My Birthday in Hollywood

By ERIK ORTON

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Earlier this week was my birthday and that always makes me contemplative.  I turned forty-five.  I like to think I’m not even half way through my life.  I hope to live to 100.  We’ll see how that goes.  But when I think about my life that way, it’s astonishing to me that—even though Emily and I are well on our way to having raised our kids and started launching them into the world—most of my life is still ahead of me.  

When the Home & Family Show at the Hallmark Channel confirmed they wanted us to be on their show, they offered us two dates: Mar. 19 and Mar. 20.  We chose Mar. 20 because I thought doing some national television for the first time would be a fun way to spend my birthday.  And it was.  What I wasn’t expecting was a week of television.  It’s been a mind-bending five days for Emily and I as we’ve stepped deeper into this world of book promotion and publicity.

Monday we had a news team in our home for three hours.  That piece will air on Pix11 in New York City next week. (We’ll be sure to share a link.) Tuesday we flew to Los Angeles. We met that night with our dear friend, Tamara, who is a news producer.  She was trying to get us on KTLA news.  They were having a hard time finding a slot for us.  In addition to treating us to some awesome tacos, Tamara tutored us in how to tighten up our responses and know in advance which of us was going to say what.  Emily and I went home that night knowing we had our work cut out for us. We were learning, in television, if you want to say something, say it fast.

Serious taco night with Tamara and her beautiful family.

Serious taco night with Tamara and her beautiful family.

Each slip of paper has a question we’ll likely be asked. We picked them at random, had to know which of us would answer it and practiced our sound bite answers.

Each slip of paper has a question we’ll likely be asked. We picked them at random, had to know which of us would answer it and practiced our sound bite answers.

The next morning, we were up at 5:00am practicing.  We wrote down all the likely questions and wrote out short 30 second answers.  We practiced drilling each other until we knew them cold.  After our morning walk, we got dressed and drove to Universal Studios. We were shown to our trailer, we reviewed the segment with our producer, heard the questions they were going to ask and revised our answers to match.  I glanced at my phone.  There was an email from someone named Leila saying they wanted us on KTLA at 8:30am the next morning.  She wanted us to call asap to talk through things.  

We were whisked from our trailer into make-up.   While Emily got her make-up on, I sat in the next padded seat on my phone. I was talking to Leila at KTLA. She was grilling me with rapid-fire questions.  I listened hard and replied with the answers we’d drilled that morning. Mid-conversation, it was time for me to get in the next chair.  Shelly, the make-up artist, started to apply foundation.  I held the phone away from my face so she could apply some to the right cheek.  Leila continued to ask me questions and tell me what she needed; pictures of this, pictures of that, did we have any video clips?  I had my facts straight and, thanks to Tamara and Emily, had our talking points down.  I was getting better at saying it fast.  Emily looked over at me and laughed.  I was having this bizarrely fantastic moment where I’m on set at Universal Studios about to step into our segment taping whilst on the phone setting up the next day’s media hit while my pores are covered over and skin tone evened out. It was like, so Hollywood.  

I want posture like Cameron.

I want posture like Cameron.

Our proverbial trailer.

Our proverbial trailer.

Emily and I did our appearance on Home & Family Show. (We’ll share a link once it’s available online.)  The next morning, we were on set ready for the segment at KTLA. Both went beautifully.  We even squeezed in a live radio interview fifteen minutes before we went on at KTLA.  If you’re gonna say it, say it fast.

I’m not sure what to make of it all.  I understand the power and importance of television.  In fact I’ve researched a lot about, Philo Farnsworth, who invented television.  He regretted inventing it, much the way the Manhattan Project engineers regretted inventing the atom bomb.  He felt television was getting used for purposes that did not benefit humanity. I hoped we were helping use it for something Philo would have been proud of.  

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So I spent my 45th birthday running around Hollywood doing radio and TV interviews.  I never foresaw this in my life.  I never anticipated a life of publicity and promotion.  I truly believe this will quiet down and we’ll return to a steady pace of quiet living and writing.  But for the moment, this is my job.  Our publisher is counting on us to say yes and do these kinds of things and it’s also the most efficient way to help people learn about the book.  Like it or not, no matter how good a book is (or isn’t) if nobody knows about it, no one will read it.  And we wrote our book to be read.    

But I have to say I feel a sense of luxury and calm as I type here in my blog, taking my time, working through thoughts and feelings that don’t need to be boiled down to three bullet points and spoken in 15-30 seconds.  I get it.  There’s a time and a place for everything.  There’s a time to be swift and direct. There’s a time to loll and meander. I’m grateful to take a quiet Saturday morning to loll and meander.  I’m looking out my window at the blue sky, the wind bending the bare branches as flowers start to push up through the cold ground.  

My birthday falls on the first day of spring.  It’s always a time of transition from one season to another.  As I head into spring, I don’t know what the future holds.  We have a few things planned out, but not too far.  I’m fighting hard here to not go to one of our sound bites, but I have to say it: “We’ve learned to replace worry with wonder.”

At times I do worry about my future, the future of my children and our family. But I truly do wonder how it will all turn out.  I’m curious and I trust that it will work out.  I hope to live to 100, but I’m grateful for 45.  I never expected I’d spend my 45thbirthday on television in LA.  I never expected to spend my 40thbirthday living on a boat in the Caribbean.  When I turn 55 our youngest, Lily, will be 21.  That leaves a lot of years of living with our kids grown.  I look forward to what the future holds.  As the wind blows and blossoms emerge, and the world spins around in this great big universe, I’m grateful I get to be a speck in this piece of art called humanity living on a blue spherical canvas. 

Maybe I should go watch some TV.  There might be something good on.