Okay, wait. I don’t want to be held accountable for false advertising, so I want to clear up the title of this post: No, there will not be any references to the one and only Notorious B.I.G., because hi! I am about as square as they come and my musical collection includes more Beethoven than Biggie, and have I not told you about the time I went to see Riverdance live? And that I bought a t-shirt? Far be it from me to make gangsta rap references and ask you to take me seriously.
Today is August 5th, and while I’m enjoying the fact that my Friday Five actually falls on a 5 (it’s actually Friday Five!), there is far more significance to the date than that. Five years ago today, I lost my dad. It had been coming for months, but spending an entire summer in the hospital (from ICU to the inevitable hospice), didn’t make the actual event of losing him any less sudden or painful. I’d like to say it’s gotten easier over the past 5 years, and it a lot of ways, it has.
But without a doubt, my dad was the most amazing human being I’ll ever know, and was also the best friend I’ll ever have. He was a wonderful collection of knowledge, a gifted artist and architect, a kind and quiet soul, but also possessed (perhaps incongruously) one of the funniest and crassest senses of humor and could always be counted on to make a joke that would lighten any mood (though the subject very well might have been farts or the fake girlfriend he always joked he had, named Trixie LeTharge, the red-headed Burlesque dancer who never shaved her underarms). He collected interesting gadgets (a wallet-sized pen that could write in space, a spelunking headlamp he wore to read books in bed, giant travel bags that folded into small pocket sized pouches), had thousands and thousands of books, and knew almost everything about art, history, music and culture that you’d ever need to know. The term for when an artist paints himself into the background a portrait? He knew that. Pat Metheny’s entire discography? He had it. Stranded in the Memphis airport at 2am and needed someone to talk to? He’d answer. He might call you “bitchmuffin” (endearingly) at some point in the conversation, but he’d still answer.
There’s nothing my dad didn’t do for me, or wouldn’t have done. He is responsible for so much of who I am today, including the part of me that requires at least an hour of quiet time to decompress after social functions, the part of me that could eat sushi for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and most importantly the part of me that cannot tolerate musical theater (STOP SINGING AT ME AND USE A FULL SENTENCE). I fell in love with art through spending Sundays at the museum with him, or sitting in his studio while he painted, the house smelling like espresso while classical music played in the background. When I decided I wanted to learn to use a film camera in high school, he handed me his Contax without hesitation. And when I decided I wanted to major in Photojournalism in college a month after he passed away, I got to use his entire collection of Zeiss lenses. I really want to get back into shooting seriously.
So, this week’s Friday Five is an homage to my incredible daddy. Because aside from having brunch with my brother and his beautiful wife and my three amazing nieces and our moms over the weekend, there is no other way I’d want to remember this day than for all the love and happiness and goofiness he brought to my world. Especially all those times he sang along to New Kids on the Block with me in the car, stood in line in the pouring rain for 4 hours to see O-Town (oh my god, the shame. I’m better now, I promise), all those lazy weekends spent watching “CBS Sunday Morning” and eating his yummy tomato and chive omelets, and all those trips to Salem every summer for vacation. Oh, and especially when he almost got us kicked out of one of the witch-hunt museums for laughing too much. This seriously explains why my brain lacks the “socially appropriate” filter.
Five things I love thanks to my dad:
Cable-knit sweater with elbow-pads (!!!), Lands End
My dad hated wearing color. His wardrobe was that of any artist/architect: muted browns, black, gray the occasional khaki (ever present were his signature socks and sandals combo, or loafers in the winter). He also had a love of giant wool sweaters. And elbow-pads. I took one of his sweaters when I was in high school, a luscious, dark green wool pullover, and wore it with everything, despite how comically oversized it was on my tiny frame. I still have it, and it’s one of my favorite staple pieces for the fall, with leggings and a solid pair of riding boots. Every girl needs a masculine, chunky wool sweater like the one above from Lands End. It’s such a great snuggly piece, and it just begs you to curl up on the sofa with a glass of wine (or in my dad’s case, a big fat doob) and a good book.
The Burning of the House of Lords, JMW Turner
Turner was one of my dad’s heroes, one of his greatest influences in painting. My dad was an Impressionist through and through, and painted a lot of landscapes, so Turner really spoke to him. Being that he wasn’t religious, my brother and I decided to have his memorial at a fine arts academy instead of a traditional church service. He had book after book of his work, and even a coffee mug with the above image on it (it now sits in my cupboard). I remember seeing this painting every morning when I woke up at his apartment on the cover of this book, which sat right by my bed (oh my god, it costs how much? I’d never sell my dad’s copy, but geez!). I’m lucky in that the museum here has it in their permanent collection. This would look beautiful framed and hung over a fireplace. One day, when I’m super rich. Or maybe even sooner!
A Fish Called Wanda, Amazon
Back when people still rented movies, pre-Netflix, pre-DVDs even, my dad and I would go to TLA Video every Saturday and pick up a good haul. The policy was rent 2, get 1 free, so we ended up watching a lot of movies over the years (and I ended up paying a lot of late fees when I promised to return them but forgot). Among the goodies we watched, my dad showed me A Fish Called Wanda at probably a younger age than I’d show my own kids (not that I have them, but I will absolutely make sure they watch this some day). Ignoring (or including!) all of the bawdy moments, this movie is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. It’s in my top 5 all time favorites, too. It’s smartly written (thanks to John Cleese, who also plays an adorably droll barrister in it) and an absolute gem. Michael Palin is at his best, Jamie Lee Curtis is to die for, and Kevin Kline, well, he won an Oscar for his role in this. My dad and I used to quote his character all the time. “What was that part in the middle?” and “Asshole!” If you haven’t seen it before, go, immediately, run don’t walk, as fast as you can, and pick up a copy. I can’t even tell you anything about it because I don’t want to ruin it. But I promise, you won’t be disappointed. It might also be the only time that dogs meet terrible fates and you laugh so hard you have trouble controlling your bladder. Really.
Red Dwarf, British cult sci-fi show from the 90s
How do I even begin to explain this without everyone thinking I’m a closet sci-fi nerd? Or did the mention of Riverdance solidify any doubt you may have had? My dad and I both tended towards insomnia (that or we couldn’t shut up long enough to fall asleep) and one night at around 2:30am while channel flipping we caught this show on PBS. I’m just going to throw caution to the wind here (along with all regard for what my readership of 10 –ten! omg!– thinks of me) and tell you this show is hilarious. Weird, yes, but hysterical, and totally aware of it’s weirdness. The premise is that a space mining ship (called Red Dwarf) has an accident and everyone on board is wiped out, except for one crew member (called Lister), who was in suspended animation (stay with me) and is awoken millions of years later and only has for company a hologram simulation of his dead bunkmate (called Rimmer), a life-form who evolved from his pet cat (named Cat) and a service robot (named Kryten). Whew, I need to take a nerd-break. Oh, the hijinks they get up to! My dad and I used to have to special-order the seasons on VHS from Suncoast video or wait to catch them on tv (again, pre-dvds, pre-DVR) and we watched them ad nauseum. I was lucky enough a few years ago to get the entire series on dvd for Christmas, and despite how geeky and campy the show seems now, I think about all the time my dad I spent watching this show and how much fun we had with the series, and for that, I’m totally okay with outing myself as a huge nerd.
Paris, photo by Jens Versteegden
It seems broad to include an entire city on here, but you have to understand how much the man loved Paris, and how much he truly belonged there. He loved the city for all its beauty, its timeless architecture, its narrow streets lined with cafes and museums, the people, the language, and most of all, the Eiffel tower. He truly felt at home there. We always talked about buying a small apartment, a walk-up, with all the original details, and promised we’d do nothing but eat baguettes and crepes. It’s no surprise that my dad spoiled me rotten my entire life (so, in a way, I should be thanking him for this blog’s existence) but when he came back from a trip to Paris when I was young, I remember running right up to him as he exited the plane (pre-9/11), leaping into his arms and asking, “Whatdya bring me?!” Not, “Hi, Daddy! Welcome home!” No. The time for pleasantries and hearing all about which arrondissement he stayed in and what his new favorite cafe was would come later. I had my greed to attend to, dammit, and I wanted my presents. I’d asked for an eiffel tower statue, a beret, and a french magazine. He happily obliged me all three, and I have all but the magazine today. After he passed away, my brother and I were cleaning out his apartment and I found a small, pocket-sized notebook in which he’d written down every detail of every day he spent in Paris. Short little things, in his beautiful penmanship: “Crisp weather, sat outside. Had an espresso and sketched. Lovely waitress.” I wish I’d gotten the chance to go with him and enjoy the city together.
Here’s to you, pop. I miss you tons and tons. Thank you for teaching me to appreciate classical music, for taking me camping, introducing me to photography, indulging me with art (but not Picasso), and for teaching me love really stinky cheese. I totally forgive you for that time you ate my pet water-frog.*
my daddy and me at my brother’s wedding, Martha’s Vineyard, 1997
Enjoy your weekend, lovelies. And go hug your dad. And if you’d like, donate to the American Cancer Society to support cancer research.