I have just finished up a whirlwind tour of six European countries -- Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, and England. I visited two of these countries to talk about my dad -- the other four I visited because of my dad, for whom any "work trip" was an excuse to learn as much as he could about other cultures through their people, art, architecture, and cuisine. So, I took full advantage of my trips to Germany and England -- by visiting cathedrals and museums and historic sites, not to mention eating very well, in four other countries.
Right now I am in Richmond, Virginia, where the inaugural Poe Film Festival has just come to an end. Meaning I am here also because of my dad, whose connection to Poe was a profoundly important part not only of his film career, but also of his cultural ambassadorship.
I do a lot of things because of my dad. Including this Daily Practice of Joy. Turns out, however, there are many other people who do a lot of things because of my dad -- make movies, watch movies, make art, enjoy art, contribute to the arts, encourage their children to be creative, travel, live life fully. My dad has been gone almost a quarter century, and there are many of us who still do a lot of things because of my dad. Getting to meet them and hear their stories on my travels is one of the most wonderful and moving experiences of my life these days. Each story I hear reinforces my belief in what an extraordinary individual I was blessed to call my dad. But lately, I've been thinking that I have been using the wrong pronoun. . .
In May 2015, I had a real epiphany after the year-end intensive of my first year of seminary. That epiphany occurred during Wonderfest, a family-based fantasy and horror convention in Louisville, Kentucky. A had a further epiphany on this trip -- particularly after spending a glorious five-day European adventure with my dear friend and co-conspirator, Peter Fuller.
The first epiphany came after hearing one of our seminary deans say, The only thing we are here to do is to heal the belief that there is any "other". I heard that to mean that perhaps the most essential element of any spiritual practice is to be constantly vigilant not to separate ourselves in any way from the Oneness that is our true reality. It is this lie of separation that is at the root of everything disheartening, discouraging, denigrating not to mention downright dangerous, that is happening in the world. The moment we see ourselves as separate from one another, from the natural world, from animals, from our Source, we are, well, screwed. Suddenly we feel either special or small, powerful or weak, entitled or deprived, better or worse than our neighbor. We try to protect what we believe we should keep or we try to get what we believe we should have. One way or another, we become blue or red, conservative or liberal, radicalized or fundamentalists, rich or poor, human or animal, animate or inanimate. Suddenly, the beautiful whole of humanity of nature of the world is splintered into a million fragments all staking their little claims and fighting for them. But when we look at the young homeless man sitting on a blanket petting the head of his beloved canine companion trying to put food in both of their mouths as no different than we are, when we stop looking at skin colors or religious beliefs or nationalities as our defining characteristics, we begin to see that there really is no other. That we really are all one people, one planet, one plea for peace.
When i arrived at Wonderfest in May 2015, filled with the power of that teaching, I saw that I had some work to do on myself. Up until that moment I had believed that I, as a "guest" and not an attendee, as horror royalty and not a fan, was different from most of the people there. That weekend, as I chatted with people, I could feel that that was not true, had never been true. We were all having the same conversation with one another. It was a conversation about Love. In this case, love of a man I have called my father. I realized that, although I may have known this man a bit more intimately in person that some of the people with whom I was talking, there were many things about him that they knew better than I. The intricate details of his films or his film career, the nuances of his roles, his relationships with his colleagues. And most importantly, their own relationships with him.
To so many Vincent Price fans, the man I have called my father was a surrogate father, uncle, grandfather, a mentor, a guide, an encourager of their passions. Others shared my father with their fathers, or mothers, or children, or grandparents -- finding joy in that sharing with one another. All weekend long I saw that I was no different than anyone else. We were all united in Love. In this case, the love of my father.
That weekend changed my life. It made me see what a gift I had been given -- to be able to go around the world and share a mutual love with so many other people. How many people get to do that? How fortunate am I!
On this recent trip, a second epiphany came after spending five days with Peter Fuller. Peter comes from Western Australia. He grew up admiring my father -- and his seventeenth birthday present was the opportunity to see my dad in his one-man show about Oscar Wilde in Perth, Australia. Peter has lived and traveled all over the world -- and over the past decade, he has done as much or more than I have to preserve and promote my dad's legacy. A couple of years ago, we decided to collaborate on travel adventures -- created in the spirit of my dad's omnivorous curiosity for seeing the world. Last year, we took a group of people all over London and the UK to celebrate Vincent Price's UK Film Legacy. This year, in November, we are doing an art tour of New Mexico, Arizona, and California, introducing people to my dad's powerful legacy in supporting the arts in America -- Native American artists, regional artists, and his Hollywood film legacy!
But this past week, Peter and I got to celebrate my dad's legacy of cultural and culinary curiosity in a more personal way, by traipsing around Germany, France, and Luxembourg together. Now what you need to know is that, as a general rule, I like to travel alone. I enjoy moving at my own speed, getting purposely lost to see what I can find, going as fast or as slow as I like. The first two days of my trip were spent biking all over Amsterdam -- seeing as much art and local living as I could. I stayed in North Amsterdam, so I could take the ferry over in the morning and evening with the other commuters. Sometimes while riding my rental bike in what is surely one of the most bike-friendly cities on the planet, I just let myself follow a group of locals and end up wherever I found myself -- at a small neighborhood cafe, in a massive city park eating from a food truck. I love to travel like that.
Turns out Peter does, too. We ended up, quite my accident, in Metz, France. on the one day of the year that all city, cultural, and political buildings were open to the public. We traipsed through cathedrals, the opera house, garden exhibits, and even the governor's mansion, enjoying a beautiful city along with the rest of the locals. In Luxembourg, we found ourselves in a local restaurant tucked into the ancient casement walls eating our body weight in the most delicious mussels. In Germany, we wandered through hilly neighborhoods discovering the Saarlander's penchant for kitsch in flea markets, garden gnome displays, cutely painted doorways, and even a display of plastic meerkats over the entrance to an apartment complex that was just patently ridiculous. Everywhere we went, we followed our noses and ended up smelling many many beautiful roses.
On our way to the Luxembourg airport, we started chatting about my dad's signature. I can't remember why. But Peter and I both agreed that my dad's beautiful penmanship and gorgeous autograph were remarkable -- particularly now, in an age where kids are hardly using cursive anymore. That was when Peter said something that sparked my second epiphany: "I based my own signature on your dad's, you know." I laughed and said, "Well, so did I."
Suddenly, in that simple exchange, I understood something I hadn't seen before. Peter was as much my father's child as I am. So are Joerg and Jeff and Raoul and Gaz and Kevin and Robert and Lorraine and Karen and all of the thousands of other Vincent Price fans who love my father just as much as I do. In that moment, I realized that Vincent was never "my" father. He was, is, and always will be "our" father. In that moment, I felt in my heart what our seminary dean had put into words. There is no other, when we are all united in Love.
When I began sharing my father with the world, I had no idea that this is where my life would lead. But beyond a doubt, this has been the greatest gift -- the connection I feel through shared love -- all around the world!
Last night here in Richmond, instead of giving the prepared talk I had planned, I spontaneously decided to lead a conversation about legacy, about the arts, about curiosity, about culture, about contributing to our communities, about giving back. I did the same thing in Germany. After three hours of talking at people, I scrapped the Q&A and went to dinner with some folks. The next morning, Peter and I had breakfast with our hosts, Joerg and Annette. And when Joerg shared his story of what my father had meant to him during his childhood, tears were streaming down my face as I felt our shared love. In London, after my talk at the British Film Institute, I continued on first to a small cocktail party and then to dinner where "my" father inspired some wonderful shared shared conversations about love of all kinds. These exchanges have been one of the great gifts of this trip.
I hope to keep having those shared conversations -- because when I do, I keep remembering that, whenever we are connected in joy and love, anything is possible. For someone who is currently "homeless", I find myself feeling homed all over the world in the shared love of a man named Vincent Price. A man who I no longer think of as just my father, but rather as a man who taught so many of us who to live joy-filled curious lives led by love and a desire to share that love with others. To live that way is his greatest legacy to me. Sharing that legacy with others becomes our collective way of spreading love. For a man who made his living scaring people, the currency of whose movies was fear, that's more than a little ironic. But not coincidental, I believe. My dad made his living in the world of fear and proved it powerless. My dad's legacy continues to bring joy because we all want to feel that kind of all-powerful Love and, in doing so, remember that fear never ever wins the day. When every day brings more dis-heart-ening news, what a gift it is to know with all our hearts this simple but powerful truth: Only Love lasts.