Blogging 365, Day 60: Goodbye, Uncle Lou


Goodbye, Uncle

Today I received word that my beloved Uncle Lou passed away after suffering a stroke. And although my heart is in a great deal of pain as I write this post, I do it because Uncle Lou would have expected nothing less from me.

Uncle Lou, retired from the aerospace industry where we think he was involved in projects so rooted in mystery that he could not speak of them, was also a published author. I probably can’t say any more about this than I already have in this post some years ago.

And this is why I write holding back tears at the moment.

It’s especially difficult for me to accept his passing since, as writers (or a published writer and a charlatan at the very least), we both worked on the same wavelength and no doubt beat our heads over the same agonizing issues that writers routinely face. Only a writer would bother to continue their quest to put words on paper or online even after mentally beating themselves up.

He had enough in him to finish yet another book but the last few years had been trying for Uncle Lou. His health failing, he continued to plug along with the help of his daughter who confessed at one of the last family get-togethers that we had almost lost him a few times before that.

But to Uncle Lou, it meant nothing. I’ll never forget walking into my Aunt Mary’s house and seeing him seated and taking with other family members. I walked up to him and he stood up, smiled, hugged me and with his right hand weathered after years of labor in both industry and ocean treks, he gently grabbed my cheek and lovingly shook it. The bond we discovered years earlier had only grown stronger. I recall sitting next to him and drinking limoncellos as we chatted about his last book and what he was working on next.

And it’s that smile I’ll never forget. Writing aside, the only other thing that made Uncle Lou smile was anything having to do with water. His many ocean voyages are proof of this and for further evidence, one need look no further than this picture of him giving Anthony some lessons on how to swim. (That’s the very same pool I learned how to swim in with the help of, you guess it, Uncle Lou.)

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And along with the ocean came the mystery. He would show up on your doorstep even if you had moved and you told nobody about it. It was his keen sense of, well, everything that earned him the right of being the family’s Mystery Man, or better yet…

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I still think Dos Equis beer owes him a debt of gratitude.

During one of my last bike rides to the Seal Beach Pier, I decided to send him an email with the attached photo:

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Uncle Lou,

I rode my bike to Seal Beach Pier and thought you would like this picture. It’s gloomy out here but beautiful.

Hope you are well,
David

I never heard back from him which was my first indication that things were not well on his end.

A few months ago, however, he sent me a PDF of the cover of his last book, Soulsearch(ing). It seemed rather prophetic considering today’s news. Here’s the synopsis. 

The soul does exist; it does have substance, and it does have a language. And all these things are something we already know exists. We know this intuitively, automatically. We have, however, in our own creative manner manipulated what we know into what we think.

Lou Cruz has always asked questions. These questions have taken him far and wide in search of answers, in search of the soul within him and what it is. Now, providing an amalgam of cutting-edge science, philosophy, and theology, Cruz presents an outline of his findings. The search has brought more questions than answers. Finding the soul is in part so difficult because we take its existence for granted. But finding it and accepting it could change our lives forever.

Today, my dear Uncle Lou discovered whether or not we have a soul and if the journey that awaits us on the other side is as dark, mysterious or wonderful as his were on this often cruel material sphere.

As of now, I have no information regarding his final arrangements but the only thing that would be appropriate for this old sea dog would be a burial at sea.

And while nothing would make him happier, nothing would make my heart cry more than seeing the ashes of a great man becoming one with the ocean he so dearly loved.

Rest in peace, Uncle Lou. I love you and miss you, and will continue to write just as you told me to.

Blogging 365, Day 7: Remembering Huell Howser


huell singsIt wasn’t a big enough story for me to get an SMS from my local news station’s breaking news alerts nor did it overshadow news of Kim Kardashian turning down a ridiculous amount of money for first dibs on her baby’s photos.

But that’s just how he would have wanted it.

Local public television personality Huell Howser, who delighted his viewers with his folksy Tennessean demeanor, boyish charm, and sense of wonderment at what some would consider the most mundane things, passed away Sunday at 67. He was the host of several public television shows that saw him visiting with people from all over the state of California, from as far south at the Mexican border and all the way up to the St. George Reef Lighthouse near Oregon.

While his passing has saddened many (myself included), it probably wasn’t a complete shock to some. It had been reported that Huell, a private man off-camera, was in ill health for some time which may have led to his sudden retirement on November 27, 2012 in which it was announced that he would cease production of his shows effective December 31, 2012. It’s also worth noting that he donated his desert home and video archive to Chapman University a year before.

I started watching his shows when I was a teenager because I fell for his simplistic approach to his shows: one camera and a microphone. That’s all it took for Huell to turn an ordinary trip into something “amazin'” as he would say. In a world filled with flashy intros and overproduction, Huell showed us that none of it is necessary in order for make great television.

What was great about them was the rapport he had with Joe Average, turning the camera on everyday citizens and finding something absolutely fascinating about what they were doing. Watch how he is enthralled by customers dining at Farmer Boys and Fosters Freeze. It’s just fantastic.

huell milkNo matter which show you watched, he opened up your eyes to parts of California you may have otherwise never known existed, and his down-to-earth persona appealed to viewers and those he was interviewing. You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody that had something bad to say about him, and his always joyful exclamations of “Oh my gawsh!” and “That’s amazin’!” only added to his charm.

Wherever he went, he made each and every excursion memorable and was always happy to bring us along. I can give a list of my favorite episodes but one in particular that I always remember was when he visited the See’s Candies factory. Not only did I learn that the white paint in side each and every location is actually a special blend called See’s White, but I also wanted to run out and buy a one-pound box of See’s Candies whenever I saw that episode. It was fantastic seeing Huell get so riled up at how candy – CANDY, people —was made.

How well-known and respected was Huell? Listen to this interview with his producer Phil Noyes and you tell me.

51762-sixHuell’s appeal went far beyond us common folk. Matt Groening is a huge fan of Huell Howser and not only parodied him in an episode of The Simpsons as Howell Huser but later had him portray himself in an episode in which Huell visited, of all places, a candy factory. It seems me and Groening share the same favorite episode, and I can’t think of a greater honor than to be a guest on that show.

In fact, here’s Homer Simpson congratulating Huell on 25 years at KCET.

Another one of my favorite episodes is this one in which he takes a former elephant trainer to visit his old friend. They say elephants never forget and that’s definitely the case here. (Note: have the Kleenex handy.)

And then there was the ubiquitous yet never-seen Louie, Huell’s cameraman on whom he always relied to get a shot a moment’s notice. Hearing him command “Hey Louie, get a shot of that!” and “Hey Louie, come on! Look at that!” was common and I often wondered if Louie ever got any sleep on their excursions.

He flew with the Blue Angels. He was on top of the Golden Gate Bridge. Huell got around.

Huell wrapped up each episode of California’s Gold with an instrumental of the state’s theme song, “California Here I Come.” To give you an idea of what an indelible mark he had on viewers, he was featured in a music video for Musician’s Institute in Los Angeles in which he sang the song about the state he so dearly loved. And I can’t think of a better way to end this post.

California’s gold has lost a lot of its luster in his passing, yet we are richer for having him take us along on his adventures. He brought a sense of pride to Californians and gave them a history lesson about some of their local businesses and landmarks.

Requiem in pace, Huell. You truly were a treasure and it’s hard for your fans to believe that you truly are gone. You were more than just a host of a television show, you were a friend to all of us.

May your next journey be paved in streets of gold.

Always in My Heart


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He would have been 78 today.

Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, and rest in peace, Dad. We all miss you.

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There’s nothing that I can say that I haven’t already said about the man I love, the man I miss, and the man who left me as a child on this day in 1976.

But I will type them once again through eyes that are swelling with tears.

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Dad, I love you and miss you. I still hope with all my heart that I can be at least half the father to Anthony as you were to me. Despite the demons that haunted you and unnecessarily ended your life too soon, there wasn’t a day that I don’t recall seeing a smile on your face and making me happy.

It’s hard to deal with even 36 years later. Sadness, frustration, downright anger. I feel them all and should because no child should have to deal with losing the one person in their life they think is indestructible.

But I have, and chances are you’d be damn proud of how I’ve picked up and carried on. And even if a tear still falls now and then, I know you’d be the first one by my side to cheer me up. You were like that. I can see you doing it.

I’m also quite sure you’d be proud of your grandson who is too much like me. I tell him stories of us and he can’t believe what he hears.

I can’t say much more. The tears are starting to be too much and my heart is heavy.

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Goodnight, Dad.

Ozzie


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Just a picture I took of Ozziekat in 2010. I still miss the little guy.

Shot with an Olympus EVOLT E-500