New, Painful Inspiration, Acting Lessons at Chili’s and a car from hell

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By age 17, my eldest son had saved $3000 from his job as a busboy to buy a car of his own. Everyone who has been at that impulsive age knows how challenging that can be.  He maintains a 3.0 at the local high school, by the way. I remember posting about him finally getting the car on facebook, twitter… everything I could think of.  Every now and then, I go back on my timeline to find it and just grin – usually when the car’s giving him hell. The ignition, the battery, the radiator… It’s always something with this 2004 Honda Civic, which is strange to me because I’ve driven Hondas all my life (my wife even drives one now). It drains more money and time out of us than we bargained for. It’s not what a kid that works like that deserves. A day of shooting the movie’s trailer was almost derailed because that damned car.

Last night he’s pushing it (while steering it and talking to me on the phone at the same time) off of a busy main road because of the transmission. He tells me cars are flying by as if the drivers don’t know or care  what blinking hazard lights mean. I imagine cars switching out of his lane just in time, from the passing engines and yelling and panic in his voice. I stay on the phone with him until I get there and quickly push his car into a parking space behind a Chili’s. My son paces by the restaurant’s dumpster, sweating, his eyes red. He looks defeated. I tell him he did well and to calm down. All the while, I’m thinking: He does not deserve this shit. I’m his father. This is my fault.

Although we thought we did our research, the rule is any used car is a gamble. I type that sentence and, it just looks like symbols on a page to me. It doesn’t ease the kink in my neck at all. I figure, if I had more money, then maybe he could have gotten something more reliable. Since getting into filmmaking, I have this mode of approaching difficult situations as scenes in a movie. It helps to prepare me for what I’m facing, so I tell him to sit tight as I run in the restaurant to borrow a flashlight from someone in Chili’s to get a look at what was going on under the hood. I keep a flashlight in my car; I was blowing the scene and needed a moment to myself. I go into the men’s bathroom and throw water on my face, forgetting I still had my glasses on. I put my back against wall and slink down unto a ball. He could have been hit in the damn road. He does not deserve this.

We drive home and I’m fighting the urge to hug him. If I do something that drastic, I fear he’ll know the situation was more than I’m trying to play it down to be. I  grip the steering wheel ‘til my knuckles pop to keep from doing it. Now I feel that I’m blowing the scene by being too cool to be of any comfort. I’m going to make this right somehow, and show him how to persevere regardless of setbacks. I figure I’ve been showing him that with how I’ve been dealing with the challenges of making North of the Grove. Still, it aches to the bone seeing him dispirited like that. I should have prevented it somehow.  I feel like an over-educated child failing in the world of adults. By this summer, I will get the film done and get him what he deserves, something reliable. I had a late night chat with success coach Derek Dodd. It helped me get at least a few hours of sleep.

I’m set to volunteer as a greeter to the Concours d’ Elegance auto auction in Boca Raton today. Wayne Brady and the like will be there. I have my business cards ready, that exact amount of money the project demands, the number of days left to raise it and yet I drift toward how great it would be if my son had more of an immediate reason to be proud of me – if I had more of an immediate reason to be proud of me.

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