Thursday, September 23, 2004

the jay who....

my loving wife Jay is wondering if I can possibly write as passionately and deeply about her as I can about animatronic bears and gorillas at non-existent pizza parlors. Seeing as how we've been together almost everyday for the past 4 years, I'm sure I could write an entire novel if I had to. This is a novel that is still being written, with new chapters everyday, every year until death do us part.

my first encounter with Jay was in a recommendation letter in her VanArts application, which described her as 'serene and deep.' that is as perfect a description as i could possibly conjure.
most people who know my wife know her as the artistic Jay, the quiet Jay, the funny Jay, the contemplative Jay....i know and love all of these Jays very well. Given my honor and privilege of being husband of the Jay, I also get to know the cranky Jay, the emotional Jay, the tired Jay, the angry-at-me Jay, and all those Jays that only come out for me. This is not a complaint, as it comes with the territory of every marriage. As much as I may bite my lip, I would not trade it for anything. This is why Doug says 'marriage is work, but it's good work!' The good work pays off in the other Jays I've had the blessing to know that are for nobody else. The Jay who came to my birthday party all hyper and strung-out after a long day at work....the Jay who listened to me lament about my hardships over a candlelight dinner and looked at me with a look that is still the most loving 'look' i have ever seen.....the Jay who names all of the inanimate objects in the house, who even says 'hello' to the house when she walks in the door.....the Jay who obsesses over obscure TV shows and reminisces through her video game music tapes....the Jay who becomes silent when standing before water....the Jay who meditates nightly with her needle and thread....

....these are all little quirks and things that make Jay who she is for me; I've told her it's like living in a giant cartoon all the time. Not only because it's entertaining, but because anything is possible. Except for buying a car and a house, and a backyard outdoor theater, but we're getting there. My dreams mean more to me now that I have someone to share them with.

...but the Jay that stands out the most for me is the real Jay, which I like to symbolize particularly with one moment that pretty much sums up all of the other's the Jay who, on the day of our wedding, which all brides know is one of the only days when everyone focuses on her, cuz it's 'her day' and she should soak it all up, found out that one of the guests had to temporarily leave the reception because her mother was very sick with cancer, and was very upset because she knew that her mom would probably not be there for her whenever she got married...and because that very thing happened for Jay, she took the time out of her own wedding to talk to this girl outside the church and comfort her, and plainly admit that she barely knew her, but that she knew how she felt and wanted her to know that she cared....the Jay who put herself aside on her special day for someone else.

That's the Jay I know, love and appreciate, and who I too often take for granted, Lord forgive me.....and she makes me laugh like nobody else too.

a place to go....

So for some reason, i've recently renewed my obsession with the old pizza places I used to go to as a kid, looking at pictures and clips on the internet, and reminscing. Most of these visits were for birthdays and other special occasions, introduced to me first by my grandparents. The first one I went to was a Chuck E Cheese somewhere near Dearborn, I assume, as that's where my grandparents lived. This was a brand new concept to the world, the idea of a pizza parlor with video games and animatronic characters that would play songs and do skits. This would have been in 1981 or 82, when I was 6 or 7, that this obsession would start. Though the pizza was obviously very good, and the games kind of fun, what really got me was the animatronics. I'd been to DisneyWorld and liked puppets & cartoon characters in general, so this kind of thing has always amazed me. The original Chuck E Cheese had a main dining room with characters that were only shown from the waist up sitting in overhead balconies. There was Chuck E Cheese, Jasper T Jowls, Harmony Howlette, Mr Munch, Pasqually, and the Warblettes. Underneath them was a cheese-house play area with holes and tunnels you could crawl through. Different 'cabaret' style rooms had more characters: a hippo named Dolli Dimples, an Elvis lion, and the Beagles (dogs playing Beatles songs). This place, like all the others, does not exist anymore, though the franchise still does, and it's not the same.

A year or so later, another place opened: Major Magics. This place stayed around the longest...the last time I went there I was in college, and it hadn't really changed at all. The animatronics were better at this one, plus they were on a stage that was at ground level, so kids could reach out and touch their feet, a naughty thing we weren't supposed to do, of course. Major Magic's starred the Rock N Roll Rebellion, two country bears and a Dixie-land-style band of instruments with faces, and of course Major Magic himself. They had a red curtain that would open and close for each act, and we used to peek behind them between sets.

In 1983, Showbiz Pizza Place opened up, and this was the best one by far. The animatronics were smoother and the characters funnier, the music was better....this show featured the Rock-a-Fire Explosion (Dook, Fatz, Beach Bear, and Mitzi), Billy Bob & Looney Bird, and Rolfe & Earl. All of these stages would automatically play a song or two, then the curtains would close for intervals between them. As a kid, I remember the disappointment when a song would end and the feeling of excitement when the lights would dim and the shows would start. If you were in another room playing video games or something, and you saw the lights go down by the stage, you would grab your friends and make a mad dash to catch the show! At least I did...most of my friends at birthday parties were more preoccupied with the video games, but I was always more into these animatronic things. To this day, most of my friends are way more into video games, which is more of an active pastime...while I would rather passively sit back and be entertained by puppets. My dad snuck a tape recorder in a few times to make recordings of the Showbiz songs for me, and I would listen to them at home. I wish I still had those tapes...they got lost somehow (but I'm currently waiting for a CD in the mail that has the songs I remember, from the webmaster of the only major site dedicated to Showbiz). There are still a few Rock-a-Fire shows installed throughout the US, but the original Showbiz back home is no more.

So why do I still reminisce and obsess over this? What is it about these memories that linger? Some of it I think is because I often relate it to memories of Grandma Priebe, who I miss dearly and used to take me to these places. I think it also relates to my obsession with animation & puppets in general; this was like watching the Muppets, but it was LIVE! Another interesting thing is that while I may wax nostalgic about movies or music from my childhood, the difference is that those things I can still experience and apply to my present life. This kind of thing, I cannot... even if I still lived in Michigan, I couldn't. It's gone, and shall never repeat, unless I happen to travel to a place where a show is installed. So that in itself creates the intrigue in retracting as much as possible through memory, like a time period or person you cannot be with any more. So it's related to the same reason we think about loved ones who have passed on.

I just loved the feeling, the atmosphere that was in those places; the sounds, the was pure childhood. Kids today don't have anything like this, at least I don't think they do. Back then, most of us didn't have every Disney movie ever made on video, we didn't have arcade games at home, and cartoons were only on after school and on Saturday morning. Everything was an event, which made it more exciting. Now everything is so accessible or downloadable it's almost impossible to have anything be an 'event' without getting lost or losing its lasting significance. Or maybe this is exactly what our parents thought, and our kids today DO have 'events' in their lives like this. I'm not sure. All I know is that this whole concept of a physical place to go where you have all of these things, games, 'cartoons' which you knew were robotic but somehow magically had a life of their own after you left.....this concept does not seem to exist now.

Perhaps that's why we sometimes need to go back to the things which are gone. Perhaps that's why I love and appreciate it so much.

Monday, September 20, 2004

back in black

It's good to be back, Lloyd.

well, hopefully i've gotten my annual Autumn cold & sore throat out of the way early this year. what's going on, well, i started teaching again on Saturday but ended up cancelling my stop-motion class so i'm only teaching 2D in the morning, which is actually perfect for right now. i need a break, and more time to work on other projects. the 2D class is so much easier to teach, and it always gets me pumped to work on my film.

jay and i are starting our business up, turning some of our fantasy paintings into greeting cards, and eventually other things. this is a great way to ramp up for more opportunities down the road to keep us afloat and creating art for people, so i'm rather excited about it. tomorrow i'm picking up the Star Wars DVDs, so maybe i'll rant about them later. life is good. do de do....

Sunday, September 05, 2004

reflections from an overdue phone call

biting cold winter, walking from anita to hampton...the annoying 'alien ball' in my pocket..arch oboler's lights out everybody...the infamous birthday party all night with 'creepshow' 'friday 7', 'elm street 3', 'nerds 1'...couldn't drive in those days, so we walked with nighter and chip, or rode bikes...humphrey the bear cartoons..terror in the aisles...the python record...dominos and pixie stix overlooked by the big buffalo head...may rolls around, and the nighthawks return...they say 'beer' and dive...thrashing on the swings...watching horror movies and going outside to a huge thunderstorm, the street flooding....singing 'Paul Revere' stomping our feet with sheets of rain pounding the aluminum above us...watching the neighbors with an iced tea on the porch...end of an era, end of innocence, end of a decade......

why this time? why the obsession and ache to return to it? i think because it's a lesson in appreciation. we were alive, and still are to this day, even more so. any regrets from years afterwards are nailed to the cross, of which Ted reminded me today, thus creating an appreciation NOW even greater than any I had back then. The nice thing about memories is they improve with age, like wine, as long as they are appreciated and make ya want to keep living. And do I ever.

Friday, September 03, 2004

freaky giant rabbits

so i finally saw 'Donnie Darko' for the first time last night. holy crap, what a messed-up but awesome movie. it's been a long time since I've seen a cult film like that in a theater. took me back to college days when i would go to the Michigan Theater to see all sorts of weird stuff.

Labour Day weekend is upon us, and students are coming. maybe i can finally work on my film a little bit this wekend.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Ok, i know everybody gets songs stuck in their head...that's a common phenomenon. i wonder if anyone else besides me gets movie scenes or dialogue stuck in their head. i don't recall ever speaking to anyone else with this problem.

whenever i am angry or frustrated, as I have been today, i ALWAYS get the scene in my head from 'The Shining' where Jack is locked in the food pantry screaming 'G*Dammit! Let me out of here! Open the G*Damn door!' ...and it just runs through my head over and over again.

Is this healthy? I'm not sure. But it happens.