm and look ahead to the Spring – when my play The Lost World will once again find its way to the stage. We’re opening in mid-April; which compared to the now will be veritable shorts weather.

Auditions are a mere three weeks from this weekend. I find I can’t hardly wait. I produced this play before and we had a great experience BUT in the years since (and even after writing and producing another play) – I’ve found my thoughts drifting back to The Lost World with greater frequency. It’s the second play I wrote – my middle “child” of three – and while I know it’s bad form to choose a favorite, I have to admit that this one is it.

So, I turned all of my attention back to The Lost World and tweaked it a bit – adding some texture here and there. What we’ll present this April 13, 14, 20, 21, 22 will be the definitive version.

The play is about a 20-Year High School reunion attended by only six people. Not just any six, mind you – but six people who claim to have hated High School the most.  These six are compelled to come by a fellow classmate – a cop who never strayed from their small town. Through a twist of fate, they find themselves at the reunion sans their former classmates. Thrust into one room – a discount hotel ballroom – twenty years after they last said their goodbyes, the six find themselves confronting the past while spying surprising connections in the here & now.

To add texture to the show, I wrote a series of flashbacks which serve to bridge scene changes. These interludes – essayed by teen versions of the principal characters – provide greater insight into their past which helps to color the present. Since presenting this show originally, I have revisited the teen roles and added some new material that gives each of the teens more to do; making their roles so pivotal to what comes next.

The sixteen-member cast consists of 4 women and 4 men in the principal roles; ages late 20’s to early 40’s. There is one additional role that calls for a woman – any age. In addition, seven teens are needed to play younger versions of some principal characters. Mid-teens to early 20’s are encouraged to audition for those roles.

REILLY McINIS—–a cop; having never left home he remains the one constant link to his hometown for so many of his former classmates
HANNAH BELLE—–“the artist”; she lives on a rural farm; off the grid – making her living and art from the land
PARKER KNOWLES—–“the jock”; it’s been downhill ever since school let out
JAMIE CONNOR—–“the theater geek”; he and his domestic partner bought a run-down movie theater and restored it, creating a profitable revival house for classic films
DANIELLE TENNEMAN—–“the princess”; now a mom with so many kids she doesn’t know what to do
MICHAEL DONATELLO—–“the brain”; 12 years of bullying and abuse have left their mark
HALEY PIERCE—–“the town slut”; for 20 years she’s tried to shake that reputation.
ALYSON HUTCHINS—-“the class president” – now a Fortune 500 CFO; she still retains that sweet persona that served her well back in school
MILLIE – a small town coffee shop waitress

Auditions will be held on Sunday January 28th at 4:00 pm ET and Tuesday January 30th at 6:30 pm at the Fellowship Hall of Elm Street Congregational Church, 61 Elm Street in Southbridge, MA. The entrance to the Hall is at the back of the building. This comedy/drama will be directed by me (Ed Humphries) and produced by David Corkum. Auditions will consist of live readings from the script along with some light improv. Rehearsals will be held on Sunday and Tuesday nights. Performance dates are April 13, 14, 20, 21 and 22. For more information please contact Ed Humphries (508-930-5392), e-mail ehumphries72@gmail.com, or David Corkum (508-729-3999), e-mail mukroc@verizon.net

And as a little teaser, I made this Audition Announcement video. Hope to see you there!!!

The Lost World – 2018

In the last few days, every leaf on the trees ringing my house hightailed it South for the winter. Two weeks from now, it’s Turkey Day (actually – by that point we’re past the food coma and knee-deep in decking these halls). That leaves the breathless run to Christmas and New Years. When that bedazzled crystal ball makes it’s own journey southward in Times Square and the clock strikes 2018 – I’m mere weeks away from auditions to the new production of my play – ‘The Lost World‘ – this time returning home to The Gateway Players, the fantastic community theater that welcomed me in 2008 and changed my creative life for the better ever since.

We’re looking at holding auditions over two nights during that last week in January (right around the 28th). Exact dates and times will be announced soon.

To build a little buzz, I whipped together this little audition announcement video (embedded below). Hopefully it reaches a wide audience. I would love for someone to see this – perhaps someone who feels that slight itch to get creative BUT doesn’t know what to do to break from the normal nine-to-five routine – anyway, that’s the person who might see this and get that little bit of courage to step outside their comfort zone and give this audition a try. Hey – it’s what I did a few years ago, when for no good reason, I joined the cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – my first time on stage since the 1990 Rockland High School performance of ‘Annie‘. (In my first and only role on stage – I scored the role of Rooster Hannigan and LOVED it!!!) My experience in Cuckoo’s Nest led to me taking other roles in local community theater projects before writing The Monkeybar Mafia, The Lost World and Lost & Found – all of which have been produced in the last several years.

Of them all – I am most proud of ‘The Lost World’. It bursts from a very personal place. There’s a little of me (or people I’ve known) in each of these fractured characters – who we catch up with 20 years after they exited High School; still haunted by those four fleeting years spent in those hallowed halls. As much as they are Children of the Eighties, this isn’t meant to be tied to that specific decade. Every graduating class from the 40’s to now have known (or have been) these kids.

We’re looking for people – teens (mid-teens to early 20’s) and adults (late 20’s to early 40’s) – to come out and audition. I’ve had fantastic casts perform these roles in the past but am enormously excited to see a new cast makes this their own; giving the audience an evening that is funny, poignant and touching.

For the teen roles, I have added some new material to the play – little dialogue interludes which were not in the prior original production. These new “scenes” add some additional texture and background to the play; while integrating the teens more fully into the play. It should give those who have seen the show before something new to enjoy as well.

Keep watching this space for more developments.

Let’s get Lost.