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Monday, February 26, 2018

I Love Kevin Smith (in a purely hetero, buddy Christ kind of way) and you should too

A few months ago, upon waking and turning on my phone to see what was up in the world, I was floored by the news that greeted me: Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens had died. Pat and his band had ushered me out of high school and into adulthood with their great rock and roll.

This morning, another inspirational hero from New Jersey gave me a scare that sent even deeper ripples than Pat's death. Kevin Smith had posted a selfie from his hospital bed after suffering a massive heart attack and being saved by the incredible staff there. He shared it, colorfully, as only he could:

I was trying to do a killer standup special this evening but I might’ve gone too far. After the first show, I felt kinda nauseous. I threw up a little but it didn’t seem to help. Then I started sweating buckets and my chest felt heavy. Turns out I had a massive heart attack. The Doctor who saved my life at the#glendale hospital told me I had 100% blockage of my LAD artery (also known as “the Widow-Maker” because when it goes, you’re a goner). If I hadn’t canceled the second show to go to the hospital, the Doc said I would’ve died tonight. For now, I’m still above ground! But this is what I learned about myself during this crisis: death was always the thing I was most terrified of in life. When the time came, I never imagined I’d ever be able to die with dignity - I assumed I’d die screaming, like my Dad (who lost his life to a massive heart attack). But even as they cut into my groin to slip a stent into the lethal Widow-Maker, I was filled with a sense of calm. I’ve had a great life: loved by parents who raised me to become the individual I am. I’ve had a weird, wonderful career in all sorts of media, amazing friends, the best wife in the world and an incredible daughter who made me a Dad. But as I stared into the infinite, I realized I was relatively content. Yes, I’d miss life as it moved on without me - and I was bummed we weren’t gonna get to make#jayandsilentbobreboot before I shuffled loose the mortal coil. But generally speaking, I was okay with the end, if this was gonna be it. I’ve gotten to do so many cool things and I’ve had so many adventures - how could I be shitty about finally paying the tab. But the good folks at the Glendale hospital had other plans and the expertise to mend me. Total strangers saved my life tonight (as well as my friends @jordanmonsanto & @iamemilydawn, who called the ambulance). This is all a part of my mythology now and I’m sure I’ll be facing some lifestyle changes (maybe it’s time to go Vegan). But the point of this post is to tell you that I faced my greatest fear tonight... and it wasn’t as bad as I’ve always imagined it’d be. I don’t want my life to end but if it ends, I can’t complain. It was such a gift.#KevinSmith

And I was deeply moved. In fact, for a funny guy, Kevin Smith makes me feel hope and happiness as much (if not more than) he makes me laugh.

You see, I'm kind of like Kevin.

Well, sort of.

I'm not in great shape, having a few (dozen) more pounds that I would like, and would like to get healthier sooner than later. The sad irony is that Kevin lost 85 pounds last year and was working on improving his health. The heart attack came none-the-less.

I'm 47 (born a couple of months after Kevin.) I'm a comic book nerd, who was so awestruck by Star Wars as a kid that I allowed myself to dream of becoming THAT kind of storyteller. I never felt like I was good enough or given enough credit for my talents, so I chose to make my own way. In my early 20s, I wrote and directed and produced my own stage play to prove to the world that I was talented and that I could, indeed, do this artsy fartsy thing.

Of course, Kevin made the move CLERKS, which launched him into stardom as in indie filmmaker. I pretty much stayed with live theatre (which is not nearly as glamorous, but no less fulfilling).

Kevin's writing and sensibilities in CLERKS and CHASING AMY aligned so well with my own writings at the time that many of my friends made comments that connected me with Kevin's works tonally, and comically. It was an honor to be thought of in such regards.

I continued to make my own way, stumbling some in may career trajectory during the same years that Kevin found difficulty getting acceptance, and then rose to new heights, taking on new avenues of getting my message out. Kevin became a trailblazer in podcasting, and it inspired me greatly. I was on the verge of launching my own podcasts when a magical opportunity to do live radio fell in my lap, and took me down a wondrous new path.

Kevin's podcasts Hollywood Babble On, Edumacation, and Fatman on Batman are such staples in my aural diet that I am listening to Kevin and his friends many days of the week as I drive. I feel connected.

And it is easy to feel connected to Kevin. There is no bigger cheerleader of all things Geeky and nerdy and fun. He is an unabashed fan of comics, movies, TV and entertainment. He often jokes that he wants to get healthy so that he can live as long as possible to see as many Marvel movies and Star Wars movies as he possibly can. And those of us like Kevin get it. On a special level.

I felt a knot in my stomach as I read that Kevin came very close to dying last night, and thus being cut off from all those future geek delights. His words about it, however, gave me a feeling of peace. He felt at peace as he saw the doorstep of death looming. He was happy. He had lived on his own terms and done the things he felt inspired to do, and inspired others. He had lived a good life in 47 years. And he was happy.

It made me think: Could I say the same thing? How many of us could?

Kevin very often encourages fans in his audiences who tell him of dreams to be podcasters or filmmakers or comic book creators. He tells them all to go for it, and to refuse to listen to naysayers who would discourage them. He lifts people up and gives wind to their sails. Even if he doesn't know them or what it is they would do. He is a fan of the doing, of the aspiring. Go for it. To hell with what people say or think.

He makes fun of himself regularly, and seems to be at peace with how multitudes of people discredit him or dislike his work. He could care less. He does what makes him happy, and he hopes that others (even if they are few) will be uplifted and inspired by it. The rest can go fuck themselves.

That's a way to live. It really is. But it is hard to be so brave and so relentless. Yet he is.

At least once a week, Kevin says something on one of his shows that touches me or inspires me. It gives me hope to keep moving forward, even though I have such deep doubts at times. (Don't we all.) Then, somehow, a Kevin Smith podcast will magically say something that turns my doubt around. Just the right words at the right moment.

It is weird to say that I could not live without Kevin Smith in my life. But I would certainly be deeply saddened at that prospect. So today I listened to last week's Hollywood Babble On with Kevin and Ralph Garman.

listen here:

It was a spiritual awakening that made my day. The love and laughter only further proved to me that the world can not be left without Kevin Smith in it. Happily, God seemed to feel that way too last night.

I want to be more like Kevin Smith. I want to podcast and get my voice out there. I want to write, I want to direct, I want to make movies, I want to spread the gospel of the geek.

In May Kevin is slated to come to Asheville for his one man show. (I'm doing monthly comedy shows myself starting next month, in front of a live audience, recorded for podcast and streaming), and I want to meet him and say hello, and thank you.

He is always generous with fans and people, gaining a reputation for being one of the most approachable and humble celebrities out there, so this is easy to see happening.

But more than that, I want to spend time and talk with him. I want to get some of that inspiration one on one, from the master.

Sure, there's this comic book movie project that I am trying to get off the ground and be a producer on that is stalled (when it isn't inching along at a handicapped snail's pace), and I have dreams of spilling out all my enthusiasm to him, just to hear his enthusiastic reaction and inspirational words of encouragement. Hell, there's that little part of me that wants to say, "hey, why not be an executive producer for me, and when we succeed, I'll come and help you produce your next thing with my team of people (or whatever)."  It's not that I want to be famous or part of the club, or anything like that. I just want to be MAKING, and making a difference in the making. And I think - I know - Kevin Smith "gets" it. More than most.

I've got comic book scripts I would love to get in front of the right people. I've got my own scripts and movies I would like to see made.

Some days I feel like I have so much that is on the edge of being successful, but I just can't seem to get it over the right hill and on a roll down the other side. But I never let that stop my hope and ambition. I can thank someone like Kevin Smith for always being a beacon for me. And so many others.

Maybe it will happen. Maybe I will get my time alone with Kevin Smith in May. Maybe magic will come of it. Like the man himself encourages, I just have to go for it.

And, all of that (and more) came crashing through my mind as I was greeted with the thought that we almost lost Kevin Smtih this morning.  And what a sadder world it would be without him. I was sad to think how close my potential of meeting him, and even having an interview with him for The Geek Brain, was nearly robbed by a heart attack. Life is cruel. Death is crueler. Kevin dodged it last night, and we should all be thankful.

A lot of people know what I'm talking about. Many others may not. I encourage you all to go and seek out Kevin's world of podcasts at and give some a listen. Maybe you too will find inspiration in his musing. Maybe not. But I'm sure you will laugh out loud more than once, so you have nothing to lose.

And long live Kevin Smith!

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