No father is perfect, but all fathers undeniably play a significant role in shaping us into who we are. As Father’s Day approaches, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen share their memories of their fathers – the good, the bad, and the uncomfortable. They relate how each of their fathers gave them gifts that uniquely set the stage for them to do what they do best now. As you listen to this episode, take time to recall the good things you had with your father, and reflect on how the things you did with him impacted your life. Sit down, relax, and take this opportunity to reminisce, reconnect, and reconcile with your old man.
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The Gifts Our Fathers Gave Us: Sharing Stories On Father’s Day
It’s almost Father’s Day and I thought it would be nice to talk about our dads more in-depth and probably specifically more my dad, because we’ve talked about Jason’s dad a bunch, but maybe we will talk about your dad in some new ways, Jason.
It’s so interesting you are bringing this up, Whitney because one of the first thoughts that I had when I woke up was asking you how your dad’s doing. It’s so interesting that you’re broaching the subject for us because I wanted to check in with you and see how he was doing. Here you go and bring it up. We were psychically on the same page, even though we are physically distanced at this moment. We are still on the same page in a lot of ways. I’m excited to hear more details about your dad that I probably don’t know about.
Maybe some juicy bits about his youth, his crazy years in his twenties, maybe the wild stuff he did that I don’t know about. Maybe he is singing in some dark piano bars in Boston while he was getting his degrees or some of his musical exploits. I’m hopeful I’m going to learn something and I’m going to go, “I didn’t know that.”
I suppose there’s a lot about my dad that I don’t know or recall. I’m not very good at remembering facts. I do much better when I have them in writing. I’m not sure I can do much of my dad’s history of justice. When I think about his past, I think about photos I’ve seen of him growing up and it’s funny to see him at different stages of his life. I feel like I learned a lot about my dad through my grandfather, his father who passed away, but I used to interview my grandfather a lot.
My dad was often there during those interviews. I’ll link to one of the video interviews that I did with my grandfather, which is probably the video I have received the most positive feedback on over the years because it touched a lot of hearts. My grandfather was around 95 years old when I did that video. He was indecently great health at the time. I interviewed him a couple more times. In fact, the last time I saw my grandfather, I got him on camera and did a mini-interview and he passed away less than 48 hours after that. I cherish that video.
It shines some light on my dad and my dad’s an open book. He’d be cool to bring on the show, maybe we can do that someday, whether it’s in person or remotely. My dad’s got a great voice and he’s good at presenting. That helped me a lot. I’m trying to think of my mom and my sister are good at presenting. I think my mother is, but I don’t quite know about my sister. My dad does a lot of teaching and he gave me a lot of great qualities. That was my initial inspiration for this, reflecting on my dad. I haven’t brought him up much. I feel like Jason’s dad comes up in a lot of our conversations organically, but I thought it’d be nice to share positive things about our fathers. The same goes for you, Jason, because some of the times that you’ve talked about your dad, there’s some sadness there. You opened up about him. Which episode where we are talking about him?
If we go way back to the intro episode, I think the second episode where I talked about him, we talked about our backgrounds. The episode around Toxic Masculinity was the episode where I got into my workaround my forgiveness with my dad and the abandonment issues and looking deeper into the lineage from that side of the family and not looking at what my dad went through. We never have the whole picture of another human being. I was talking to Laura, the woman I’m dating, about you can go years having someone like a parent, lover, husband, wife, and partner, whatever the case may be and there are layers and stories and experiences we’ll never hear about. That was the episode where I got a little bit into the lineage healing that I’ve been doing around specifically the male figures on my dad’s side of the family. Himself, his grandfather, his great grandfather and learning more about that.
For me, my dad, in terms of what he gave me as qualities that I’m grateful for is research. I admire the amount of reading that he does. I wonder if that came from him. Is that a quality that I can directly attribute to my dad or is it that we both happened to like? When you think about how you are shaped like a human being, I often wonder if the quality is of us as human beings are nature versus nurture and I think sometimes it’s a combination of it. It’s hard to pinpoint what shapes us as human beings. Does your passion for research and reading get passed down genetically? Perhaps. A lot of things get passed down to us. My dad’s dad was a big researcher. My mother’s father, my grandfather on that side, was very studious as well and also a teacher. I have a lot of genetic influence there. The nurturing side of being around my grandparents and my dad. My dad loves the library, as much as I do, if not more. My very first job was working in a library. I don’t know if I mentioned this before.
I have a feeling that came from my father because we spent a lot of time going to the library. Still to this day, when I visit my family, I often end up going to the library with my dad for fun. In my small hometown, they actually moved the library’s location to a historic building and completely revamped it and it’s this incredible library. I’m so grateful for that. I have so many great memories about working there and understanding books the new way and the process of it. It brings me a lot of joy. I have so many memories of my dad reading a lot. He still, to this day, has stacks of books and he puts whole ahold on them. He’ll go through so many books and I’m like that too. Except now, I do it digitally. I use my library card from Los Angeles to access a phenomenal resource called Libby. It’s part of a service called OverDrive. That allows you to digitally borrow books and read them on your computer or a device, or listen to them as an audio book. I wish we were sponsored by them because that would have been a very organic advertisement.
It almost did feel like it. When you sneaked it in there, do we have a new sponsor I didn’t knew about? “By the way, Jason, we have a new sponsor.”It is important to be aware and grateful for how our parents shaped and continue to shape our lives. Click To Tweet
I was so disappointed. There was a sponsored opportunity with Libby that I applied for my website and I didn’t get it. I was like, “Don’t they know what they’re missing out on? I’m such a natural ambassador for them.” It turns out a lot of people are. That Libby sponsorship was very popular and competitive. I didn’t realize that many people loved it as much as I did. If you, the reader, have not utilized it yet, it is a phenomenal resource. I cannot recommend it enough. I literally use it every day to read a book or to listen to an audio book for free through your library card.
Like my dad, I utilize the library pretty much every single day of my life. I’m so grateful for it. What an incredible resource. You can spend so much money and resources buying books. I know Jason loves books as much as I do. We deeply enjoy going to the bookstore and that experience of walking around, checking out what’s new, smelling them and purchasing them, especially small bookstores, is wonderful. It’s such a treat going into them because they often have such personality. Jason, were you with me when we went into that bookstore in New Hampshire with the cat?
That was one of my most delightful experiences is whenever I go to a new city, going to small, independent booksellers. That was such a unique experience because not only the cat, but the fact that this book shop was in a converted house. It was someone’s house.
The owner of the bookshop lives above the bookstore with his cat. I’ve been in there a bunch of times. I might’ve taken my dad in there once and he didn’t seem to appreciate it as much as I did. He might be a little bit more fund of libraries than bookstores, but I’m not sure. I’d have to ask him that directly. I would say I am too. I like the experience of going into bookstores, but because I’m so used to borrowing books, it seems odd to buy a book these days, unless I can’t access it through the library. From an environmental standpoint, buying something that you’re only going to use once seems silly and it takes up space and clutter.
I will say that I learned from The Life–Changing Magic of Tidying Up, that if you love a book, you read it multiple times and you’re going to give it to friends to borrow, then that’s a book should keep. If I’m ever going to acquire a book, I keep that in mind. My dad’s love for books and his research skills too have played a big role in my life. I remember growing up, he was helpful for me, understanding to look at multiple sources for information. My dad was in the legal world. He’s worked as a lawyer and he’s worked in a lot of different elements of the legal system. He’s always looking at it from that lens and has been very studious, into data and making sure you get the right facts. I’ve had so many moments in my life, whether I was in school or I was making YouTube videos, my dad would review them and see them through the lens of the non-biased critical perspective. He would often play the devil’s advocate, which would drive me crazy sometimes because I wanted him to agree with me. That was a good skill for me to develop. I’m grateful for that.
Also, the other big thing that shaped me as a person from my dad is technology. I’m grateful for that because when I was growing up, I was one of very few women that understood technology as well as I did. I learned this from my dad and he probably was influenced by his father. My mom’s dad was like this too. They were all very into creating things. My mom’s dad was actually an inventor and he created all interesting things and has patents and that was fascinating. My dad’s dad had this cool tool shop in the basement of his home.
They were always fiddling with electronics and my dad would get computers and various devices. I remember we had a video camera fairly early on. He would research stereos to buy and all that stuff. He wouldn’t go over the top. He wouldn’t buy everything when it came out, but he would dig into the best things whenever he was going to buy something. Computers were something I had access to fairly early on. It’s so interesting how much has changed over my lifetime and Jason’s lifetime and it’s remarkable. We take computers for granted, but not that long ago, they were expensive and not every family had them. Having access to a computer and understanding how to use a computer was a rare skill when I was a little girl. My dad took me to a computer museum. You and I both grew up during a huge evolution of technology and computers in particular. There was a museum in Boston or Cambridge. I grew up in Massachusetts. My dad worked in Cambridge and my mom worked in Boston.
I was in the city with them every once in a while. On one of my trips with him, he took me to the computer museum and it was this whole museum dedicated to the history of computing and it was interactive. You could go into all these different exhibits and they talked about computing and it was so cool. I remember there being a giant keyboard and a giant mouse. They’re showing how computers worked. There was some exhibit where they showed all the zeros and ones and how that display the information. I’m around ten years old. I’ll have to look it up because it was cool. My dad was into that stuff. We would go together and he showed me how to use the computer. It’s interesting now that it’s such a common thing. Little kids that are 2 or 3 years old know how to use iPhone. It’s the equivalent of that. Having the access to those tools gave me so much confidence and love for technology.
I also developed my skills with video equipment very early on because my dad had a video camera and my grandfather was also into that too. Growing up, I have footage of myself from a few years old. Not to date myself too much, but that’s not something that everybody had at a young age. They didn’t necessarily have parents that wanted to document their lives as much as my dad and my grandfather did. By seeing them use all this technology, I started to find an interest in it and I had access to this equipment. I was able to hone my skills very young and that shaped my career path. I loved the camera so much as a little girl that I got very passionate about filmmaking in my teens. I went to summer film programs in high school and eventually, I went to film school. That all started with my dad and his father and their camera equipment. My computer skills, I would notice throughout high school and college, and even to this day, there’s a level of confidence and joy that I have around technology that not everybody I know has.
Here’s a question that arises in all of this and your background with your dad and grandpa. Is the combination of having a curious question or mind. You have the questioner archetype of the mindset combined with the skillset you learned from your dad in terms of fact checking and researching multiple sources. You add this layer of technological prowess. I’m curious how all of those things have coalesced in this moment where there’s so much information being bombarded at us online and on the news all the time. How do all those skillsets help you in this moment on planet Earth in 2020, which has been a crazy year, to sort through all the bombardment of information that we’re getting on a constant basis? How do all those skill sets help you with that?
Attributing my dad’s skills as a presenter and a teacher. He worked at Harvard Law School for a significant portion of my childhood. He started his own business and left there. I was at Harvard Law School a lot as a little kid and a preteen. Being exposed to that environment too, which is very studious. Harvard is this institution based on very educated people. I was around that administrative environment. He worked in an admin element. I still get confused on my dad’s history sometimes. I would be in his office and around all these other people that were using equipment.
I loved working in an office setting as a kid. I would like pretend that I worked there too. Seeing my dad and as a kid, you naturally mimic them in some ways. That combination of liking the administration stuff and seeing how people were presenting, teaching, using technology and creating content, that’s basically a lot of my major skills. For me, I’m the person in my friend group that understands technology. People come to me and sometimes hire me for that. My dad wasn’t a big part of my social media development. We certainly would talk about things like Twitter and Facebook as those evolved as platforms. He doesn’t use Instagram or TikTok, the latter of which I love so much. I bet he probably influenced those things as well.
Without my tech background and my teaching background, my coaching, all of the stuff that I’ve been doing, a lot of the things that I do for work as a consultant probably wouldn’t be as quite as strong. Part of what I add is value to people is my research skills. That’s one of the biggest things I can help people with because there is a lot of information. I’ve learned a skill to not only find that information, but be able to help people feel less overwhelmed with it. I don’t get super overwhelmed with information, at least over time. For example, I was trying to compare products on Amazon and it’s frustrating.
It’s like you have all these comparable products, they’re all about the same price, but I enjoy the process of narrowing things down and so does my dad. In fact, he has been working on this project for 10 to 15 years that is based around helping people make decisions. My dad is passionate about that. That’s a skillset of mine and a passion of mine too. How can I support people in figuring out what’s best for them? My dad and I share that. In this moment, I’m sitting here thinking, “Is that nature or nurture?” “How is it that my dad and I have so much in common?” When I think of how I developed as a person, so much of our development is based in childhood, but a lot of these skills, it came out of my adult life, like through college or after college. How has it that my dad has had such a huge impact? Is it in my genes? Did he set the stage for me as a person when I was little?
In my observation too, looking at the whole picture of your family, I feel like your personality traits and how you’re wired and what you’re passionate about mimics your dad. Whereas I feel your sister more mimics your mom. It’s fascinating that you’re talking about your dad to see that. Genetics are interesting. When we’ve talked about epigenetics here on the show, it is the idea that we have predispositions to certain expressions in our health or our physiology or our life passions or the way we think about things. It doesn’t guarantee that our genetics are going to predestine something to come to fruition in our life, but we have a predisposition to those things.
I wonder in terms of your passions, your interests, your talents, if those are things that on some cerebral level, you were predisposed to enjoy maybe because they’re a genetic gift or your talents are genetically inherited. It was easy for you to develop those things because you were naturally passionate about them or was it simply by the fact that you said you spent so much time with your dad in his work environments? Which I think is also semi unusual, because if I think about both of my parents, I didn’t necessarily spend even a moderate of time around them in their work environment. You having that time with your dad in those arenas, to me, that’s unusual and interesting.
It might not have been that much. I think some of my favorite selective memories come from that. My mother’s workplace had this as well. It might’ve been a countrywide initiative, but growing up, they had, “Bring your daughter to work day.” The aim was to help educate women and show them the options for your career. I was blessed that my dad was working at Harvard Law School at the time and it was neat. Part of it was the trust that my parents had with me as a kid, but also the time that we were raised in, because my dad would let me do whatever I wanted. I remember roaming the halls of Harvard Law School by myself as a kid, going to the vending machines and going around the different areas. I would memorize the layout of that place. I have so many fond memories of being at work with him. I also remember having access to the internet early on.
It’s so incredible to think about what’s happened during her lifetime, but the internet rose, as I was a little girl. Because my dad was at Harvard Law School, he probably had different access than a lot of other people did, considering internet was expensive, complicated and unknown. Educational institutions often had access to the internet in ways that we might not at home. I remember using chat rooms early on and Netscape. Did you ever use Netscape, Jason, pre-Google?
Yes, Netscape Navigator. There was also AltaVista, which was a search engine and NetZero. All that stuff is pre dot-com crash. That’s 1994 to 1999 period. It’s so crazy how huge those were too.
Those were the things I was discovering through my dad. He was allowing me to utilize that and explore. That was a huge part of our developments as preteens and teenagers. Especially, during that age, you’re so curious. I remember going to the chat rooms and flirting with people that might’ve been in their 40s, but were pretending to be my age. You could have a whole story about yourself. It was like catfishing ahead of its time, or maybe pedophilia, unfortunately.It is a privilege to have a lot of memories with your parents. Click To Tweet
It was dangerous and very innocent at the same time. The internet was so new, we didn’t even know it was possible. People were exploring and it was neat. What a gift to be able to witness that development in our lifetimes. I’m grateful that my dad was interested enough and had access to those things, so I got access as well. I got to do some of those things with my mom, but I only have a couple memories of my mom’s office in Boston. My dad’s, I went there a lot more.
Two great memories come to mind. One was that we could sit in on classes at Harvard Law School. Here I am, this young kid, watching these lectures, which were probably incredibly boring, but I also remember thinking it was neat. Also, around that time, webcams are being developed and they showed us a video webcam stream. We got to talk to somebody through the webcam and we were like, “What the heck?” It was horrible quality, but nobody had that. This was way ahead of its time.
Webcams still to this day are in development. Even like FaceTime and Skype and Zoom, they’re not perfect. They’re still confusing and quality issues. Think about twenty-plus years ago being able to see that and think that that’s only something you can do at Harvard Law School. Now, we have access to that. Everybody has access to some cameras. It was neat, a great gift and certainly a version of privilege too. We’re each shaped by our families and some of us have access to things that other people don’t have access to. That’s important to be aware of how our parents shape our lives. For me overall, I can’t even think of anything that bad about my dad and that’s such a huge blessing.
My dad has given me so much and been such a huge source of love and support. Everything negative about him feels so minor to me. That in itself is a massive privilege. He’s still in my life, healthy, wise and we have a great relationship. I’m grateful for that. Jason, your dad’s no longer in your life or anybody’s life at this point. I would love to hear maybe some positive memories that you have of your father and maybe positive things that you’ve learned about him. What comes to mind around that?
First of all, I love how you’re being kind and gentle and like, “He’s no longer in your life. He’s no longer in anyone else’s which means he’s dead.” Which means yes, my father is dead. He’s no longer in his body. It’s a difficult thing to bring up because I have very few memories that I can recall positive memories with my father. Most of the things that I recall about my direct experience with my dad are things that were challenging and painful, confusing, filled with fear and a lot of pain for me. To be honest with you, it is a bit difficult to exhume some feelings or memories around my dad who are positive or joyful.
One memory that does come to mind though, we grew up in the City of Detroit and we had a house on Fielding Street that had a double lot. Whatever the standard lot size in Detroit was, we had double that amount. We had a huge yard and I remember it would take forever to cut and trim the grass at our house. When I was little and my dad was still around, he and my mom were together, they would invite family over. I was connected to my mom’s family. I still am, less so to my dad’s side. My dad’s family was split between Puerto Rico, where he grew up and was raised, and then a lot of the family came to Detroit. My grandfather, his dad, from my knowledge, was the first one to come to Detroit to work for the auto industry because there were opportunities here and there was money here. It was pretty challenging to make a living in the small village he grew up in Puerto Rico called Naranjito.
My grandfather came over. When my dad was in his late teens, early twenties, he also moved to Detroit. This might be the only positive memory I can think of. We were having a family gathering at my house in Detroit. I remember us being in our huge grass yard and my cousin Rikki St. James came over. Rikki was the first cousin I remember being like, “I want to be like him when I grow up,” because my cousin was a guitar player in a band called the Motor City Bad Boys, a rock band in Detroit. He drove a Trans-Am with the screaming fire chicken on the hood, like Smokey and the Bandit shit and he had two giant Bouvier dogs.
One of my earliest memories at maybe three years old, they would put me on the back of these dogs and I would ride the dogs around the backyard like they were horses. That’s how huge these dogs were and how little I was at the time. One of the fond memories I remember is getting together with my grandma and my grandpa on my dad’s side and our cousins and extended family, a few of his brothers and sisters, and we would have family gatherings. I remember my cousin’s bad-ass car, which my father always had incredible cars growing up.
That’s probably one of the reasons that I have such a deep love for cars, not only growing up in Detroit, the Motor City, but my mom and dad had some unbelievable cool vintage automobiles growing up. The stuff that if you’re a car person, you’d be like, “I can’t believe he had that stuff.” That’s one of the first fond memories I think I can recall at this moment is the few family gatherings we had with his side of the family and the cars and the dogs. I don’t remember the last time I thought about that memory. It’s been years. At this moment, that is the only joyful memory of my dad I can recall.
I hope this conversation triggers more joyful moments. It’s important for us to focus on the positive. I also wonder because of the way our brains work, if we think the same thoughts over again, we’re training ourselves to think that way where we’re reinforcing those beliefs. I wonder what positive memories may be stored within you that you don’t recall simply because you’re out of the practice of thinking of them.
When I think about your dad, I’m focused on the negative things that you’ve told me. I feel like that’s the lens in which you see your father. There’s also the Shel Silverstein story. We shared that in the episode with Ruby Roth. If you haven’t read that, it’s my favorite episode. There was a brief moment that we shared a little anecdote of Shel Silverstein, so you can check that out if you’re curious about it. I certainly think the car side of things impacted you with your dad, but it sounds like that comes from your mom as well. The two of them shared a fondness for cars and you got to experience a lot of interesting cars in your lifetime. Wasn’t there the car that your dad had that your mom sold or they sold together?
Before my mom and my dad got together as romantic partners, they were both into automobiles. My mom’s first car in Detroit was the 1955 Porsche Cabriolet. Back then Porsche’s were not what they are now. You could go out and get a fifteen-year-old Porsche and it was not a big deal. It’s not this thing that it is nowadays like, “You bought a Porsche.” My mom was into cars and she rode motorcycles. When she and my dad met, they had that shared affinity. I could go on and on about the cars they had.
The most famous story is that one of the things my dad did as a business is he would go and hunt down barn finds. Barn finds are still something that happens to this day. I’ll click on automotive websites and be like, “A Ferrari GTO was discovered in a barn in Arkansas and it’s worth $14 million.” This stuff still happens. It’s rare. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, my dad was doing this stuff. He was going down South, going to smaller towns and smaller cities and finding these automobiles that people had stored in their barns for many years and didn’t know what they were and needed restoration. My dad would buy these cars from these people that didn’t know what they were didn’t care, and he would restore them and then resell them for a profit.
Some of the cars my mom and dad kept, we had Jaguar E-types, Porsche Cabriolets, Excaliburs, Alfa Romeos, Triumphs. I look back on some of those pictures. I was so little, I didn’t know what they were at the time, but now I’m like, “I can’t believe we had that.” The most famous car that we had, I think was 1966 or 1967 Shelby 427 Cobra. My dad had it for years in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. My mom and dad tell me stories about racing Camaro and Corvette. At that time, that was one of the fastest cars ever, the Shelby 427 Cobra. Back then it was 0 to 16 in 4.1, 4.2 seconds.
They would destroy anybody on the road. It was so fast that time. My dad ended up selling the car in the early ‘80s to George Stouffer, which if you’ve heard about The Stouffer Corporation, he was the heir to that fortune. I don’t know how my dad found George Stouffer, this rich guy. He sold it to George Stouffer in the early ‘80s for like around $50,000. Fast forward to now and prices have dipped a little bit. As a ballpark figure, if you go to a Sotheby’s Auctions or a Pebble Beach or a Mecum Auto Auctions, the big auto auctions, a few years ago, you would routinely see late ‘60s well-maintained Shelby 427 Cobra for going over $1 million.
I’m always like, “Why did you sell that fucking car?” Out of all the cars, that’s the one is a legend. I think I’ve only ever seen one original Shelby 427 Cobra in my life. I don’t know how many there are in the world anymore. It’d be interesting to Google that and look it up, but there’s not many. That was the one car that when I knew about what it was and asked my mom about it, I was like, “Why did you allow him to sell that car?” Of course, at that time, $50,000 in the early ‘80s, we made a nice profit on it. There’s no way they could have predicted that car was going to sell for $1.5 million, $2.5 million. That’s the one that got away. That’s probably the most famous car from there and the stable that we had growing up
That reminds me of an opposite story. After my grandfather passed away, my family ended up selling his house and we had to go through everything because my grandmother had passed away four years previous to my grandfather. He was still living in their home until the end. We finally went through everything in the home. The one thing that my grandmother left behind as part of the family inheritance was this prized possession of Beanie Babies. She was obsessed with Beanie Babies when they came out and we keep them in mint condition. We had this feeling in the family that they were going to be worth so much money, but it turned out that they were virtually worthless. It was sad in a way because my grandma saved them for us to sell after she passed away. It didn’t turn out to be quite the investment but she was hoping.
She was banking on the Beanie Babies though. They were at point though. I remember when people were reselling those Beanie Babies at a time when eBay first came out in the mid ‘90s-ish. I remember those Beanie Babies reselling for crazy amounts of money.
Maybe some of the items in her collection could have, but it was more trouble than it was worth. Nobody cared enough for us to figure out how to sell them and on and on. Maybe we missed out, but that’s what comes to mind. It’s funny how certain things can collect value over time or things that you think are going to be valuable end up not being valuable.
It’s hard to predict. I am a car guy and had that in my blood from my family and my mom and my dad. I read, as a completely tangential aside and never knowing how to predict this stuff. I’m a big fan of Honda cars. I’ve had a lot of Hondas in my life and modified them and had race engines put in. There was a 1999 Honda civic SI, a run of the mill Civic. That sold for $50,000 because now the ‘90s Japanese sports cars, even the minor ones like the Civics, and ones that are completely unrestored and unmolested and in great condition are selling for crazy amounts of money. Who would predict that? “I’m going to go spend $10,000 on a Civic back in the ‘90s and sold it for $50,000.” There’s no way to predict that kind of stuff.This Father’s Day, reminisce, reconnect, and reconcile. Click To Tweet
It’s fascinating reflecting on all of these things. My heart goes out to you, Jason because I do feel like it’s a privilege to have a lot of memories with your parents. I know you cherish that so much with your mother. It’d be interesting to be able to go back and see what you could find out about your dad. One of the greatest things my dad did was he has journal entries from the day I was born and he didn’t continue them, but I do have these wonderful little entries that he wrote my first few days of life that I cherish and are a sweet thing to have. My dad’s like a very heart-centered person too. He’s passionate about health and I was reflecting on how that’s impacted me.
I remember learning about the harm of sugar from my dad and the various phases that we would go through as a family. Now, we educate each other and we share information about food. I tend to share a little bit more with him, but he loves trying different things. That’s interesting to see how that developed. My dad was passionate about a lot of natural remedies. I remember him experimenting with St. John’s Wort as that could impact his mood. When I was talking to him, the most recent conversation I had, he was telling me how he is so consistent with his walking. That is a huge part of my dad’s life is taking walks in the neighborhood that he lives in. He said that he can’t even remember the last time he skipped a walk.
That’s dedication and consistency that is incredibly remarkable. That’s my dad’s main source of working out. He’s gone through phases of doing Pilates. It was 2019 when he got into doing Pilates. I could never imagine my dad doing that. Off and on throughout my life, he’d try different things, but walking has been the most consistent and there’s a lot of research that shows how much walking can impact your health. It seems so simple and such a small thing, but it’s low impact. It’s great for your body in so many different ways and your mental state. My dad is known to bring audio recording devices with him. I don’t know exactly if he still uses them, which one he uses, or if he uses his iPhone.
For years and years, he will record his thoughts as he takes walks. He’ll go home and take notes based on those recordings. That’s where he’ll get ideas for his work and maybe ideas on life. You’ll hear him in his home office listening back to the thoughts that he shared with himself. I do that in my way as well. It’s such a shared thing. Mentally, taking that daily walk is so important to him. He even does it when it rains. In some of the times that I’ve visited my family, I’ll be home. I’ve got a car. If it starts pouring rain, sometimes I’ll like to drive and try to see if I can find him. He won’t even bring an umbrella. He’s unfazed by the rain. He’ll just, “I’m going for a walk and hope that I’ll dodge some of the rain,” and he’ll like to do a big loop. I don’t know how far exactly he walks, but usually 30 minutes to 1 hour every single day.
Even in the middle of the legendary Massachusetts winter?
Yes. He has his hat, his jacket and his gloves. He’s committed. Luckily, where my parents live, there’s a lot of different paths that you can take. It’s a small town. He’ll go through these trails in the woods or he’ll go on the street. He knows which areas are good for different times a year. He runs into the same people. It’s so sweet. That’s one thing I don’t like about Los Angeles is that it would be nice to live somewhere that peaceful because I like taking walks too. In LA, it’s hard to find a peaceful area. Even the trails out here, they’re nice, but you’re still constantly surrounded by people. I love that idea of solitude through nature. It sounds so nice. That’s something that I cherish whenever I’m visiting my parents. I go for walks with my dad or walks by myself and take my dog. It’s so lovely. Jason’s been on them too.
It’s such an antidote to the chaos and frenetic energy of city life. I think it’s the contrast too. I’ve lived in big cities my entire life. Whereas you grew up in a more rural than the city. Growing up in a small town, surrounded by as much nature as it is, because having been there many times, it always feels like your nervous system does this. It decompresses and relaxes. There are times when I definitely fantasize about escaping the city because I wonder how much more energy I would have to be creative if I didn’t have the pressures and stress of city life or is the crazy pressures and stress of city life feeding the creativity.
This is a tangential conversation. I remember the feeling when I go visit your family and we go to the town you grew up in. It always feels so nice to slow down and not rush so much. That’s one of the biggest benefits I feel. For me growing up in Detroit and living in Chicago, New York, Bay Area and Los Angeles, it’s from big city to big city. I’m always curious about how my body and my physiology and my mind would respond by being more in an environment like that.
Speaking of our fathers too, it’s interesting because you grew up in Detroit, but then your father came out to Los Angeles. Would you say you followed him or were you inspired by him? Does your decision to move out here have anything to do with him per se?
One hundred percent. As a backstory, when my dad came over to Detroit from Puerto Rico, after my grandfather came over, my dad worked as a stonemason and he would build fireplaces and indoor cool stonework inside people’s houses. My dad was very skilled at that. As he went on through life, he got into the car thing and was doing the restoration of classic cars. The thing that got him out to Los Angeles was one of the close family friends named Bill moved out to work at UCLA in the mid-’70s. This was like maybe a little bit before I came on the scene. My mom and dad lived in Los Angeles in the early ‘70s. They had a place in North Hollywood and they had a place in Beachwood Canyon. My mom and dad lived in Los Angeles for a spell. There’s a whole interesting story about Patty Hearst and the Black Panthers and my mom and kidnapping. Maybe, in the end, we’ll get into that, but that’s an aside.
We better get into that because I want to hear that story.
We’ll put a pin on the Black Panthers kidnapping Patty Hearst’s story of my mom. It’s a funny one. After I was born in 1977, my mom and dad had a debate on whether or not they were going to raise me in Los Angeles or raise me in Detroit. Here’s what happened with my dad and why my dad moved to Los Angeles. My dad was doing the car thing. He had a Jaguar XK-E, one of the most beautiful cars ever made. It was gorgeous. He was out in LA. There was a famous movie TV producer called Mickey Spillane. He was probably most known at that time for the Mike Hammer detective series, starring Stacy Keach. My dad’s hanging out with Mickey Spillane. Mickey Spillane wants to buy this Jaguar XK-E from my dad. My dad says to Mickey Spillane, “I’ll give you a good deal on the car. You have to write me into an episode of Mike Hammer.” The balls on this guy.
That’s one thing I want to give my dad a shout out for. He had this magical ability to say and ask for things and do things that were like the balls on this guy. He would kick down doors and open doors that he had no business being in. Case in point, next thing Mickey says, “Fine.” He buys the Jag for my dad, writes my dad as a walk-on role. My dad had like one line in a Mike Hammer TV episode. Next thing you know, my dad gets an agent. He starts being a day player on TV. My dad was in multiple TV series. He was in Simon & Simon, on The A-Team, Casablanca, which was a TV series.
Have you seen these episodes?
I have. As a kid, I’m back in Detroit. I remember being excited to see my dad on TV. My mom would be like, “His episode’s coming on.” I watch my dad get the shit kicked out of him by Mr. T on the A-Team. My dad was a pretty intimidating looking dude. He had a shaved head, he had a jet black, giant beard. He was muscular. My dad was getting cast as the villain, the drug runner, the thug or the bad guy.
My dad was good at that. My dad, out of nowhere, by telling Mickey Spillane, “I’m going to hook you up with his Jag if you write me into a TV episode.” My dad suddenly has an acting career, never had a day of training and acting in his life. One of the most joyful qualities that I think maybe I’ve inherited a little bit from my Dad is chutzpah or panache. He could walk into a room, find someone, ask for something he wanted and get it. He had this ability to kick doors down and be in a room. He believed he belongs there. He had that confidence.
To answer your question a roundabout way, yes, I had this desire to live in LA because my dad would send me Polaroids and he would send me pictures of being on set with Harrison Ford and Hervé Villechaize and being on Fantasy Island and working with all these actors. As a kid, I’m like, “What is this crazy fantasy land?” “Here’s my dad at the beach,” “Here’s him in the Hollywood Hills.” It was so opposite of the Detroit experience. I got mad love for Detroit, but there are no mountains in LA, there’s no ocean. LA seemed like a different reality. It seemed like a different planet to me as a kid. I developed this obsession with wanting to be in LA, even as a little kid. To be honest, it was part of the fantastical element that I projected on the LA, but it was also that I felt this massive distance, this emotional chasm from my dad. I’ve thought about this a lot. Part of me coming out here as an adult in my mid to late twenties when I moved out here was to fulfill that childhood dream.
It was also this idea of I’m going to do better than my father did because my dad ended up, through diving into alcohol and drug addiction, in a way sabotaging his acting career. He would show up late consistently to sets, people wouldn’t want to work with him. Eventually, he stopped getting calls for gigs. There was this idea that I’m going to do better than him. I’m going to come to Hollywood, I’m going to make it in my chosen industry. That was a mission of mine. Like, “I’m going to outdo him,” “I’m going to do better,” “I’m going to show everyone I could do better than dad.” I don’t know why I had that in my mind.
It was a dualistic motivation to come out here of the childhood fantasy of being in LA, but somehow wanting to exceed the success that my father had had in Hollywood. It is interesting. I’m reflecting on those and in a deeper way at this moment as you’re asking me that question. In a way, that motivation to outdo my dad or do better than him or fulfill the dream of having my TV series that he was never able to do, maybe it was a cry for love. Like, “See Dad, I did better than you. All the gifts you gave me or the things you never saw me develop as a kid. I conquered it.” After that was all said and done, I realized years later, I don’t have that motivation anymore. At the time I did in my 20’s and 30’s, it was this pull to like, “I’ve got to prove I did better than him,” but after all that went down, that motivation dissipated. I don’t have that in me anymore.
It is certainly interesting and contrast for me, I think it was like, “How can I make my Dad proud?” “How can I impress him?” To this day, my sister and I both share this desire to get my Dad excited about things. We love sharing things with my dad and seeing his reaction. Sometimes my dad has like pleasing reactions to things. Sometimes he seems nonchalant about it. For us, my sister and I have an ongoing joke about bringing him food and seeing his opinion on food. Like, “Dad, you got to try this,” and we would save things from restaurants just so our dad could have a bite of it, or we’d make food and get my dad to taste test it and be happy if he approved of it.Whatever the word “father” means to you, now is the time to reflect on his impact on your life. Click To Tweet
That’s true in a lot of different ways because my Dad does have such a discerning side about him. When he would approve of something, it was so satisfying and it was a form of bonding, growing up, wanting my dad to be proud of me, which I think he is. He certainly shows it to me. As a kid, you view it through a different lens and then you get into that pattern of seeking out approval and wanting to impress our parents is such a huge part of our relationships in different ways.
It’s super fascinating, especially as you get older. In my case with my dad still being alive, our relationship has a chance to change. That’s not something that you had and hopefully, it doesn’t feel like a sore spot for you. You have that with your mom, which is wonderful and seeing that friendship with her. It is something that I’m curious about. What would your relationship be with like your dad if he was still alive? Do you think about that? Do you fantasize about whether or not he would be in your life and what that could have been?
I suppose from time to time, I wonder if he had made different choices and if I had made different choices, what that would have resulted in? I do sometimes ponder that alternate reality if we want to call it. My longing for something that cannot be has dissipated a lot by virtue of having a father figure in my life. My mentor, Michael, that we’ve mentioned multiple times on this show. Michael has been in my life for a long time now and has served as not a spiritual/life mentor, but providing me with some masculine guidance and grounding and perspective and love that I didn’t receive from my father.
The feelings that I have, I suppose, of projecting of what might’ve been or what could it be, it’s certainly has dissipated with the bond that I’ve created with Michael. I do think about if my father had not fallen into drug and alcohol addiction or not fallen into some of the business dealings and decisions he made. I don’t think that my father started on a dark path. Through his unresolved trauma and pain with his father and his lineage, there were subconscious things driving him into addiction and decisions he made that I don’t think he was fully aware of. One thing that I ruminate on with is the last time that I physically saw my dad was Thanksgiving of 2005. I had moved out to LA in September of that year. I was only here for a few months. I saw my dad and he had been homeless for a few years. Prior to that, the last time I saw my dad was in prison in 2001. I hadn’t seen him in four years. He was living on the streets and I had about three hours with him in Westwood.
We walked around Westwood and we talked and had a deep conversation and I remember buying him lunch and feeding him. The surreal reality of that of seeing one of your parents’ homeless on the street, I can’t quite put into words how bizarre and surreal and heartbreaking that is on so many levels. It’s hard to summarize what that feels like. I think back to that time, the last time I saw my father, he passed away in 2010, I wonder should I have done more.
I wonder, should I have let him live with me or forced him to go to rehab or tough loved it, “You can make it out of this.” If I should have put more love and energy and time into trying to help him get out of that state of being. If there’s one thing that I ruminate on, it’s that, to be honest, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I was in my twenties and I was struggling to make it in LA and I had moved here and I had my shit to deal with or if I felt in a way that maybe this was his own doing and he was too far gone on a certain level. One thing I think about is if this were to happen now and I were to meet my dad under those circumstances now, I think I may have responded differently. I think I may have not forced him, but been like, “You’re going to go get help. I’m going to help you. I’m going to feed you,” I think I would have put a different kind of love into that situation than I did when I was in my twenties.
That’s greatly impacted your desire to help other people. You’ve certainly been increasingly active with the homeless community in Los Angeles. In a way, that might be very cathartic and a beautiful gift that your father gave you, which is had this ripple effect on helping other people.
It’s is a huge part of why I am motivated to help the houseless and the homeless and the most at-risk people in Los Angeles are because not to honor his memory per se because that feels very pedantic in away. I’m honoring my dad’s memory, but in a way by seeing, feeling and knowing the conditions he was living in, it deepens my sense of compassion and deepens my sense of humanity around the citizens that people treat as throwaway. We don’t acknowledge their humanity. We don’t acknowledge the depth of their character. There are so many assumptions made about homeless and houseless people that they’re derelict, they’re drug addicts, they’re mentally unstable, but I’ve met and talked to so many by going out and feeding them and bringing the medical supplies.
Our dear friend, Nicole Derseweh, who we’ve also had as a guest here, she has a great new nonprofit called The Martha Project. It’s providing healthy, organic plant-based meals and medical supplies and necessities to the houseless population of LA. First of all, we love and adore her. She’s one of our greatest friends. It makes me feel like I am giving humanity and love and nourishment to the segment of the population that is not honored and not respected. In my heart, in a way that is me doing what I wish I would have done more for my dad when he was alive.
It’s interesting to reflect on all of this and the different ways that we’ve been impacted by our fathers. I also hope that this has given our audience the chance to reflect on the same things and how your father has impacted you. Some of us are blessed to have great relationships with our fathers. Sometimes they stay in our lives for a long time and some people don’t have good relationships with their fathers or their father has passed away very early on, or maybe they never even met them.
Each of us has different relationships there. Sometimes father figures as Jason have discussed here. Whatever the word father means to you, and maybe it’s also the father of your child, if you’re a parent. There are so many dynamics here. Trying to be inclusive when it comes to a celebrated day like Father’s Day. What that means for you, what that trigger is within you, whether it’s something sadness or reflection and gratitude, happiness, joy, all of these different emotions that can come up for us.
I hope that this conversation has not only taught you more about Jason and I and our fathers but also giving you some things to reflect on. We welcome you to join the conversation. If you would like to share anything about that and what Father’s Day means to you, if anything, or the impact that fathers have had on your life. Maybe you are a father. We would love to hear from you. We are here to continue the conversation. You can find us through the website at Wellevatr.com.
You can reach us publicly through our social media, which is @Wellevatr on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, even TikTok. We haven’t been doing much over there, but you can still see the videos that we’ve done. You can also reach us privately through direct message and email as well, which is [email protected]. We would love to hear from you in whatever capacity you’d like to reach out. It’s very important for us to continue the conversation, to have you feel part of this, have your voice be heard and whatever you would like to share with us. We look forward to connecting with you on a deeper level. As we wrap up, Jason, is the story that you want to share about your mom a short one that we should share here or should we use it for our future episode?
In the early/mid-‘70s, my mom and dad are living in LA, North Hollywood, Beachwood Canyon. My dad had a propensity to dress in army fatigues for some reason. One of the neighbors had observed that in our apartment that my dad had hung a gas mask on the wall. Here’s how it goes. My dad’s dressing in army fatigues. It’s the early ‘70s, sees a gas mask on the wall. My mom at that time was a spitting image for Patty Hearst who was kidnapped and later became an ally of during her kidnapping with the Symbionese Liberation Army, which was an offshoot of the Black Panther uprising at that time of like Black Power and making sure the people of color had rights, which was an offshoot of the Black Panther uprising at the time before Black Power and making sure that the people of color had rights, which is interesting to think about at the time we’re doing this episode.
The neighbor calls the FBI because they think that my mom is Patty Hearst and she’s being held against her will in an apartment in Hollywood. The FBI comes to investigate Patty Hearst being kidnapped. She thought my dad was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army. He goes, “She is not Patty Hearst.” This neighbor was convinced my mom was the kidnapped Patty Hearst at that time. For anyone who wants to learn the backstory, Patty Hearst was the heir to the Hearst Publishing Corporation, one of the richest men in the world.
She was kidnapped and held for ransom. Later, she decided to be an ally of and turn to sympathize and empathize with that movement. My mom is not Patty Hearst. Although one time she was mistaken for her and the FBI was called on my parents. There are so many other interesting stories that I have honestly at times thought about writing a screenplay about my dad’s life because there are so many other stories we can’t get to right now that it is like a stranger than fiction type stuff. That’s one of the many stories.
Maybe our audience could chime in and let us know if they’d like that to happen.
Crazier things have happened. If I become a screenwriter and end up playing my dad on film, that could be a good catharsis.
That’s like Honey Boy. Did you see that?
That’s writing out the history that you have with your father and then playing them. Although, that one was certainly a heart-wrenching story. That was a hard movie to watch but fascinating for sure.
Who knows where these tangential creative paths are taking us? Dear audience, we appreciate you being with us and being on all these divergent tangent paths. Until next time. Thanks for getting uncomfortable with us. Thanks so much. We will be with you again soon.
- Jason’s Journey: Pursuing Music, Acting and Culinary – Previous episode
- Understanding Toxic Masculinity – Previous episode
- Shel Silverstein
- The Artist’s Way: How Ruby Roth Reinvented Herself – Previous episode
- The Vegan Keto Journey with Chef Nicole Derseweh – Previous episode
- The Martha Project
- The Life–Changing Magic of Tidying Up
- Patty Hearst
- Honey Boy
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