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Rogue Wave

“… for my mind misgives

Some consequence yet hanging in the stars

Shall bitterly begin his fearful date

With this night’s revels…

But He, that hath the steerage of my course,

Direct my Sail!…”

— William Shakespeare (from Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene IV)

* * *

I recall, after seeing the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli version of the film, with Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey playing the leads, listening to the soundtrack recording (on vinyl, of course) numerous times, which contains a fair amount of dialogue from the play, including the above soliloquy by Romeo, delivered right before he and his friends crash the Capulets’ party. In the same vein that Alec Baldwin’s character, Peter’s voiceover at the beginning of the 1992 film Prelude to a Kiss (in which Meg Ryan’s character, Rita, switches her soul at their wedding with an old man’s who is about to die) compares the intricacies of intimate relationships to a roller coaster ride, there is no more apt description of how I felt atop the ferris wheel at the Fair on the afternoon of Saturday, September 15th of last year. As I glanced down at the fairway from that height, I knew instinctively that something significant was about to happen, although it was hours later when I discovered just how significant my premonition actually was.

Other than seeing my name in print (as an actor, as well as a writer, a larger-than-average ego is pretty standard), one of the major advantages of reading the AVA has been to network with other writers in discussions about their articles and other projects. In addition to Bruce and Mark, I have also had the good fortune to meet Bruce McEwen and Steve Sparks (in Ukiah), and have had some interesting e-mail conversations with Todd Walton and David Yearsley. I am extremely grateful for all of the positive feedback I have received from all of these gentlemen on my writing, and I am honored to be counted among them as a fellow AVA contributor. Like Todd, and Jay Williamson of Santa Rosa, who responded to his article, I, too, had a particularly strong experience of synchronicity a few years ago, although the phrase that kept smacking me in the face was “rogue wave.”

During the same week that I read an article written by a surfer confirming the danger of literal rogue waves, I watched the 2009 film Love Happens, in which Jennifer Aniston’s character borrows a utility truck from a friend (with a basket perched on top of a crane, used for work on trees and telephone poles) to gain outside free viewing access, along with Aaron Eckhart’s character, to a sold-out performance in Seattle of the band Rogue Wave. Wikipedia has a page for both the literal meaning of the phrase and the band, including a reference to their appearance in the film. Having just broken up with her boyfriend (a member of another band) because of his infidelity, “love happens” to both Aniston’s character (a florist) and Eckhart’s (a grieving widower-turned-motivational speaker), as the rogue wave/roller coaster of emotion carries them into new and uncharted romantic territory, just as it does with Peter and Rita in the 1992 film.

My rogue wave on that fateful evening last September presented itself in the form of both the 911 caller, who apparently was following me on State Street as I returned to Ukiah after my day at the Fair, and the arresting officer with Ukiah Police Department who booked me for my second DUI last year. I believe that if I had had any inclination of the extent of the massive repercussions that are still occurring in my life, I would have bitten the bullet and either hired a taxi or booked a room at the Boonville Hotel (instead of the Best Western, where the cast and crew of Need for Speed stayed), regardless of the cost. But like Romeo, despite the warnings of my higher consciousness to turn away from impending doom, I forged ahead, determined to accept my fate, however dire it might be.

I recently heard a joke, and while not revealing its source, I have to confess that it certainly hit home with me, based on personal experience. It goes like this: “What is the difference between an optimist, a pessimist, and an alcoholic?”

Answer: “The optimist sees the glass as half-full, the pessimist sees the glass as half-empty, and the alcoholic sees the glass and says, ‘Are you going to finish that?’ “

What I am learning, in the humility of facing the consequences of my actions, is that, as Todd stated in his subsequent article, “Blame,” alcoholics who are not recovering, or are in relapse, are not bad people, but rather are just individuals with a “tenuous grip on reality” who (my words) “self-medicate” as their way of coping with a world that seems overwhelming to them.

And as someone who still struggles with the “dis-ease,” I particularly appreciated his comment to the two psychotherapists in Berkeley that, as Albert Brooks’ character, Daniel, states to the two judges in his afterlife courtroom at the end of his “trial” in Defending Your Life (1991), he is/they are just “doing the best they can.”

So along with continuing to submit numerous applications for teaching positions throughout the county (including the Special Education position at AVHS), I am getting mandated help through Lucky Deuce (DUI classes) and AA, and voluntary (on my part) help through a local therapist, with whom, unlike Karin Wandrei’s Ukiah clients, I don’t mind sharing the same town. Honestly, aside from the fees, minimal jail time, and possible maximum impact on my professional future, the greatest inconvenience of all has been losing my license so I can no longer drive to Boonville — which will end in August!


River Views May 1, 2013


The next time you venture to Mendocino you’ll want to step inside Frankie’s Creamery. If you have never been to Frankie’s, what’s wrong with you? — ice cream from Cowlick’s, good pizza, all sorts of other delectables, and at reasonable prices by Mendo standards.

After you’ve ordered your ice cream, take a look out the south-facing window. Just a bit to the east stands a tree probably unidentifiable to most. It’s an avocado, sometimes called alligator pear for the fruit’s rough skin. The tree is most closely related to the bay laurel. The avocado outside Frankie’s south window does not have a partner, thus no fruit, but an avocado does grow in Mendocino.

That reminds me of Betty Smith’s World War II era novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Any mention of Brooklyn, in turn, makes think of the Brooklyn Dodgers, which brings us to Jackie Robinson.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson is the subject of the current film, 42. Dave Zirin has written an article (published in the April 24th AVA) about the movie in which Mr. Zirin states “To tell his tale as one of individual triumph through his singular greatness is to not tell the story at all.”

That is a gross oversimplification, one that a good writer like Zirin should know better than to promulgate. 42 is a two hour amalgam of events. As Zirin’s article points out, amongst other things, the film glorifies Branch Rickey, omitting the fact that Rickey refused to recompense the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs for essentially stealing Jackie Robinson away. However, whether Mr. Zirin likes it or not, significant change does often begin with the actions of singular individuals like Jackie Robinson. The film, 42, condenses and simplifies, but it makes clear what racism looks, sounds, and feels like.

I do believe that some people who see 42 will come away from it with renewed curiosity about Jackie Robinson. Some of them will delve deeper into Robinson’s story to discover that eleven years before Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama, Lt. Jack Robinson refused to move to the back of the bus near Camp Hood, Texas, and suffered the indignity of a military court-martial because of the incident. They will find out that in March, 1942, Jackie Robinson and pitcher Nate Moreland accompanied journalist Herman Hill to the Chicago White Sox spring training tryout camp in Pasadena only to be turned away by White Sox manager Jimmy Dykes. Perhaps some viewers of 42 will be astute enough to notice that the completely segregated major league baseball clubs of the 1940s were located primarily in northern states, with the borderline exceptions of St. Louis and Washington DC. It wasn’t redneck bigots in the Deep South keeping the likes of Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and so many more out of major league baseball; it was general managers and owners in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and Detroit. Perhaps even a few who see 42 will dig far enough into the history of baseball’s segregation to discover that Pittsburgh Pirate owner William Benswanger proposed integrating the National League several years before Brach Rickey plucked Jackie Robinson away from the Kansas City Monarchs.

I also believe that viewers of 42 will leave the theater recognizing there were and are far greater subtleties to racism, then and now, than the overt epithets of a Phillies manager. Some may be inspired to fight against the economic racism and classism that has allowed the divide in salary between corporate CEOs and workers to grow more than a hundred fold since the days of Jackie Robinson.

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