Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Farewell Dad

The last two days have been spent saying our goodbyes to Dad with his funeral mass for family and friends yesterday and a private interment at the cemetery today. We have been well supported by everyone as we go through this difficult time of mourning. My brother James and I took turns delivering the following remembrance of Dad at the funeral mass:

Nicole
Our Dad was born and raised in the Sunset in San Francisco as the only child to Ralph and Cathryne Ellis. His entrepreneurial spirit kicked in during his high school years as he bought old cars, fixed them up and then sold them. This entrepreneurism continued during his life as he built an apartment building on the lot of his parents’ house after they passed, and started his own business out of our garage, Motion Enterprises, which sold welding products.

Dad and Mom were married in the early 1970s and moved from the City to live in Marin. Dad married into a large extended family, and I wonder what it was like for him to all of a sudden have all these new brothers and sisters-in-law (and later nieces and nephews) and the many cousins on both sides of my Mom’s family who referred to him as “The Big E.”

I was born in the mid-1970s and James came along four years later. Since Dad worked in San Rafael, he was the one who would pick us up from school or day care in his old orange Chevy pic-up truck, which we could hear coming up the street. Dad also cooked the family dinner most nights as we were growing up, since Mom worked in the City. Dad loved to cook and was always searching for new recipes to try out, with the ones that worked well marked “keep” and making repeat appearances on our plates. He loved a kitchen gadget, from barbecues to various kitchen utensils and tools that would make food preparation and cooking easier. The internet made finding these gadgets and devices quite easy, and as a result finding places to store them all in the house became a long-standing challenge.


James
Dad’s love of cars meant there was usually a project going on in the garage or on top of the driveway. I was fortunate enough to be able to work alongside my father in tricking out my vehicles. When I was a teenager we worked together on an El Camino and a Chevy S10 pick-up truck. Dad’s latest project was his 1934 Ford roadster, which he built from scratch. Unfortunately, due to his declining health he was unable to completely finish it, but don’t worry, I swore to him that I will get it done.

One thing I am going to miss is cruising with Dad to the Goodguys car shows in Pleasanton. It was so fun looking at all the cars and trucks with him. After the shows he would take me to In-N-Out Burger for a special treat, as that was his favorite burger place.

Dad and Mom both loved to watch sports on tv and we would often spend our Sundays watching the 49ers play football. They were also big fans of the San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors. Dad was a huge supporter of my youth sports career as he attended my soccer games and helped coach my CYO basketball team. He was also in the stands each week to cheer me on in high school when I played football and basketball.


Nicole
Dad did like a drink or two. His favorite was red wine out of a box or the “red paint” as it would be referred to at family parties. When Dad was in hospital James messaged me to say that Dad wanted a bourbon and 7UP – I told him to give Dad the drink (although I don’t think the hospital staff would have let that occur). When we brought Dad’s urn back to the house last week we thought it was only fitting that it be placed on the bar.

We have learned many things from our Dad. He loved watching car races – from Formula 1 to Indy cars to drag racing. He taught us life skills such as how to swim, drive and take care of our cars, do home renovations, cook, and manage our money responsibly. Dad always encouraged us to pursue what we loved and were interested in, as his only concern was our happiness. He supported us every step of the way through our education and careers, and always said we could return home if we needed to. He got so much joy from his daughter-in-law Simi and grandchildren, Logan and Kylie, and the time he was able to spend with them.

Dad’s health had been in decline over the past decade, and I know that it frustrated him that he couldn’t do all the things he was used to doing. Mom did an amazing job looking after him and taking him to numerous doctors’ appointments, which I would get to hear about when I called from Australia to talk to them on the phone. Over the past couple of years Dad’s health had been pretty stable, so it was a surprise to us that he suddenly deteriorated so quickly. Dad appreciated the full life he had led and was ready to go. We are grateful that we were able to say our goodbyes and be with him at his bedside as he passed on. Dad, we love you and will miss you so much, but are happy that you are now at peace.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Jojo Rabbit

One benefit of being in the States at the moment is that I had the opportunity tonight to go with my friend Lynne to see Taika Waititi's new film Jojo Rabbit, which doesn't open in Australia until Boxing Day. Billed as an anti-hate satire, it is based on the book Caging Skies by Christine Leunens.

The movie is set in Germany towards the end of World War II and centers around young boy Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), who is being raised by his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson). Jojo becomes part of the Hitler Youth, and is cheered on by his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (hilariously played by Taika Waititi). As the movie progresses Jojo discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl, Elsa (Tomasin McKenzie), in the attic of their house. Jojo realises that he needs to keep this secret to protect himself and his mother, and ends up becoming friends with Elsa as time goes on.

While the movie has some absurd and funny parts, it also has some quite dramatic moments, and is a more serious film than people might expect from Taika Waititi. Both Lynne and I really enjoyed it and it will have you thinking about the correlations to the present times we are living through as you leave the movie theater.

Friday, November 01, 2019

RIP Dad

My Dad's health has not been the best over the past decade after he had his first heart attack and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. There was a point a few years ago where he was entering hospital every couple months with fluid build up. But the doctors managed to get his medications working to a point where his body stabilised and he was doing much better than in the past - so much so that I figured I wouldn't travel to the States this year for Christmas.

Unfortunately two weeks ago Dad took a sudden turn for the worse. His AFib starting acting up again and Mom took him to hospital. They attempted to stabilise him but after a few days his blood pressure dropped and he ended up in ICU, where they did a cardioversion to try and restore normal heart rhythm. His heart was weak though and the rest of his organs were starting to fail. I can tell you that this is not the news you want to receive when you live half way around the world. It was a wait and see game for a couple of days of whether I should fly home as they tried kidney dialysis to see if that would help. However, after a few days of doing that Dad had had enough and decided to stop treatment.

On Wednesday I booked a flight to San Francisco and was on a plane six hours later. Dad had been moved into step-down care and was still alert but tired by the time I arrived. He felt he had had a good life and made the call that he was ready to pass on. We were all able to say our goodbyes and be with him as he was unhooked from the machines and moved into comfort care to ensure he wasn't in any pain. It took longer than he or us probably expected, but he finally took his last breath this morning with me, my Mom and brother at his side. I am grateful I was able to make it back home in time to say goodbye and spend these last couple days with him. I know he is in a better place now and I will miss him greatly.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Emma Russack and Lachlan Denton- Noisy Ritual


Noisy Ritual in East Brunswick bills itself as an urban winery as they make their own premium wines with grapes sourced from vineyards all around Victoria. The space itself is a big hall with barrels lining the walls around the room, a bar, small stage at the front, and tables and benches to sit on to enjoy your glass of wine along with a light selection of bar food.

On Thursday evenings Noisy Ritual hosts the event School Night, which features live music. Sean and I headed over there tonight for a glass of wine and to catch Emma Russack and Lachlan Denton (formerly The Ocean Party) play some songs they have recorded together as a duo. Their new album Take The Reigns just came out last week, and they played some songs off of it including "Cake," "Love For Myself," and "When You Wake Up." They also played songs from their previous two releases, including a couple of my favorites from Lachlan with "I'm Right Here" and "I'll Be The Rock." The banter between the two of them in between songs was hilarious and also revealing about personal incidents (e.g. Lachlan's woodworking accident) as well as their friendship.

Here's a live video of them playing "The Heatwave (Eloise)" and "I'll Be The Rock"

Friday, October 18, 2019

John Waters- Make Trouble

This evening Sean and I headed to Hamer Hall at the Arts Centre to see the legendary cult American filmmaker John Waters in his one man show Make Trouble. We weren't sure what to expect but John just took to the stage by himself with a microphone and told stories for around an hour. He spoke about growing up in Baltimore, the making of his many films and the actors he has worked with over the years, as well as his observations on the state of global affairs, including the United States and Trump. As expected there were moments of filth and subversive humor, which extended into an interesting Q&A session with the audience, where he dealt with some oddball questions like a pro.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Pokey LaFarge- Australian Solo Tour 2019

Tonight was the final date of American musician Pokey LaFarge's Australian tour at the Northcote Social Club. Opening the evening was Nashville resident Sierra Ferrell, who played an amazing solo set on acoustic guitar. She had a unique old-timey style of singing, and her guitar fingerpicking on her faster country/bluegrass songs was impressive. Her newer tracks sounded more like classic country and were slower and melancholy. She was really great and I highly recommend checking her out if you get the chance.

Pokey LaFarge was greeted with big cheers from the sold out crowd as he came out on stage to play his solo set. He was in a really great mood and hyped up on Red Bull (and then a couple shots of tequila). He played a range of songs from his back catalogue on acoustic guitar, as well as a few unreleased tracks from his upcoming album due out in the first half of 2020. Highlights for me included "Wanna Be Your Man," "Something In The Water," "Goodbye, Barcelona" and "The Devil Ain't Lazy." It was amazing to watch him play the guitar and he really interacted well with the crowd and got everyone to sing along. For the encore he came out into the middle of the floor and stood on a crate to play unplugged, which included a cover of Roger Miller's "King Of The Road," "Bad Girl" and one of his earliest song "Josephine" to finish. It was a really fantastic and special gig, and such a pleasure to see these two talented musicians in person.

Here's the video for "Riot In The Streets"

Monday, September 23, 2019

Arj Barker's Safe Space

Comedian Arj Barker is developing his new show and testing out material in front of a live audience each Monday in the basement of the European Bier Cafe. Belinda and I attended this evening's "Safe Space" performance and it was a packed and intimate show. Arj covered a wide range of topics, including differences between America and Australia (which set up a funny call back later in the show) married life, climate change, space and aliens, and his love of true crime. Demonstrating his years in stand up, he hilariously shot down a couple of chatty audience members and dealt well with a broken glass incident midway through the show.

As we were walking out I had to stop and introduce myself to Arj as a fellow Marinite, and we had a brief chat about Marin and Melbourne. While Arj said to the crowd that the material is not likely to change much from week to week,  I think it would be interesting to attend again towards the end of the run to see how the show has developed.
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