There’s a framed photo of me on a shelf in my living room. I’m wearing a white t-shirt, a backwards blue baseball cap with silver wings, and a slight smile. I’m holding a pen, and scribbling furiously on a sheet of loose leaf paper. That’s all that is evident from the photo; memory reveals context.
It is the winter of 1981. I am ten-years-old. I am seated in the “TV Room” of what was then my father’s house. My parent’s were mid-divorce. My brother and I are living with my mother on the other side of town, and are visiting my father at our old house for the weekend. I am seated on one of two futons purchased from JC Penney. HBO is replaying Chevy Chase’s ‘Modern Problems,’ and we are snacking on Jeno’s Pizza Rolls. I have recently discovered my father’s Super-8 Movie Camera, and am carefully scripting my sophomore film short effort, to be called, ‘Shades.’
The film, the follow up to my highly acclaimed debut (at the Oliver Wendell Holmes Elementary Variety Show, anyway), ‘The Greatest American Hero,’ is to be derivative of ‘Grease.’ And so, logically, I’m using the ‘Grease’ soundtrack album is a makeshift desk. The screenplay is brief — I only have five minutes worth of silent film (less when I shoot slow-motion), still, I construct a loose plot. Roller-skating waitresses at the local malt shop deliver ice cream to cool kids in sunglasses. And then they all dance.
The film, shot in my father’s basement the following weekend, lacked the narrative cohesion of ‘The Greatest American Hero.’ There is no bad guy in ‘Shades,’ only the the specter of bad times best remedied by ice cream and dancing.
Though you, Dear Reader, might guess otherwise, I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time staring at photos of myself, old or new. Still, the photo sits there on the shelf always, surrounded by Mister Rogers, Ethan, and various landscapes. When my gaze does fall there, though, I am forced to remember Him, that ten-year-old still very much a part of my 32-year-old life. I have the shirt, I have the hat, I have the smile. And I am still scribbling furiously, searching the script for the scene where everyone eats ice cream and dances.