The Brauv

He’s a little fur ball of wheezing love sounds
littered across any playing field, eyes wide,
neck bulging, the Brauv is pure emotion
silently pleading for another day of breath

He is so small, this little fur ball of hacking
discomfort traveling forth with only four ounces
of life; clinging to that, actually, this little fur ball
of pure joy: Give me a kiss, you say, he does

and can it be so close to heaven when his
little tongue graces your lips with seamless
contentment and joy of eyes wide up no
longing, no punishment, no agenda

he is pure, this Brauv, and we should all
be so lucky for just a moment of his
immortality, regardless of the pain,
anxiety or confusion for he is The Brauv

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‘Superman Returns’ is us at our best

“Superman Returns” is the best movie ever made about Superman and ranks alongside the first “Avengers,” which actually rejuvenated the entire genre.
Yes, that’s right. “Superman Returns,” the 2006 film directed by Bryan Singer, captures the majesty of film-making with a God-like spirituality and the experience of a real-life superhero.
I re-watched the film recently and was mesmerized by its beauty, its grace, its ballet of the heavens. I watch movies all the time. I love them. And now since I am unemployed – I do the occasional free-lance writing job for the local newspaper or pol – I have more time to explore movies. “Superman Returns” deserves to be recognized as the only Superman movie that captured the essence of the man, the nation, the world, the universe.
The shots of his flying are so graceful, you lose yourself in the peace of the flight with the soaring music as a other-worldly backdrop. The gentleness of his being.
There apparently was criticism that there wasn’t enough action sequences, but that is just the point. Superman is not about action or realism. Superman is about a better world, a better thought, a better humanity, something we certainly need now.
His relationship with his son is pure joy. And maybe that’s why this movie is so good, it is pure.
Superman is a wish, a prayer of a world that is free of violence. He is not a nuclear deterrent. His being dissolves the need for violence. There is no confusion here. No oversight. No litigation. It is very much like Baba Ram Das’ missive “Be Here Now, Be Here.” Pure. Joy. Grace. Ballet. Heaven. God-like. Now, the always infinite now.
Bryan Singer had it right. Superman is us when we embrace the better angels of our nature.

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My dad, James Whitmore, Part Twenty Four

A project that shows a celebrity to be a good man. A good father. A good provider. And a strong support system.

That was the goal. That’s why I started writing these columns because I wanted to show that an actor of some accomplishments, my dad, also was a good provider. Celebrities take such a hard knock in today’s rough-and-tumble world of internet scorching, I wanted to show a decent and generous man: My dad. A father as well as a husband and a famous actor. His generosity over the years was awe inspiring. He was always there for me.

I have been through some difficult times. No question about that. Dad was always nearby to bail me out. The obvious questions: What if he had’ve left me alone? Would I have matured faster without his help? Was dad’s help, indeed, that? Help or hindrance?

Yes, sometimes the columns have been more about my difficulties than dad’s direct involvement in whatever challenge I was facing. Lately, I’ve begun to read these past 23 columns and realize they are about a guy who just couldn’t get his act together. A loser. A flake. A whiner. I got myself into scrapes and my dad bailed me out of them.

There has been much darkness in my life. Self-propelled, of course, but darkness nonetheless. The answer to the question of help or hindrance came to me one day more than three decades after I had left the drunken madness behind.

I hadn’t had a drink of any kind of alcohol for going on 28 years on this day around 2005 when I was showing my dad around the office of my boss at the time: The Sheriff of Los Angeles County. My life had indeed changed.

In those 28 ensuing years I had graduated with honors from a four-year university in two years with a bachelor’s degree. I had raised a family, worked as a journalist for more than two decades, sometimes at large newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and sometimes at small papers like publisher of the La Canada Valley Sun, a small weekly in the foothills above Glendale, California. I had done radio and television as a journalist. My life had turned around entirely from those dark days when I was 27. Now, I was showing my dad around this majestic office. I was 55. My dad was 83.

This was the office of the highest ranking law enforcement officer in Los Angeles County. The man who ran one of the largest jail system in the nation; provided security for one of the largest court systems in the nation; one of the largest transit systems in the nation; more than 20 contract cities where the Sheriff’s Department provided law enforcement services, including patrol, detectives, homicide, to name just a few; one of the largest community college districts in the nation; and one of the largest crime labs in the nation. This is just a sampling of what the Sheriff’s Department did under the administration of Leroy David Baca, my boss.

A man, by the way, with a heart as big as all outdoors. A man of justice, integrity, compassion and a lifelong commitment to humanity and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Upon his retirement, he’d spent 49 years in Los Angeles County as a deputy sheriff in one rank or another. In fact, he used to say to me his life was complete the day he “became a deputy Sheriff.”

Sheriff Baca is going through a difficult time right now, but in the end, the measure of this man will win the day. He is now, and will always be, my friend.

So, here I am with my dad walking around the Sheriff’s office. It was a weekend or some other non-business day because the office was quiet. Me and my dad walked around, looking at all the memorabilia behind huge glass cases. Impressive. Massive. Awards, plaques, photos, historical pieces. So much more, but an office of an important man. His office was large, as you might expect. He had five secretaries, if memory serves, as well as a full contingent of other staffers. I had an office just down the way from his main office. I was Sheriff Baca’s senior media advisor; a title thrust upon me by one of his other senior advisors. I wrote speeches, press releases along with myriad other duties for the Sheriff. I was also his spokesman.

Me, this lost and confused boy who had a dad in his corner, had grown into a man of substance; now working directly for the man that ran the very same jails I had been an inmate. A dad that never gave up on his son. Help or hindrance? When my dad put his hand on my shoulder as we walked through these halls of justice and said with misty eyes, “I’m proud of you, son,” the answer was clear.

I’m going to be leaving this project now. After 24 columns – all of which can be found at stevewhitmore.wordpress.com – I believe you get the idea of a dad, a celebrity, an actor, but most important, a man of character. My dad was all of that. I thank God for the James Whitmore’s of this world.

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My dad, James Whitmore, Part Twenty Three

Funny thing about influence. It can come in the most obscure places.

In my case it was a television show called, “Northern Exposure.” It was on television from 1990 to 1995. It was about a New York City doctor sent to a tiny town in Alaska to practice medicine. It appeared to be a somewhat ideal life. TV at its finest.

Remember: My dad, James Whitmore, was an actor of some success and we grew up on television; movie production sets; and sound stages. TV and movies were a huge part of my growing up. I watched a lot of TV and movies as a kid and do so to this day.

Brennan was now nearly 5 when I decided to move my family to a tiny town in Southeastern Oregon thinking I would find a similar experience witnessed on TV. Not the smartest move on my part, I must say.

But let’s back up just for a bit. Then Oregon in all its finest, which did produce my second son, Sean. Just by the way, I was forced to deliver Sean in this small town of Lakeview, Oregon, because there was some kind of screw up during the delivery with the anesthesia and my wife at the time turned to me, ashen face, and whispered with all her might, “Can you please tell somebody I can’t breath.”

I did and the doc gave me an instrument and said, “pull out your son! We need to attend to your wife.” I did as instructed and delivered Sean into this world and he’s been a pain in the ass ever since. Not really. He’s a great guy. I’m lucky to be his pop.

Now back to Brennan, who was in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit for two weeks. That was nearly five years before the Oregon strangeness. Brennan did get stronger everyday and grew healthier and bigger every passing hour. Until finally, we could bring him home at a healthy 5-or-so pounds.

When we left the hospital, I was holding Brennan and my dad was walking alongside. As we entered the parking lot outside, a nice man or woman, I really don’t remember the gender, stopped us.

“I know you,” this kind person exclaimed, pointing at my dad. My dad, ever the most gracious with the public, smiled and thanked them. “No, I know you,” the person continued. “what’s your name? I know you. I just can’t think of it. Darn. What is it?”

Trying to be helpful, my dad responded, “James Whitmore.” The person recoiled, replying, “No, that’s not it. No, I know who you are. Give me a minute. I know ( a pause): You’re Ed Ames!” My dad smiled and agreed to give an autograph as Ed Ames. Life in the big city. Just as a side note, Mr. Ames was a popular singer and actor in the 50s and 60s, who often played a Native American.

“Jesus, what a life,” my dad said with a laugh as we walked toward my little economy car. I had placed the car seat right in the middle of the back seat so I could keep an eye on Brennan every minute. I probably drove about 5-miles-per-hour back to the apartment. Safe and sound.

Brennan was going to be safe and sound as long as I was able, I promised the skies above. I made the same promise when Sean came into the world that June day in 1992 in a small town in Southeastern Oregon.

We didn’t spend too much time in Lakeview, Oregon. We lasted about 9 months. Nice people. Nice place. Just not for us. I ended up as the managing editor of a little weekly newspaper in Lakeview as well as the managing editor for the local radio station. The work was fun. I do remember that.

But it was time to move on after about nine months. Sean was two weeks old when we moved back to the Southland.

My life was now set. I was sober. I had two kids and off we went as a family. I lived in Hutchinson, Kansas; La Crescenta; and Simi Valley of California. I worked different newspaper management jobs and wrote columns for Southland dailies. Life was now in session. I was present, and it was good. The days of yesteryear were gone and I was growing into a responsible, hard-working family man.

Next up: The final summation of this journey with the answer to the question: Was my dad’s help just that, a help, or was it a hindrance? The answer is next.

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My dad, James Whitmore, Part Twenty Two

“Do you want to cut the umbilical cord?” The doctor asked as he held my just-born baby boy. “No!” I said emphatically. Then I took the surgical scissors and went over to this little thing; this little baby boy that my wife and I had created. I’m sure with God’s help. And I cut the cord. The little thing was quickly taken away to the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit because he was so small, maybe two, four pounds. I don’t remember. Only that he was small. And perfect.

Brennan Richmond Whitmore was born December 9, 1987. And my life instantly changed. I wanted kids because I thought they’d keep me busy. I had a bounty of energy. What I didn’t know was that my newborn opened a reservoir of emotion unbeknownst to me. I fell deeply in love with this little guy.

To back up just a bit, I had gotten divorced from my first wife. Then dated a beautiful, kind lady with breast cancer who had recently passed. She was 36. We were together for the last two years of her life. When she died, she left behind a young, wonderful teen-aged daughter. The divorce and this lady’s passing put me in a strange position; to say the least, I was a bit confused.

I was at a meeting one night and a woman was waving at me, calling out my name. She cornered me outside after the meeting. I didn’t know who this person was but she was engaging and certainly encouraging.

The first thing she said to me that I remember was something like: “You owe me an apology.” “Excuse me,” I replied to this person I did not know. She went on to explain that we had attended San Diego State at the same time and were in a few classes together. I mumbled something in agreement just to get out of the conversation, unsuccessful I might add. She had me cornered and I was not going anywhere until she was done with me.

She continued to tell me in no uncertain terms that while in college I had insulted her in front of others and that I was an asshole. “You owe me an amends!” She kept demanding. “I am sorry for any harm I may have caused you,” I uttered, trying to get the hell away from this person. Finally, she relented and I was free to go.

I was later to learn that she was coming off a cocaine binge and trying to get sober. I did not remember her but being the way that I am, I asked her out on a date. Out first date was a funeral of a man that meant the world to me and others. We quickly became a couple. We married. She was kind. Smart and tough. Tough as nails.

She got pregnant. Brennan was the result. Now that you’re caught up. Here’s the deal: Brennan was in the Neo-Natal ICU for a couple weeks. My dad visited almost every day. Always there. Nearby.

I was encouraged by the doctors and nurses to touch my son. To talk to my son. There were openings in the plastic incubator they had him in where you could place your arms through and touch this incredible baby boy. He had tubes running out of every orifice of his body.

I had no idea what to do or say. I had just been laid off from my job at the L.A. Times; the first round of many cuts to come after my departure. Unemployed, no savings, married for four months, and living in an apartment where the landlord didn’t permit children. Scared was the kindest word to use for the state I was in.

I was petrified. I had never been responsible for anything in my life. Just along for the ride. See where it will take me. Well, there was something else now on this ride with me. A little baby boy fighting for his life and a bride with the courage of the bravest of the brave. The ride had become real. Plans had to be made. Jobs had to be found. A place to live had to be acquired. Life was in session and I had a job to do.

So, as suggested by the nurses and doctors to touch and talk to my son, I put my arms through the plastic openings and while I touched my son, my incredible little boy, I said in the most manly voice I could muster – I mean come on, this is the first thing I’m going to say to my boy, I have to at least sound like a grown up. I said: “Hi, my name is Steve Whitmore and I’m an alcoholic.”

Next up: A move. A job. A house. A magical life. Then, Oregon and all hell breaks out.

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My dad, James Whitmore, Part Twenty One

The bandage covered most of my face. I was in a hospital bed. My first job as an actor. I had only one line. Forget now what it was. I was nervous as hell and probably was rising out of the bed like Regan from the Exorcist. I did the scene, fluttered my one line and was done. Say hello to Hollywood.

My dad, famous movie star James Whitmore, was not much help. I don’t think he wanted me to go into the business. Meanwhile, my older brother, Jim III, was doing quite well.

I didn’t like the business. I was sober now about three years and flying off the planet. Energy bursting forth like a rocket blast.

Show biz had too much bullshit. People talking all the time and doing nothing.I was doing a lot of plays. Small theater groups. Must a done half-dozen plays. Joined one theater group as a member. Always doing something but bored as hell. Got jobs here and there. Bit parts. Long periods of no employment. Took odd jobs. Life was spiraling downward.

I couldn’t pay the rent. Had to borrow money from my mother. She reluctantly agreed. I stood on a street corner in Glendale across from the center where they offered assistance to the indigent. Those who can’t take care of themselves. I was sober now five years. I applied and received food stamps. I was depressed as hell. A friend said, “Don’t worry you’ll get used to it.” I never went back.

I met a neighbor girl. Liked her. She wanted to get married. I eventually acquiesced. I wasn’t doing anything. A friend offered me a job in an off-set printing plant in their dispatch center. I worked alone and sent mechanics out to repair these off-set printing machines. Easy job. Sat alone all day. I wrote a screen play in long hand in about four hours. Decided to shoot it. Why not? Life is short. Give it a try.

I must say the movie wasn’t very good, but I wanted to do it anyway. I raised $7,000 from friends and family and made this movie, “Choices” over a weekend. Actually sold it to Public Television. Had a music score and everything. It really stunk, though.

At the same time, I was cast as a semi-regular on the soap opera “General Hospital”. It was during the time of Luke and Laura, which apparently was a big deal. One day I was on “General Hospital” and that same night my movie was on television. Thought I’d be happy. I was at a meeting one night around this time and broke down and wept. I hated my life. I left show biz after being in it for 16 months. Had no idea what to do but I knew it wasn’t going to be that.

A friend got me a job as a teacher’s aid at an elementary school that my niece and nephew had attended. Cahuenga Elementary school. I was a big hit. They promoted me to playground supervisor. I was a cross between Mahatma Gandhi and Idi Amin. I was having a ball. I was approached to be a teacher. No thank you, I said. I gotta move around.

I had met the city editor of a small daily newspaper covering Glendale and the surrounding areas while I was doing the movie. They’d done stories on me. I went to him to talk about writing for the paper. He gave me a story that nobody had been able to do. I agreed to do it, I would be paid a single dollar for every column inch published. Twenty-inch story would be twenty bucks. I agreed to do it. I walked the streets of Glendale, California, and interviewed people about this piece and turned the story in. They published it. I had a byline, “by Steve Whitmore, Correspondent.” I loved it. Something in me broke the malaise of my self-absorption and a sense of well-being emerged. Weird as hell.

My pop, who had bailed me out time-and-time again, beamed with pride. He said, “that-a-boy.”

Next up: Divorce. L.A. Times comes a calling. My first son. Born premature. Neo-natal ICU. Live or die.

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My dad, James Whitmore, Part Twenty

The creature sat at the end of my bed. Looking at me, chuckling. It had three rows of teeth, bald head, deep, imbedded eyes, more slits than eyes. Squat, painted clown white and it was looking at me chuckling. Hissing almost. Scared the living shit out of me.

I called Will. Early in the morning, maybe 2 or 3 a.m. Always woke him up. For some reason, when I did that this creature disappeared. For that, I was eternally grateful.

Hadn’t had a drink now for a week or so. I was seeing things. Obviously. My hands would close up and twist outward, clamp down. Couldn’t break the grasp. They were locked. Then after a bit they would let up. It happened regularly. Will said it was alcohol-related. He wanted me to see a doctor. I had no money so he set it up and paid for it. The doc said I was going to be OK, if I didn’t start drinking again. He said my liver was bruised but it, too, could recover, if I didn’t drink again. That was the mantra.

My head was exploding. My body was exploding. Everything was exploding. Sweating was a daily occurrence. Noise was deafening. One night a bug was on the wall and it grew into this huge praying mantis, squawking so loud and facing me while attached to the wall. Tentacles reaching out slowly in my direction. Call Will. 2 or 3 a.m. in the morning. Monster bug disappears. I didn’t sleep for the a long time, The only time I felt at peace was by Will’s side. I felt safe near him. That’s where I stayed.

My energy skyrocketed off the charts. Had to do something. I enrolled in San Diego State University with one goal in mind: To graduate so my pop would be proud of me. One problem. I hated school. To much sitting. And I wasn’t exactly sedentary at this point.

Sobriety is not wonderful in the beginning. In fact, it’s a nightmare. Drinking was my way of living; getting through the day. Now that’s gone, I was a crazy, looney bird. You have to replace alcohol with something. That something was a group of men and women gathered together to not take the first drink one day at a time.

College. I decided my major would be drama. Easy I thought. I could do that. I started college using the G.I. Bill to live. The G.I. Bill paid me $304 a month to go to college.

I was a bit high strung so I decided I couldn’t do four years of this tedium. I took full loads of classes and more and did San Diego State in two years.

I acted in plays all the time. I was put on the Dean’s list for academic excellence. I was voted the King of the One Acts because of my acting in a number of plays. I enjoyed it. The success in college made me feel some worth.

The day of the graduation my family was there. Dad, brothers, mom. That was good. But what touched me was that Will was there.

The creature sat at the end of my bed. Looking at me, chuckling. It had three rows of teeth, bald head, deep, imbedded eyes, more slits than eyes. Squat, painted clown white and it was looking at me chuckling. Hissing almost. Scared the living shit out of me.

I called Will. Early in the morning, maybe 2 or 3 a.m. Always woke him up. For some reason, when I did that this creature disappeared. For that, I was eternally grateful.

Hadn’t had a drink now for a week or so. I was seeing things. Obviously. My hands would close up and twist outward, clamp down. Couldn’t break the grasp. They were locked. Then after a bit they would let up. It happened regularly. Will said it was alcohol-related. He wanted me to see a doctor. I had no money so he set it up and paid for it. The doc said I was going to be OK, if I didn’t start drinking again. He said my liver was bruised but it, too, could recover, if I didn’t drink again. That was the mantra.

My head was exploding. My body was exploding. Everything was exploding. Sweating was a daily occurrence. Noise was deafening. One night a bug was on the wall and it grew into this huge praying mantis, squawking so loud and facing me while attached to the wall. Tentacles reaching out slowly in my direction. Call Will. 2 or 3 a.m. in the morning. Monster bug disappears. I didn’t sleep for the a long time, The only time I felt at peace was by Will’s side. I felt safe near him. That’s where I stayed.

My energy skyrocketed off the charts. Had to do something. I enrolled in San Diego State University with one goal in mind: To graduate so my pop would be proud of me. One problem. I hated school. To much sitting. And I wasn’t exactly sedentary at this point.

Sobriety is not wonderful in the beginning. In fact, it’s a nightmare. Drinking was my way of living; getting through the day. Now that’s gone, I was a crazy, looney bird. You have to replace alcohol with something. That something was a group of men and women gathered together to not take the first drink one day at a time.

College. I decided my major would be drama. Easy I thought. I could do that. I started college using the G.I. Bill to live. The G.I. Bill paid me $304 a month to go to college.

I was a bit high strung so I decided I couldn’t do four years of this tedium. I took full loads of classes and more and did San Diego State in two years.

I acted in plays all the time. I was put on the Dean’s list for academic excellence. I was voted the King of the One Acts because of my acting in a number of plays. I enjoyed it. The success in college made me feel some worth.

The day of the graduation my family was there. Dad, brothers, mom. That was good. But what touched me was that Will was there.

Will Campbell is the reason I’m alive today. My love for him was as deep as infinity. He became my dad in so many ways.

Then there was my actual dad. He was there. I was the only son to graduate from college. I was the only son to serve in the armed forces. I was the only son. He was proud, bullish proud. But he expected more, always more. I knew it. I had caused a great deal of harm to my family. Trust was a distant relative with schemes. Off to Los Angeles to be an actor. Problem was, I didn’t like acting. It bored me. I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing anything. But I did it anyway. My dad did it. My brother was doing it. I was going to do it. There was trepidation.

And I was leaving Will. Clouds were forming. Staying put may have been the answer but I’ve always been on the move. The only time I’m happy is when I am on the move.

I went to Los Angeles and was courted by a huge agency ICM. Things were looking up except I was miserable. Sobriety is a place where your demons collaborate and move towards the inner destruction of your being. I was sober know for two years and mad as a hatter. Mad as a hatter.

Next up: TV shows. Movies. General Hospital soap opera. And total humiliation applying for food stamps. Fun in the big city.
city.

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