The Power Of The Flower

I was meeting a friend in West Hollywood for Brunch.  It’s something we try to do at least a few times a month, to touch base rejuvenate our souls and to get our laugh quotas in for the week.  We talk about dating, love, the business, dreams, fears, who we are and who we want to be.  Topics discussed with others, but with a depth and honesty only shared between two truly close friends.

It was a beautiful day and we decided to eat outside.  I kept seeing people carrying these beautiful bouquets of flowers.  While the flowers were all different, they were all wrapped with newspaper around the bottom of the stems.  There is just something about this that makes my heart happy.  Flowers purchased in haste at a convenience store are always wrapped tightly in cellophane flowers wrapped in newspaper….well, it makes me think of New York or Paris.

A couple passed carrying a fresh bouquet and I asked them where they got them.  They both smiled, pointing up the street and said, the farmer’s market. I commented how beautiful they were and the man dipped them down toward me as the woman said, “Smell them!  They are amazing!”  They were amazing.

It was a nice exchange and we all wished the other a good day.  As they walked off, Brooke and I returned to our conversation.  The last time we had met, she had mentioned how she always buys flowers for herself but rarely gets flowers from anyone else.  I had asked the couple because I had planned to get some flowers for her that morning but couldn’t find where everyone was getting the flowers.  I told her of my plan and brushed it off with, “Talk is cheap.  I didn’t actually succeed in getting you any.”  She assured me that it was the thought that counts.  Just then, the man appeared back at our table.  In his hand, he held a single flower.

He had found a knife to separate it from the bundle and handed it to me.  It was such a lovely gesture and I told him that he reaffirmed my belief in humanity and his face lit up with a huge smile.

I placed the flower in my glass of water on our table.  It was so fragrant that it filled the air around us.  Both of us smiling like fools at the kindness of a stranger.

After brunch I walked Brooke to her car and handed her the single flower.  Her face lit up as if I had filled a room full of roses.  As I walked away, I saw her sitting in her car…eyes closed…holding the flower close and breathing in it’s fragrant smell.  A smile on her face.  It was a gift to see such a great friend being so completely happy.  It was a gift given to me by a stranger who took the time to share one of his flowers with me.

We are often reminded, if you want a better life…be sure to stop and smell the flowers. I would like to add to that statement. If you want a better life and want to help others have one too…stop and share your flowers.

I hope everyone today has an opportunity to share with someone else.

A Father’s Inspiration

I have often heard friends discuss how their parent’s taste in music created the foundation for their own musical appreciations.  They would say, “My parents would listen to Jazz and it really helped me appreciate it.”  or “Every time I hear this country song, it makes me think of my father.”

Growing up and even to this day, I can’t remember any music ever being played in any of my parent’s homes.  (They divorced when I was very young and both remarried.)  Looking back, I don’t remember us having a stereo or record player.  The radio only made an appearance when there were tornado warnings or possible snow days and even then it was always tuned to an AM station.

Nope.  When I think of home, I don’t think of any music ever being played.

Let me stress…. there was no music in my home but there was music in my life.  I can say with a great deal of conviction that my father owned exactly one cassette tape his entire life.  He only played it when we were riding in his car and he played it constantly.  How he came to posses it, I do not know.  Did he buy it?  Was it given to him?  To this day, it’s origins remain a mystery to me and while I could simply ask him there is something wonderful about not knowing.

As I type this out, I am listening to that album.  (I am playing it through Itunes, rather than on a cassette tape but it takes me back to my childhood.)  That album… Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show – Revisited.   Not familiar?  You are not alone.  They hit their height of success in the 70’s.  The songs of this particular album are all about drugs, venereal diseases, prostitutes, homeless, drugs, broken dreams, sexual “deviance” and more drugs.  Not the type of subject matter one would expect a young child to hear on a constant loop.  What I found mind blowing as an adult, when I tracked down the album to give to my Dad a few years ago, was that the majority of the songs were written by Shel Silverstein.  Yes.  THAT Shel Silverstein.

Last week, I was thinking about the album and purchased it online.  I hadn’t heard it in years and discovered something else listening to it again.  It is one of the greatest inspirations of my life.  When asked why I make short films, I discuss how much I enjoy short stories by Vonnegut & Salinger.  But now I can trace my love for short narratives even farther back.  Back to a time a young boy sat in the backseat of his Dad’s car, listening to songs with words and themes that were beyond his comprehension.  But he did know one thing.  These songs had an effect on his father.  They made him smile.  They made him laugh.  And if he was distracted, forgetting to “fast forward” through a song, they made him look embarrassed at the words his kids were singing out loud.  As an adult, I have looked to my father hoping that he will react similarly when watching one of my shorts.

This album is a wonderful collection of short narrative stories.  Each are about the length of one of my short films.

Carry Me Carry opens with, “Second Street and Broadway.  Sittin’ in a doorway.  Head held in his hands.  Looked to all the world like he was prayin’.  Foot wrapped in an old rag.  Bottle in a brown bag.  I saw him try to stand.”  Later there is the haunting lyrics, “Well, he struggled to his feet.  And staggered down the street.  To the window of a five and dime.  He stood and laughed a while at his reflection.”   Growing up in a small town, I had never seen a homeless person.  I didn’t understand the concept of what it meant to be this man.  I did, however, understand that this man was broken.  I understood that he wasn’t always the man he saw reflected back to himself.  How did he get here?  What happened to him?  The song doesn’t answer these questions.  Then and now, I see this man so clearly.  But more importantly, I feel his pain.  In just over four-minutes, I am invited into a world that lights up my imagination, while breaking my heart.

The Queen Of The Silver Dollar, “She arrives in all her splendor, every night at nine-o’clock.  And her chariot is a crosstown bus that stops right down the block.” then “And her scepter is a  wine glass and a bar stool is her throne.”  Again, we are welcomed into a beautifully tragic world inhabited by fractured characters.

I could go on and on but you get the idea.  These songs humanized individuals that I had no contact with growing up and I didn’t even know that they existed.  As I grew up, I found that the need to love and be loved, even though we are all cracked and some of us are broken, is a universal need.  I hope that I treat all of my characters with the same love and empathy that these songs treat their characters.

Maybe that’s why I don’t ask my Dad where the cassette came from when I was a kid.  I don’t want to know.  All that matters is that he had it.  He loved it.  He played it all the time.  And I am sure he had no idea how much those songs would influence his young son sitting in the back seat, looking out the window and hoping that the people in the song…the people that were as real to him as his friends, his family, his teachers…that these people would be OK.  Listening to the songs as an adult, I still believe in those people and it breaks my heart each time I hear their stories.  That’s what great art does.  It touches people and we carry it with us through the years.