Happiness Was My Father

My father passed away on February 10th. His Celebration of Life was held in Las Vegas on February 16th. My mother and I both delivered eulogies. I’ve had several requests from those in attendance to post mine online. So… here it is.

BTidwell headshot

When I was five or six years old, Dad pulled me aside and spoke to me with a palpable urgency that I had never experienced from him before. It was clear that what he was saying to me was of the utmost importance and that, even at a tender age, I needed to take in his words with utmost seriousness.

‘You can choose to be a happy person,’ he’d said, his large, warm hands gently squeezing my upper arms as he looked me right in the eye. ‘Or you can choose to be sad. But you must choose, and you must choose now.’ He held my gaze a moment longer and asked, ‘Do you want to be a happy person, or a sad person?’

Well, being the wizened age of five or six, I of course new the better option without second thought. ‘Happy,’ I replied as if to say ‘duh, Dad.’

‘Good,’ he’d said, ‘but you have to choose to be happy, every day. When you start to feel sad, remind yourself that you’ve chosen to be happy. When things seem bad, remind yourself that you’ve chosen to be happy. Sometimes choosing to be happy will the hardest decision you make that day. Because it can be hard to be happy. But you’ll feel better when you do.’

Now, Dad wasn’t saying that I wasn’t allowed to feel sad, or that I wasn’t allowed to have bad days. I understood that even then. Even in the apparent ‘black and whiteness’ of his words, I understood the nuance; Dad never underestimated me, and he knew that I’d get it. And I did.

What he meant was to avoid the pitfalls of sadness and self-pity; to not wallow when things didn’t go my way. To not dwell in anger. To not be unable to forgive. To not hold grudges. When you choose happiness, there is no space for these dark things.

When you choose happiness you also accept so many other things. You accept that on the whole people are basically good. You assume the best of others always. You embrace the ‘golden rule’. You accept that the glass is always half full. You accept that things will work out in the end… eventually.

Dad had hard times. I would have to say that in the grand scheme of life, things never truly went Dad’s way for very long. The ground was never ultimately stable beneath his feet. He was disappointed constantly. And still, he chose happiness. He pressed on. He tried the next thing, and the next and the next, because with happiness on his side, he always found the energy to try again.

Dad wasn’t perfect. Far from it. He made countless mistakes. He often trusted too easily. He almost always put all of his eggs in the wrong basket. Projects and plans had a habit of going sideways right before they should have finally found success.

And still – he chose happiness.

You’d think that watching Dad struggle my entire life would have hardened me somewhat to the idea of happiness as a philosophy; that I would be second-guessing my decision made with such gravity at the age of five or six. But I don’t. Because if anything, he proved that happiness is the best choice you can make. Despite all of the disappointments, let-downs, failures and mistakes – at the end, he was happy.

Byron Otis Tidwell was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on March 13, 1952. His mother, Mary Ann, was a tough broad who had been raised in the upper levels of ‘Southern Society’. She was a fine pianist who (at seventeen) played a gig with the Sammy Kaye Orchestra when they passed through her town on tour. Sammy even offered her a permanent position, but her mother said no. To get back at her mother, Mary Ann decided to get a degree in microbiology because she knew her mother wouldn’t have any idea what it was.

His father, Norman Tidwell, was from ‘the other side of the tracks’ but a combination of his keen mind and a genuine fluke landed him on the Von Braun rocket team at White Sands. Norman had a dry sense of humor. He’d look you in the face with the most serious expression whilst making a wry comment and sometimes you’d be left wondering if he was joking, or saying something truly mean.

And somehow these two created Byron: a total goofball.

Dad loved making silly films with his little brother James using the family’s 8mm camera. He’d dress his brother up as a Mounty and then film him dodging in and around the trees in the woodland area behind their house performing along to some intangible storyline. There’s one piece of film where Dad has James wearing a pair of what look like ladies pink pajama bottoms with a towel done up as a turban on his head attempting to charm something or other. It’s rather short and very bizarre… kind of like Dad.

Dad was also a prankster. He’d tease James mercilessly growing up. Which he felt was his duty and his right as the older brother. Dad had a white husky called ‘Snowball’ that he taught to chase James around when he was still in diapers, grabbing the poor kid by biting onto the cloth around his butt and dragging him backwards through the house.

When I came along, he turned his teaser talents on me – his own kid.  He never really pulled a physical prank on me, not like he did to James. But he’d look me in the eye and tell me a bold-faced lie (that was meant to be bold-faced and easily spotted) but being a kid, and trusting my Dad to tell me the truth, I’d never catch it and I would inevitably end up making a fool of myself somehow based on the misinformation and Dad would laugh his butt off. It got so bad that at one point when I was eight or nine I begged my mother to tell him to stop – and she did. But he didn’t.

So by the time I was an adult when my Dad would tell me something outrageous I would assume it was hogwash – and a lot of the time it was. But once in a while, I was wrong.

September 11, 2001. I was working a swing shift at the time and the night before, after work, I’d gone to hang out with my buddy Jon. Jon and I stayed up the rest of the night playing video games and listening to heavy metal. I finally made it back to my apartment a little after 6:30am. Dad woke me up an hour or so later, frantic, telling me that the US was under attack, and to get away from the base (I lived directly across from Nellis at the time) as fast as possible. ‘But my cats,’ I’d said, unwilling to leave them if a nuclear attack was eminent. ‘Bring them with you,’ he’d said.

So I did, I tossed my two, annoyed, cats into a cardboard box, threw a towel over the top, loaded them in the car, and made like hell-for-leather for my parent’s home a few miles west of the base. The radio in my car was broken, so I had no way of tuning into the news to find out what was going on. On the way to my parents’, I noticed that the schools were open. Kids were on the fields loitering around, playing and chatting, waiting for class to start. Wait a minute, I’d thought, if the US was really under attack, the first thing to close would be the schools. Protect the children, right?

It was obvious to me at that point that my Dad had pulled one over on me. Again.

I was exhausted and unamused.

I pulled up alongside my parents’ home, hauled my cats out of the box – one under each arm – and forced my way into the house. I dropped my fuzzy kids into the guest bedroom, marched into the den where my parents were watching TV with ashen faces, took one look at the now infamous footage of the airplane strike and in my fatigue-drunk state muttered angrily, ‘that’s fake.’ Headed back to the guest room and passed out for another 5 hours.

I awoke to egg on my face and the horrifying reality of a new world.

I apologized to my parents of course. But later, I took my Dad aside and explained that because he had teased me so much growing up, I never really knew when he was telling the truth. He apologized too. And finally, the teasing stopped. Well…mostly. He couldn’t help himself sometimes. But, I got exponentially better at catching it and volleying back.

My Dad loved me so much. I have never ever doubted that fact. He loved me no matter what. He accepted me before I even knew there was anything unusual about me to accept.

After I came out to my parents as gay – a moment that for me, an overly-dramatic teen, was disappointingly uneventful.

‘I’m gay,’ I’d said.

‘We know’, they’d said, ‘And we support you and we love you so much. But right now we have to pick up Lyn from the airport.’

Lyn was my Mom’s best friend.

Afterwards, weeks – maybe months – later, Dad told me that he’d figured out I was gay by the time I was five. Then it was just a matter of waiting for me to figure it out too. But he always accepted me. He always embraced me. And he never once made me feel that who I was wasn’t ok.

Dad grew up Methodist, more or less. In truth, his mother was an atheist. That’s right. In the South. In the 50’s and 60’s. But she was quiet about it. His Dad seemed like he could take it or leave it. But still, they went to church every Sunday. Because it was what you did. It was more about community and less, much less, about doctrine.

Dad listened to the sermons. He watched, because it was a kind of theater. But he didn’t understand why the folks who sat so devoutly in the pews, listening to the lessons of ‘Do undo others’ and ‘Love thy neighbor’ and ‘turn the other cheek’ would then go out into the world and treat their fellow man like dirt just because their skin was a darker shade.

Hypocrisy never sat well with Dad.

When he and Mom got married, she was Episcopalian and he went along for the ride. He said to mom that he liked the Episcopal Church because the ideas were similar to the Methodist but the Episcopal Church had ‘better choreography’.

Dad was always about the show.

When I was 10 years old he memorized the entire King James version of the Gospel According to Mark and took it on tour as a one man show up and down the East Coast. He treated it like a campfire story, dressing in a costume of denim jeans and a flannel shirt, with a brown leather belt and hiking boots completing the ensemble.

He’d draw people in with his gentle baritone and easy understanding of the classical language. He was the first person to explain to me the importance of knowing the meaning of words.

‘You must understand the meaning of the words,’ he’d said to me one time, when we were reading through a little bit of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. ‘When you understand the words, the audience will, too. But if you don’t and you’re just reciting… it becomes meaningless.’

But what he also showed me, without pointing it out, was that understanding the words wasn’t enough. You had to believe them, too. Even if only in performance, you still had to believe them.

So when he performed Mark for dozens of churches and audiences from New York to Kentucky, he believed.

But Dad was really beyond religion. He recognized the spiritual nature of the universe, but he didn’t give it a name. He never needed celestial validation.

He was a good man. A sweet man. Evident always in his words and deeds. He existed, for want of a better term, in a state of grace.

Dad loved animals. And animals loved Dad. Animals recognize the goodness of a person. And all manner of species would flock to my Dad. Dogs were his favorite. Though he did start to develop a soft spot for cats near the end. But dogs with their endless capacity for giving love, their gentle nature and their loyalty filled Dad with joy. Now that I think about it, in a lot of ways, Dad was kind of like his favorite animal.

Loyal, often to his own fault, he valued and cherished his friendships. Friends were found family and he never hesitated to put the necessary effort in to cultivating and maintaining his relationships. As mentioned earlier, he always trusted first and occasionally he’d be let down. But he always forgave. He never held a grudge. Dad taught me how to be a friend. I carry those lessons with me every day within my own friendships.

Gentle, he was always delicate with his hands. His gestures, while undoubtedly ‘manly’, were always thoughtful and precise. He was a masterful mime and probably could have been a skilled magician if he had been so inclined. His hands were warm and tender and when he placed them on your shoulder or your back he’d give a soft ‘pat, pat, pat’ and you’d know that you were loved and safe. He was a terrific hugger, too.

Loving, Dad never shied away from expressing his affection. He told me constantly how proud he was of me, even if I’d failed at something. ‘You tried,’ he’d say, ‘that’s what matters. Now you know what to do next time. I’m so proud of you, sweetheart.’

I know that he loved me and I know that he was proud of me. That is the greatest gift he could have given me.

That… and happiness.


This song is EVERYTHING

A little less than a year ago, my pal comedian Lisa Koch (HeyLisa.com) was running a Kickstarter campaign for her latest album Enjoy the Ride. I happily plonked down some cash and in thanks she offered to write me a parody song on the topic of my choice. So I chose the Bury Your Gays/Dead Lesbian Cliche Trope. Because who doesn’t need a good laugh in the face of all that unnecessary murdering of our sapphic sisters, eh?

She came back with this GEM and I am soooooooooooooo excited to share it with you!! I hope that you enjoy it, have a good laugh and gain some awareness in the process. And if you choose to share this little tune, please PLEASE credit Lisa and link folks to her website, her twitter “@heylisakoch” and her FB page: lisakochseattle

Here are the lyrics:


(to “We Didn’t Start the Fire” – Billy Joel)

Parody lyrics:  Lisa Koch ©2018 Mamajune Music (BMI), Tongueinchic Productions LLC



Hey, what’s up, TV? Queer woman are getting killed off at 5 times the rate of “average” characters.  That’s bad.  Real bad.  Like for instance….


Nora and Mary Louise, Vampire Diaries

Alisha and Denise from the Walking Dead are done

Kaplan from the Blacklist, Lexa we were all pissed

Handmaid’s Tale got Martha 617-301


Lilly, Jenny, Charlie all

Dead on “Supernatural”

Xena,  Warrior Princess, that was back in ‘01

Dana, Jenny “L Word”

Joan, Danielle, “Wentworth”

Nan, Nora, Tara, Queen Sophie “True Blood”



TV’s knocking off Lesbos

Write ‘em in and save ‘em, don’t exterminate ‘em

TV’s knocking off Lesbos

Why do you create ‘em if you’re gonna waste ‘em?


Susan, Talvinder, Renee

“Slasher” made ‘em go away

Bullet from “The Killing”, and Felicity from “The Catch”

“Pretty Little Liars” said Maya, Shawna, Sarah—dead!

“OITNB” whacked Tricia and Poussey


Rachel Posner, “House of Cards”

“Jane the Virgin’s” Rose got shot

Then was resurrected as Susanna and Eileen

“Gotham’s” Barbara, Sara Arrow

“Warehouse 13’s” HG Wells

Resurrected after dyin’,

And the fans are screamin’, cryin’


TV’s knocking off Lesbos

Write ‘em in and save ‘em, don’t exterminate ‘em

TV’s knocking off Lesbos

Why do you create ‘em if you’re gonna waste ‘em



Gina from “Shut Eye”

Snoop and Tosha from “The Wire”

Dusty from “Queer as Folk” back in ‘05

Camilla, Mimi, Rhonda, “Empire” from Shonda

Don’t forget Talia rockin’ “Babylon Five”


Wendy, Ivy, Lucy, Alice

Winter, Bebe, and the Countess

Sally and Natasha – “‘Merican Horror Story”

Number 3 and Number 6-ah, “Battlestar Galactica”

“Doctor Who”, Bill and Heather

Kick the bucket, all together


TV’s knocking off Lesbos

Write ‘em in and save ‘em, don’t exterminate ‘em

TV’s knocking off Lesbos

Why do you create ‘em if you’re gonna waste ‘em?


Bridget on “24”,

“Black Mirror”, Kelly Yorkie

Mia from “Rogue”, Zoe, Rachel on “Scream”

Dax, “Deep Space Nine”

“Teen Wolf”, Emily’s dyin’

Carla, “Code Black”, yeah she had the Big C

Julia from “The Exorcist”, Saxa from “Spartacus”

Sophie, Mayfair “Blind Spot”

Jack’s mom, “30 Rock”


TV’s knocking off Lesbos

Write ‘em in and save ‘em, don’t exterminate ‘em

TV’s knocking off Lesbos

Why do you create ‘em if you’re gonna waste ‘em?


Marissa from “The O.C.”, Sam on “Scream Queens”

“Northern Exposure” killed Cicely ‘92

Susan, “Van Helsing”, Ash on “Janet King”

Shaz and Al and Natalie are “Bad Girls”, too


Olivia, “Nip/Tuck”, “Prison Break”, A&W

“Vampire Diaries”, and Nadia got bit

Bridey from “The Family”, June from “Sons of Anarchy”

Tits up, dirt nap, we ain’t gonna take this crap

TV’s knocking off Lesbos

Write ‘em in and save ‘em, don’t exterminate ‘em

TV’s knocking off Lesbos

Where’s the happy ending, this is never ending, ending, ending…

Thoughts on a Frog

Following the unfolding drama of Steve Whitmire’s firing from The Muppets Studio has been increasingly difficult.

At first I was one hundred percent on Steve’s side… but as more information came to light from Disney and (importantly) the Henson family… I find myself increasingly conflicted.

I don’t know Steve personally, so I have no basis for my opinion other than distant observation; therefore, it’s difficult to say whether it truly was/is in his capacity to behave as horribly as the studio and the family claim he did. But is saddens me to admit that I’m not convinced he didn’t.

That being said… I don’t think Disney and the Studio ever made it absolutely plain to Steve that his behaviour could be career-ending. This may be due to Steve (and all the Muppet performers) being contract-players, so there was never really any guarantee that any of them would be continually hired to play their roles. Perhaps Disney felt the tenuous nature of these types of contracts was enough to infer to any performer that they could be replaced at any time.

This is why I think Steve probably did/does have an ego-problem… he felt as Kermit he was untouchable. He believed that they couldn’t fire him and so he dug his heels in and asked for things that he was in no real position to ask for.

At the end of the day, the person I trust the most in this whole debacle is Brian Henson. He says Steve needed to go and, painful as it is to hear, that he needed to go a long time ago.

I grew up with Jim as Kermit the first half of my childhood, and with Steve as Kermit the last half and into adulthood. The important thing is that Kermit, and all he stands for, endures – whomever is performing him. Matt Vogel (the veteran Muppet puppeteer now assigned the role) is a consummate performer and I am increasingly excited to see him take on the mantle of the frog.

Ultimately, no one looks good in this mess. Not Disney, not Steve and not even the Hensons… but I also have to look at who stirred the pot to cause this public debacle in the first place and it falls to one man – Steve. Because of this, I have to also lend some credence to Disney and the Henson’s claims of his arrogance and ego.

Steve’s time with The Muppets is done. No amount of groundswell support from outraged fans will change this.

It’s time to support Matt and the performers still working with the Studio and Disney. I have to trust that someone is trying to make the right decisions for The Muppets… there have been a LOT of errors in judgement, but the last portion of the cancelled sitcom proved that they could learn from mistakes and begin to course-correct. The live events that the Studio has been producing for The Muppets have been increasing in both scale and quality (and quantity) so it certainly feels like they’re heading in a more positive direction.

My wife and I will be attending one of these events in September – The Muppets at the Hollywood Bowl – and I am just as excited now as I was before all this mess.

While the lights dim on Steve Whitmire… it’s time to light them on Matt Vogel.

It’s time to get things started.

PAX Prime 2014 – Pre-Con Drama

I totally thought Jen and I weren’t going to make it PAX this year. The tix sold out almost immediately, and there was no way I was going to buy from scalpers.

But then, last week, Paul and Storm (amazing nerdy comedy music duo) tweeted that they needed volunteers for their merch table in exchange for free 4-day passes. I leapt at this opportunity like some crazy monkey and shortly both my wife and I were signed up! Woot!!

So! Today I had some extra time between work and rehearsal and swung by the convention center to pick up our badges… Only they wouldn’t give me my wife’s badge because I didn’t have proof that she is my wife (I took our dom. partner card out of my wallet when we became officially married).

They were like, “We need some kind of ID.” So I said, “I can show you our relationship status on FB, plus wedding photos. Will that work?” They said, “No.” So I asked if they hold straight married couples to they same scrutiny?

Loooooong pause.

The gal behind the counter looked like a deer caught in headlights. Finally, carefully, she said, “Yes.”
Me, “You’d better; because I think you’re lying.”
Her, “I’m not.”
Me, “Ok.”
Her, “You’re just the first person I’ve had who’s tried to pick up their spouse’s badge.”
Me, “Ok.”
Her, “Sorry.”
Me, “Sure.”

Here’s the thing, PAX has a bad reputation for not being LGBTQ-friendly; or even just female-friendly. There was a big controversy last year about some seriously anti-trans things that one of the founders said and as a result a bunch of indie game developers pulled out of the show. There was further trouble when the founders dug in their heels in response to backlash surrounding an anti-woman, pro-rape cartoon that one of them drew and posted on their site. They went so far as to sell t-shirts showcasing the cartoon, and encouraging male attendees to buy and wear them to the convention. It was seriously effed up, and totally juvenile.

Why on Earth would I still want to attend a convention rampant with such misogyny? Because I’m a gamer girl. I love games. Board games, video games, I love them. Just like I love comic books and nerdy pop-culture and attend conventions celebrating those things, I love to attend PAX because it celebrates games and gamers.

This experience at the registration desk was my first personal experience with any sort of LGBTQ ignorance at PAX. Even though they *said* that they held straight couples to the same scrutiny it was SO CLEARLY a lie. You had to be there, but trust me, they were lying.

It just really hurt and was really frustrating. I thought we were past this here in the PNW.

My wife and I are still going to attend, we made a promise to Paul and Storm to help out, and we’re keeping it. We’ll still have fun, still play lots of games, but this experience has clouded the fun with a filter of disappointment, and that really sucks.

Flights of Fantasy

Last weekend my wife and I went to see the Fantasy Exhibit at the Experience Music Project in Seattle.

The Experience Music Project (EMP) at Seattle Center

The Experience Music Project (EMP) at Seattle Center

What followed was an impressive display of media artifacts (read collector’s items) from some of my favorite fantasy projects including Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal!!

Maquette of a Mystic (Dark Crystal)

Maquette of a Mystic (Dark Crystal)

Map of the world of The Dark Crystal

Map of the world of The Dark Crystal

Jim's personal notes on The Dark Crystal

Jim’s personal notes on The Dark Crystal

And attracting a LOT of attention: David Bowie's Jareth costume from Labyrinth!

And attracting a LOT of attention: David Bowie’s Jareth costume from Labyrinth!

In addition to these Henson treasures, they also were showcasing some sweet items from another popular 80’s flick: The Princess Bride!

Inigo's, Buttercup's and Wesley's costumes

Inigo’s, Buttercup’s and Wesley’s costumes


The actual swords used in the famous "Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya, etc" fight sequence!

The actual swords used in the famous “Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya, etc” fight sequence!

After leaving the Fantasy exhibit, we wandering into the Horror Movie exhibit and found these gems:

It's got red on it!!! (from Shaun of the Dead)

It’s got red on it!!! (from Shaun of the Dead)

Stunt Stakes from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (TV Series)

Stunt Stakes from “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” (TV Series)

They actually had a LOT more cool stuff in this exhibit but it was really, really, dark in there (you know, for atmosphere) and none of the other photos I took turned out well-enough to share here.

After the Horror exhibit we wandered (again) to the SciFi exhibit and found more awesomeness:

Anakin Skywalker's cowl from Episodes 5 and 6.

Anakin Skywalker’s cowl from Episodes 5 and 6.

Yoda's walking stick and necklace from Ep 5

Yoda’s walking stick and necklace from Ep 5


A Dalek from Doctor Who, the original series! Exterminate!!

A Dalek from Doctor Who, the original series! Exterminate!!

After this, we started home again. But not before this happened:

Jen of Thrones!!!

Jen of Thrones!!!

An excellent way to spend a few weekend hours. If you’re in the Puget Sound area, or visiting soon, please visit our EMP and check out all of the insanely cool stuff (including things I didn’t show here, like the Nirvana exhibit, or the Jimi Hendrix exhibit, or the guitar gallery… just sweet).









If Jane Austen Replied to a Customer Service Survey

Yesterday I was on the phone with customer servicefor one of the businesses my company works with. It was a pleasant interaction and, following the end of the call, I received a “How Are We Doing” survey request from the agent who had assisted me.


Most of the survey was your typical “On a Scale of 1 to 5 Rate your Experience” series of check boxes; but at the end was a place where a person could leave a free form comment.

I was about to write something like, “Excellent service, keep up the good work”, when it suddenly occurred to me that this was a window of opportunity to answer the question, “What if Jane Austen were to reply to a contemporary customer service survey?”


So I wrote this (please note, names have been changed for privacy):

Dear Sir or Madam or, indeed, Monkey (as ‘twere the case, this being a Survey after all),

 It is a truth universally acknowledged that a lighting rep in possession of a quality product must be in want of a reliable customer service agent.

 Behold me going to write you as handsome a letter of praise as I can.

 The day began with a dismaying cry of vexation as I was in the most piteous of states trying to discover the purpose and function of your device named simply “N80”.

 I was in want of a sheet of specification that would in detail reveal the secrets of the device, thus imbuing me of the knowledge wherein I might present the piece confidently to those so in need.

 Finding myself at a loss for such discovery I lept with eager haste to take in hand my telephonic communicator and, pressing the appropriate keys in sequence, found myself, as luck would have it, directly connected with your Mister Brzozowski. It is his name, though unpronounceable, of whom I sing the praises of this day.

 Quick to the task, Mister Brzozowski eloquently answered my questions, of which there were many, and politely directed me to the location of the document I sought. My brain so full with new knowledge and my chest swollen with sighs of relief, I thanked Mister Brzozowski heartily for his time and learned counsel and returned to my work so much the better for it.

 I endeavor here to remark how very grateful I was for his aide and thank you heartily for his employment as it benefits us all.

 Yours very truly,

Jen “Austen” Tidwell


I think I shall respond to survey inquiries in this manner from now on.

And this week’s edition to the Testimonial Gallery is:

Natalia Tena aka Tonks!

Natalia Tena aka Tonks!

Yes, there is a smudgey bit on the photo, she’d written my wife and I a personal message and I (badly) photoshopped it out to keep it personal. Hope ya’ll don’t mind 🙂