I don't know about you, but this year was sort of surreal for me. It wasn't at all a bad year (though there were bad moments: a lawsuit, a smashed up car, neither of which was my fault you see) but it had its share of weird moments. Here are nine of them - which, grouped together, tell the story of my 2006 in general.
- Tom Sizemore's visit. The once-hot, now merely troubled actor Tom Sizemore used to live in my place in 1990-95. He'd come by twice before to admire his former digs, but neither my wife Miki nor her old roommate ever let him in. I swore that if he came around while I was home, I'd open my door to him - for surely he would have stories to tell! On November 1, I had that very opportunity, and wound up hearing Tom go on about his life for about an hour. Fascinating and sad. Did you know he had a yearlong affair with Elizabeth Hurley in the very room where I'm composing this List of 9? Well, now you do.
- Meeting Cindy Brady. My other strange celebrity moment came a bit earlier in the year. Miki had somehow befriended actor/musician Robbie Rist, still best remembered - much to his frustration, I'm sure - for his role as Cousin Oliver in The Brady Bunch some 35 years ago. Robbie invited Miki and me to a premiere of a movie he produced, and shortly after Miki handed him a pan of a dozen homemade cupcakes, Robbie introduced us to "Susan" - who we knew was Susan Olsen, Cindy Brady herself. Having grown up watching The Brady Bunch several times a day, this was one of the more bizarre celebrity meetings I've had.
- Backstage at Disneyland. At the start of 2006, I was hired for a job in which I helped conceive and design a potential new attraction at Disney's Epcot Center. For my troubles, I was allowed to go behind-the-scenes at Disneyland, which meant I got to use the "Cast Member" entrance and look at the rear ends of all those fancy buildings on Main Street USA (which are mostly just flat facades). Ironically, it only made me want to come back to Disneyland as a proper tourist, which I did a few weeks later.
- An automotive out-of-body experience. In January I sold my car of 14 years to an up-and-coming actor who needed wheels. In September, I had a brief design job at Warner Bros. (cut short by my trip to Spain - see below) and while driving in to work, I saw my old car just a few feet ahead of me. To add to the surreality, just a few days ago the guy who bought the car sent me an email informing me that it was still running great - and moments later, I learned that during the night, somebody had seriously smashed into my new car, right in front of my house!
- Chickens in trees. Did you know that chickens are able to fly high enough to land in a tree? I sure didn't. But when Miki and I were driving up the coast for her musician boss's fall tour, we stopped for lunch in Fair Oaks, a suburb of Sacramento, and saw wild chickens that not only roam the streets but actually perch in the trees.
- The very nice birthday present. I was in the midst of opening up presents from my wife on my birthday last April when the phone rang. It was a representative of Getty Images, informing me that I won grand prize - $10,000 - in their "Next Big Idea" short film competition. I never imagined I'd ever win the grand prize in anything. So that was a strange moment, though of course a wonderful one.
- Being on a cinematography panel in Montana. A secondary perk from the Getty win was all the free trips it entailed: a trip to New York for The Next Big Idea party, a trip to Chicago to introduce the winning films to Getty employees and their clients, and finally a trip to Bozeman, Montana as part of their annual HATCHfest, a film and arts festival, where I was quite oddly plunked onto the "cinematography" panel, right next to Oscar-winning DP Vilmos Szigmond. I held my own, but I sure wouldn't have guessed at the beginning of 2006 that I'd be sitting next to an Oscar winner in Montana trying to sound like I knew something about cinematography.
- Cruising. In what may or may not turn out to be a side career for me - it's too early to tell - I had my first magazine article published this year. It was for a trade magazine for travel agents. Soon after printing my tips for London day trips, they hired me to go on the inaugural cruise of a ship called the Norwegian Pearl, in and around Miami, so I could write about it. I had never been on a cruise ship before and doubted that I ever would. Not my cup of tea, you see. But there I was, sunning myself on the pool deck, relaxing in my cabin, and doing shots in one of the ship's many bars with a bunch of gals from the cruise line's PR company. To be honest, folks, in 2006 I made possibly the lowest income in any year since I graduated college. And yet throughout the year I was given free trips, put up in deluxe accommodations, and treated like royalty. Surreal, to be sure.
- Hanging out in Salvador Dalí's house. I had to end the list with this item - I mean, you can't get more surreal than Dalí's house, can you? I was visiting friends in Spain and we made sure to take a trip to the famous painter's home in nearby Cadaques, now open for tours.