Monday, May 19, 2008

Solution and Disolution

Sometimes solutions to problems are right under your nose. I had a difficult time trying to decide what to do about Jack's ranch and horses. Then one day my friend, Maria, offered to ride with me as I scattered his ashes.

I have know Maria since the early 1980s. We became fast friends in record time. When we met she was the secretary of an important client of mine. One of the first things I learned in business was to be extra nice to secretaries ... especially helpful when you want to get through to their bosses. With Maria, we jumped from business acquaintances to good friends in no time at all.

What a life this woman has led. She was born in Amsterdam in 1934 and lived under the German occupation during World War II. She was born to a Jewish father and a half Jewish mother making her 3/4 Jewish under Nazi racial purity laws. Her parents had the foresight and money to have Maria's birth certificate replaced with one that read "Father Unknown". When the Germans began rounding up Jews in Holland they sent full Jews and 3/4 Jews to the concentration camps. Half Jews were spared ensuring her mother's safety. Maria's father was sent to Auschwitz and was gassed the day he arrived. Maria's mother was called to Gestapo headquarters and grilled about Maria's paternity. Her mother replied she didn't know who was her father because "times are hard ... a woman has to do what a woman has to do" and that saved Maria from a death camp. Earlier her parents had converted most of their money into loose diamonds that that her mother wore in a pouch around her neck. Maria was told that if anything happened to her mother she was to take that pouch and run. They managed to survive the occupation on the money her mother got from selling those stones on the black market. After the war her mother remarried and they emigrated to the US after first living in Cuba and Costa Rica.

I soon found out that Maria's real passion was horses. She is an excellent horsewoman. Other than the brief time when I first met her as a secretary she has trained horses, owned stables, and worked exclusively in that field. When she moved from Texas she settled in Arizona. I would always visit her when I came to visit Uncle Jack. She cooked me dinner many times during Jack's illness. She saddled up and rode with me when I scattered his ashes ... later that night after we had nearly killed a bottle of 18 year old Glenlivet she opened up to me. Times were difficult for her. Unknown to me she was barely getting by on her small social security check. Suddenly the solution to my problem became clear. I offered to let Maria live in Jack's house at the ranch for free and pay her a salary if she would manage the place. I knew she would take excellent care of the horses and it meant I need not sell the ranch. It would always be available when I wanted to stay there. She gratefully accepted.

Having solved that problem I headed to Houston to tackle another one. My company needs an office there for many reasons. If you are in the oil business you need a presence there. Our growth has been phenomenal. We have entered into joint ventures with Schlumberger, Dresser Atlas, BP, and Exxon making a Houston office a necessity. Another reason to open an office there is my partner, Scott wants to move back to Houston. His children and grandchildren are there. So we decided he would head up our US operations and I would handle the international from London. While in Houston I got to catch up with friends and family while taking care of business.

Unfortunately while dealing with Jack's illness, his death, and my company's business my personal life was unraveling. This may be the only time I mention this subject. I have become a gay statistic. I am now an ex. The BF and I have broken up. We decided after much talk and agonizing that dissolving our partnership would be best for us both. My feelings about this are private. I may ... or may not discuss them here in the future but for now the details and reasons I will keep to myself. I will only say that he is a wonderful man and I wish him all happiness and that I hope we always remain best friends. I think that is the standard PR verbiage for these situations. This must be the season for breakups. Two other gay bloggers I read have had their own breakups recently. I know exactly how they feel.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Arizona interval.

I've been in Arizona since the last week in January. It wasn't a planned trip. I got a call from Dark in LA saying that my Uncle Jack was in the hospital and I should hurry if I wanted to see him. That was the second worst phone call I have ever received. The first was to tell me BC had died.

For maybe the first time in my life I was glad I had money. I chartered a plane and was over the Atlantic within 2 hours. Another first - for the first time I flew transcontinental without drinking. I wanted to be clear headed and sober when I landed. I kept playing one of those ridiculous games you play as a child making bargains with God. "Please God, don't let him die before I get there and I will ... do anything you want. Please God, let Uncle Jack know that I'm there and ... I promise to ... be good for the rest of my life". It was a long flight and I had plenty of time to bargain and to worry.

My Uncle Jack was my mother's baby brother, the youngest of seven. He was also my last living uncle. Jack was my favorite uncle for thousands of reasons. He was also the favorite sibling of all his brothers and sisters. They all loved Jack. My grandmother, who after giving birth to her seventh child might have had reason to be matter of fact about him, said he was the sweetest child of all her children. His brothers looked out for him and his sisters adored him. It's a wonder he turned out like he did with all the spoiling.

Uncle Jack was the first adult that talked to me as an equal. He didn't talk down to me or ignore my childish concerns. He patiently answered all my questions in detail and always seemed glad to see me. As soon as he could after graduation Jack moved to Arizona from Texas. Jack was in love with the Southwest his entire life. Jack also loved horses. He raised them, trained them and sold them. And he had a second career as an extra in westerns shot in Phoenix and Tucson.

Many of the TV westerns I grew up on were filmed at Apacheland Studios in the Superstition Mountains around Phoenix and Jack worked in most of them. Have Gun, Will Travel; Wanted: Dead or Alive,Death Valley Days, Dundee and the Culhane, Stagecoach West, and Zane Grey Theater were all shot at one time or another at Apacheland. Jack was head wrangler there, supplied most of the horses for the series and movies and took bit parts. I loved to show my friends my cowboy uncle on TV, great bragging rights when you are an eight year old.

Every year for as long as I could remember my parents would take me to Uncle Jack or he would drive to Houston and pick me up during summers and I would stay for several weeks.
He taught me to ride a horse. Hell, he taught me many things. I doubt I would have become an Eagle Scout if not for Jack. When I got my presidential letter I gave it Jack. He framed it and it still hangs on the wall of his den.

He took me to Apacheland and I got to meet all sorts from the actors to the wranglers, the directors, make up people, grips, and extras. It fueled my interest in acting. Jack always supported my interests. When I did plays and musicals in Houston he often drove from Arizona to see me perform. He hated flying and always drove. My dad might have missed many of my shows but not my Uncle Jack.

As I got older my relationship with Jack grew stronger. I could talk to him about anything and did. I told him I was gay before I ever told my parents. His reaction was important to me. He never missed a beat, told me right away that he didn't care who I loved as long as they loved me back. My own parents reaction was not as understanding. In fact, my father told me I should stay away from home for a while because my mother was so upset. That was a gut punch. I told him they would have to ask me over before I would visit again. When Uncle Jack heard about it he evidently read my mother the riot act. Later she would tell me he told her he had never been so ashamed of her. He told her I was going to need more of her love not less and that he was disappointed in her. That probably shook her up more than my news. In any case my parents and I worked through it.

Over the years BC and I made a point to visit Jack. Those two got along famously. He always introduced us to people as his boys. Jack came to Houston when BC died. He sat on my left with Paula at my right during the funeral. BC's death shook Jack. A year later when I tried to commit suicide his was one of the first faces I saw when I regained consciousness. He flew to Tennessee as soon as he was informed. He had white knuckled it the entire flight just to get to me. He didn't lecture me about it. He just asked me to promise him I would never do it again. And I gave him my word that I wouldn't.

One of the first weekends after I moved to LA to be with Dark I took him to meet Uncle Jack. Later I asked him what he thought of Dark and he just said "The man loves you. That makes him aces in my book." That was Jack, simple and straightforward.

For the last two months I have run back and forth between the hospital and Jack's ranch. I would feed the horses and put them in the pastures then run to the hospital and stay all day then race back to bring the horses to the barn and blanket them. Nights were still cold for a while. Jack's neighbors came by and helped out. His friends were many. As he grew weaker and speech got harder I started bringing him books and I sat and read to him. I had just finished reading Louis L'Amour's A Trail to the West two days go when he died. I was holding his hand. Per his wishes I had him cremated and I picked up his ashes this morning. This weekend I'm going to saddle up his horse and take him up in the Superstition Mountains and scatter his ashes.

I dropped everything to come to Jack's bedside. I told Scott he had to run the company until I could return. I'm lucky my partner is also my good friend. He just told me to go. A large portion of the success I have achieved in business I owe to Jack. I went to Jack for advice when I wanted to start my first company. He talked it through with me and told me to go for it. One week later I got a check in the mail for $25,000 from Jack with a note - "dream big". That stake got me started. When I sold the company later Jack got a check for over a million dollars for the ten percent of the company I had given him in gratitude. He used to laugh with people that he could never get mad at me I made him rich. But it was Jack that made my life richer. I opened Jack's will today. It was simple like Jack. It was dated 1973 with two codicils added in 2006. He left everything to me with a bequest to the Superstition Mountain Museum. The original will had a bequest to BC for $10,000. The other codicil gave Dark the same amount. That was my Uncle Jack for you.

I have a lot to do yet. I can't bring myself to sell the ranch right now. Besides there are Jack's horses to take care of. So here I am in Arizona trying to figure out my next move. Only this time I can't talk to Jack about it.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

dumbing down the hood

The collective IQ on our street in LA has taken a sudden turn south. For the part I played I apologise to our neighbors. Kimora Lee Simmons just bought a house two down from ours ... and I just accepted Jessica Simpson's offer for ours. Dark is headed to LA to pack everything up and put it all in storage until we find a new one.

Sigh, if only Nick Lachey were the buyer ... probably wouldn't raise the quotient much but it sure would have improved the view.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Six weeks - condensed

We are finally back home in London. The last six weeks is a blurry memory of highs and lows, of temper tantrums, holiday meals, parties, wildfires, union strikes, burglary and gunshots, two-shots and closeups, prison sentences, super star fundraisers, family reunions, realtor meetings, house hunts, quick business trips, and wedding plans. I have taken the day off today to decompress and try to sort out my feelings about the last six weeks and to try to make some plans. I'm taking no calls from the office or the west coast and the boyfriend has been sent off to do his Christmas shopping with instructions not to call or come home until dark. Dark, dark, darkness, darkly - Dark Lee, Darky Dark, Dark Victory, Dark of the Moon, Dark-Ray Productions, the dark prince is too big a distraction for what I need today. I need some quiet Ray time.

The trouble with not blogging regularly is that I tend to focus on the bigger events in my so called life. I guess today's blog isn't going to be any different. I want to try to blog more next year and focus more on my feelings about daily things. The blogs I like to read are the ones that involve you in the everyday lives of their writers. I tend to be more of a story teller. I want to change that. New Years resolution number one: blog more frequently and more about what's on my mind.

But for now it's back to the last six weeks.

Temper Tantrums
Dark had a tantrum in one of the private rooms at The Abbey. He had arranged a birthday party for on of his friends, August, another vfx artist. He rented one of the private rooms and invited about 15 guys including August's on again, off again boyfriend for drinks. Drinks were served while the birthday presents were opened. Dark picked up the drinks tab and then everyone decided they were hungry and ordered dinner off the menu. Came time to pay for the dinner check everyone chipped in to cover their part ... everyone that is except for the on again, off again boyfriend of the birthday boy. He had also arrived gift less and spent most of the evening making digs at August. When the bill was passed to him he declined to chip in saying August would pay his share. A tense embarrassed silence followed. I reached for my wallet intending to pick up the entire check to defuse the situation when Dark snapped "Take your hand off your wallet. I have already paid for our dinners and for August's dinner". Then he grabbed the check and told the on again, off again boyfriend how much he owed. The guy whined he didn't have any money and his dinner should be included with August's. Then Dark exploded. He stood up throwing his napkin on the table and launched into one of the the most awesome verbal attacks I have ever witnessed. He verbally tore the guy a new asshole. After he finished he sat down and when the rest of the stunned party recovered they all started clapping and cheering while the on again, off again boyfriend stood and slunk away. Watching your boyfriend shout and visibly shake with rage and righteous indignation is ... well, stimulating. I couldn't wait to get him home and jump his bones.

Holiday Meals
I had my usual orphan Thanksgiving dinner. This year 22 people showed up and it turned out to be one of the best to date. I started with a chorizo pumpkin soup with onion and cilantro garnish. For veggies I made seasoned corn with roasted chiles and fresh serrano chiles; cranberry-mango relish with onion, jalepeno, cilantro, lime juice and honey; ancho chiles stuffed with sweet potato. Roast turkey with mexican cornbread stuffing and chile gravy was the meat. And I finished it off with pumpkin flan and a tequila key lime pie. Oddly enough no one asked for Rolaids or Maalox.

Our annual Halloween party was populated by assorted Marie Antoinette drag queens, sexy nurses, Renaissance vampires, buff felines, homo cowboys, and a smattering of super heroes. Dark decided since we both busy with film work and organizing the party we would simply wear our tuxes. As it turned out the decision not to wear heavy makeup and costumes was fortuitous given what happened in the wee hours of the next morning.

Southern California was plagued with several wildfires while we were in LA. A big one in Malibu coincided with another huge one in San Diego. One friend of ours in a Malibu canyon was evacuated but returned to find his house had been spared. The fire had simply jumped his house and then proceeded down the canyon to burn out his neighbors. These natural disasters are so random and one of the prices we pay for living in paradise.

Union Strikes
The Writers Guild of America strike shut down production on the film I am in but all my scenes were shot before it started. I had a small part in a The Riches episode but production is shut down on that sitcom and no one knows when it will resume shooting. I could care less. I enjoyed acting again but it is never going to be a career move. Dark has lost work but his graphics company has kept him busy. I'm really sorry for those Tonight Show staffers that were told by Jay Leno that their jobs were safe only to get axed by the network. Leno is catching a lot of flak for falsely building up their hopes.

Burglary and gunshots
Back to the early morning hours after our Halloween party ... The party broke up about 1 a.m. and instead of heading off to the boulevard to watch the freak show there Dark and I stayed home. We tipped the caterers, car parkers, security detail, bartenders, and waiters and saw them all leave. Both of us were pooped and decided to just go to bed. Somewhere around 3/3:30 a.m. we were awakened by a gunshot ... a loud gunshot inside our house.

I bolted out of bed and headed to the doorway while Dark grabbed the phone to call 911. Normally the door to our bedroom is shut and locked. But that morning it was open and neither one of us had opened it. I got to the head of the stairs in time to hear another gunshot and see the flash from a gun barrel followed by the sound of breaking glass and a stream of Spanish curse words. Like an idiot I flew down the stairs to find out what the hell was going on. When I rounded the corner to the library I saw a tiny figure whirl around and level a gun at me.

It was in the hand of Carmen, our Mexican live-in housekeeper. She had the night off but had decided to return early to make sure the party debris was cleaned up to her high standards when the cleaning crew arrived later that day. She found the gate wide open and the outside lighting turned off and decided something was wrong. So she left her car at the gates and walked up to the house. She saw flashlight beam moving inside the hose as she approached. Not knowing if it was us or some burglars she let herself in from the service entrance and crept through the kitchen to the main hall. She tried to flip on the lights but nothing happened. That's when she pulled the gun from her purse. She saw a man in a mask carrying a flashlight step out from the library. She said she startled the guy. When he turned and started to run she fired at him. That was the shot that woke us up. He ran back into the library and tried to leave through the french doors to the side yard, they were locked. She fired off a second shot as he dove through a window breaking the glass. Then she started cursing in Spanish because she hadn't hit him. That was the shot, flash, and sounds I heard and saw from the top of the stairs.

All this she blurted out to me while she waved that huge pisol around wildly. In short order Dark appeared and then the police arrived followed by the alarm company security force who were followed by the security people from the neighborhood association. It was then I realized I was standing in the middle of this maelstrum naked ... stark naked. Thank Cher, at least I wasn't naked with makeup on my face. The bf had the foresight to at least throw on a pair of sweatpants. He brought me a robe while we talked to the police. They found the burglar had circumvented the alarm system, cut the phone line, flipped the main circuit breaker cutting the electricity before breaking into the house. There were two paintings from the living room stacked against the wall in the library, the safe was opened, and our watches that had been on our bedroom dresser were laying on the library table. Carmen had prevented him from completing the job.

Thankfully, Carmen had a valid permit for that gun. I was sweating that one out while the police questioned her. The police were gone by 5 and the various security people left by 6. Turns out Brentwood, Beverly Hills and the “Platinum Triangle” of Bel-Air, Encino and Holmby Hills have been hit by a rash of burglaries this year to the tune of over $7 million. The consensus was the burglar got inside the gates as the last of the party staff was leaving and waited until we were asleep to break in.

This job would not have netted the fucker that much. Nothing he had planned to steal was horribly expensive. But one item was priceless - my watch. The watch itself was inexpensive but to me it was worth more than any Rolex, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, or Girard-Perregaux. When BC and I first met he asked me what kind of watch I wanted if money was no object. I told him if he ever got rich he could buy me a plain gold Patek Phillipe. That first Christmas together in 1970 when I opened his present to me I found a watch. It was a plain simple gold inexpensive Neiman Marcus watch. When I flipped it over to put it on I found it was engraved with " ... next time" on the back. He told me that was all he could afford that Christmas but someday he would buy me the other. Years later when he could afford it he wanted to buy me that Patek Phillipe watch but I stopped him. By then that first watch meant more to me than any diamond encrusted platinum one. I have worn that watch for 37 years. It has had dozens of different bands over the years but the damn thing keeps perfect time. The idea that some sorry shiftless low life almost stole it enraged me. For days I was sorry Carmen's shot missed him.

Crap, it is 10 pm and the boyfriend is back home so I will close for tonight. Tales of two-shots and closeups, prison sentences, super star fundraisers, family reunions, realtor meetings, house hunts, quick business trips, and wedding plans will have to wait until tomorrow or one day this week ... to be continued.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Happy Dance

Don't hate me.

Excuse me while I do a little Tom Cruise dance on the couch.

Oil prices finished at an all-time high above $89 a barrel today, up $2.07 to settle at $89.47 a barrel, shattering the previous record of $87.61 a barrel reached Tuesday. In after-hours electronic trading crude for November delivery went even higher, hitting $90.02 a barrel. Analysts are saying $100 a barrel is almost inevitable. Since oil is priced in dollars, the declining greenback makes oil less expensive for consumers outside the United States, encouraging more consumption. Higher oil prices means increased exploration by the oil companies to meet demand. Increased exploration means increased need for the services my company provides. Business has been great and is getting better every day.

So while gas prices at the pump and home heating bills rise I apologise. I'm sorry.

No really, ... I'm sorry.

Now, where are my sunglasses?