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Transcript of interview with Joshua Abbey by Barbara Tabach, June 6, 2016






Joshua Nathaniel Abbey was born in 1956 to artist Rita Deanin Abbey and author Edward Abbey. While much of Joshua?s early childhood was spent in the southwest following his father?s job, Hoboken, New Jersey, was where he attended elementary school and where his Jewish foundation took shape with his maternal grandparents. In 1964, the Abbey family moved westward again to Las Vegas. Though his father moved on and became a distant influence on Joshua?s life, his mother, Rita, remained and became an artist and art instructor at UNLV. Upon graduating from Las Vegas? Valley High School, Joshua set his sights on an acting career. His creative and industrious energies would inspire him to move about: from Los Angeles to New York and back to Las Vegas. He traveled the world, met the love of his life Yve Eiholzer-Abbey, a fellow Thespian. Eventually the couple made Las Vegas their permanent residence. In this interview, Josh recalls his life?s journey and the many career steps, friendships and accomplishments he has experienced along the path. Among Josh?s local contributions is the creation the Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival, which began in 2001. He also was founder of CineVegas Film Festival in 1998; a member of the Nevada Arts Council, City of Las Vegas Arts Commission and Director of the Desert Space Foundation, a local non-profit foundation committed to assisting emerging arts groups. He has also worked with Blue Man Group, for Jewish Family Service Agency, had a brief speaking part in the movie, The Natural, and been an activist opposing the Yucca Mountain waste repository-and much more. Joshua is a graduate of University of Nevada Las Vegas (Theater Arts 1980) and American Film Institute (1993).

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Joshua Abbey oral history interview, 2016 June 06. OH-02708. [Transcript]. Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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AN INTERVIEW WITH JOSHUA ABBEY An Oral History Conducted by Barbara Tabach Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas ii ?Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2014 Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV ? University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Project Manager: Barbara Tabach Transcriber: Kristin Hicks Interviewers: Barbara Tabach, Claytee D. White Editors and Project Assistants: Maggie Lopes, Amanda Hammar iii The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Grant. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank University of Nevada Las Vegas for the support given that allowed an idea the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader?s understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews with permission of the narrator. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the Southern Nevada Jewish Heritage Project. Claytee D. White Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas iv PREFACE Joshua Nathaniel Abbey was born in 1956 to artist Rita Deanin Abbey and author Edward Abbey. While much of Joshua?s early childhood was spent in the southwest following his father?s job, Hoboken, New Jersey, was where he attended elementary school and where his Jewish foundation took shape with his maternal grandparents. In 1964, the Abbey family moved westward again to Las Vegas. Though his father moved on and became a distant influence on Joshua?s life, his mother, Rita, remained and became an artist and art instructor at UNLV. Upon graduating from Las Vegas? Valley High School, Joshua set his sights on an acting career. His creative and industrious energies would inspire him to move about: from Los Angeles to New York and back to Las Vegas. He traveled the world, met the love of his life Yve Eiholzer-Abbey, a fellow Thespian. Eventually the couple made Las Vegas their permanent residence. v In this interview, Josh recalls his life?s journey and the many career steps, friendships and accomplishments he has experienced along the path. Among Josh?s local contributions is the creation the Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival, which began in 2001. He also was founder of CineVegas Film Festival in 1998; a member of the Nevada Arts Council, City of Las Vegas Arts Commission and Director of the Desert Space Foundation, a local non-profit foundation committed to assisting emerging arts groups. He has also worked with Blue Man Group, for Jewish Family Service Agency, had a brief speaking part in the movie, The Natural, and been an activist opposing the Yucca Mountain waste repository?and much more. Joshua is a graduate of University of Nevada Las Vegas (Theater Arts 1980) and American Film Institute (1993). vi TABLE OF CONTENTS Interview with Joshua N. Abbey June 6, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada Conducted by Barbara Tabach Preface??????????????????????????????????..iv Talks about maternal family ancestry from Russian and Polish backgrounds; immigrated prior to World War I to New York; mother Rita Deanin Abbey; Uncle Zalman?s farm in New Jersey; memories of his grandfather. Father Edward Abbey; family roots in Pennsylvania; non-Jewish side; memories of grandparents; learning about Swiss heritage in 1980s. Shares a 1918 poem by his great-grandmother Eleanor Abbey?????????????????????.1 ? 6 Describes his wife Yve telling her family she was marrying an American named ?Abbey?; meeting distant relatives named ?Aebi? in Switzerland. Talks about being a child of a mixed marriage; influence of his father?s absence of religion; father?s organization called Earth First; father?s first novel The Monkey Wrench Gang and options to make it into a movie; his only major acting credit in The Natural (1984)???????????????????..7 ? 10 Talks about parents? separation and divorce; childhood in Hoboken, New Jersey; how they came to settle in Las Vegas; mother worked at UNLV and challenges of that in 1960s; she encourages him and his brother Aaron into UNLV Children?s Theatre Company, an important formative step for him; also was in Hebrew school at Temple Beth Sholom; bar mitzvah in 1969??.?11 ? 15 Troubled teen years; Readers Theater in England (1976); other theater involvement during years at Valley High School; graduated at 16 and enrolled in UNLV?s Theater Department; Stage Manager in Our Town. Talks about first trip to Israel in 1966, then 1972; more about his grandparents and their religious identity???????????????????..16 ? 19 Speaks about his mother being involved in the remodel of Temple Beth Sholom?s Oakey location; her stained glass artwork; future responsibility to preserve her legacy; his previous involvement with nonprofits, Nevada State Arts Council and the State?s Historic Preservation Committee. Talks about growing up in Las Vegas; schools; Helldorado Days, Children?s Theater and other activities young people enjoyed???????????????.20 ? 22 Describes moving to California and desire to become a professional actor; Lee Strasberg Institute; American Film Institute; return to UNLV theater department. Father arranged for Grand Canyon raft trip; travel with Reader?s Theater Company in London; Jane Hamilton, an adult film star and producer.???????????????????????...23 ? 27 vii Tells about his move to New York in 1980; meeting his wife Yve in 1983; work with filmmakers at School of Visual Arts; multiple jobs in New York; details of Yve?s background; Mr. Chill and his proposition with rent-controlled apartments?????????..?28 ? 35 Mentions acting role in Donny?s House, a play by Judi Anne Mason; other acting work; frequent travel to Europe; trip to Columbia; married Yve in 1985 at Valley of Fire; eventually move to Los Angeles to enroll in American Film Institute; Anthony Jardine collaboration on Monkey Park; receives an MFA in Producing. 1990 hired to help with installation entitled KlangBrucke (Soundbridge) in Switzerland???????????????????????.36 ? 41 Speaks about variety of unique jobs including night host for Forest Lawn Cemetery; 1993 returned to Las Vegas and took position with Summerlin Library Theater producing original programs; talks about Library District then; his vision to start Literary Film Festival; meeting film director James Cameron and a list of actors on the rise at the time???????..42 ? 48 Describes how he gravitated toward Jewish neighborhood in New York. Recalls first time he arrived in Las Vegas (1964); being a dresser for Hallelujah Hollywood at MGM; other Strip shows he worked at???????????????????????????..48 ? 51 Recalls leaving Summerlin Library position; going to work as Community Relations Director at Jewish Federation of Las Vegas in 1995; describes starting exhibition gallery at the Federation building, Jean Weinberger Museum; various shows there. Meets Aimee Williams, documentary filmmaker; seeds for first CineVegas Film Festival; board members for the festival; potential of more recent Las Vegas Film Festival; Zappos involvement????????????.52 ? 59 Tells the background story of how the Jewish Film Festival began; Betsy Cowan; amount of Jewish themed movies being made; also, works with preserving his mother Rita?s legacy as an artist. Member of Nevada Arts Council; Nevada Historical Preservation Committee; Las Vegas Arts Commission and contributions to these. Partnership with Creative Time, a prominent New York public art collective; Sky is the Limit video installation. Travel to Japan. More about Rita Deanin Abbey?s life?s work and the Desert Space Foundation??????????..60 ? 64 Talks more about position at Jewish Federation of Ls Vegas from 1995 ? 1998; Holocaust-related experiences; showing Son of Saul, award winning film in 2016; other Holocaust-themed films; each year biggest challenge of JFF is getting non-Jewish audience; film genres he seeks to show; community sponsors; marketing ideas he has tried; Jewish film festivals in other cities.?????????????????????????????????64 ? 74 Explains that Orthodox Jews don?t attend public arts functions; getting Chabad rabbis to attend film festival; screenings at Adelson Educational Campus; sources of outside funding; celebrating 16th season of JFF in Las Vegas???????????????????????74 ? 78 viii Talks about what he does after the film festival is over in January; describes his tenure as director of Jewish Family Service Agency (JFSA) from 2009-2011; created a series of public service announcements; challenges of fund raising?????.??????????79 ? 82 Shares about a video of key Jewish women in Las Vegas done by Francis Copeland; who was interviewed; what he learned about local Jewish history from the stories, names and places. Remembers Passover Seder at Gertrude Rudiak?s home when growing up??????.83 ? 86 Mentions the JFF posters; named change of the festival; Jeff Fey, graphic artist. Talks about his active involvement in opposing the Yucca Mountain waste repository; his idea for an international design competition for an effective warning sign; more about the Desert Space Foundation; sign competition for City of Las Vegas Centennial Celebration in 2005; Blue Man Group work as marketing director in 2000??????????.????????..87 ? 91 Closing thoughts about his inspirations, especially related to his Judaism; how life might have been different if the family had stayed in Las Vegas???????????????92 ? 94 Index?..????????????????????????????????95 ? 98 ix 1 This is Barbara Tabach. Today is June 6, 2016. I'm with Joshua Abbey. Joshua, spell your name for us first. J-O-S-H-U-A. My middle name is Nathaniel, N-A-T-H-A-N-I-E-L. My last name is Abbey, A-B-B-E-Y. Great. As I was explaining for the Jewish Heritage project, it's always interesting to get some sort of a genealogical, ancestral story. It sets the tone for where the family came from. So what can you tell me about that? My mother has Jewish ancestry dating back to the nineteenth century in Russia from Odessa on her father's side and Jewish ancestry from Warsaw, Poland and before that, the Ottoman Empire on her mother's side. All of my Jewish ancestry suffered great persecution as Jews and were forced to constantly relocate to protect their families. During the pogroms in Russia, families would be happy if only a few of their family members were killed as often entire families would be eradicated. My maternal grandparents, Frieda and Joe, immigrated separately to America prior to the First World War. They met in Brooklyn, NY and then moved to Passaic, New Jersey where my mother Rita Deanin Abbey was born in 1930. My grandfather, Joseph Deanin, worked in the textiles trade and my grandmother Frieda was a homemaker. They spoke mostly Yiddish but were both fluent in Russian and Polish and eventually learned to speak English as well. They had two girls, Sylvia and Rita and one boy, Danny. My mother Rita was the youngest. All of my grandfather?s and grandmother?s brothers and sisters also immigrated to America and once settled, they sent for all my great-grandparents to join them. Of my grandfather's brothers, Zalman and Sam are the two I remember the most although it was a very big family and I had many great uncles, great-aunts and cousins. Zalman and Sam were both ardent Zionists and very much involved in Jewish community. Zalman had a beautiful 2 farm in Long Island, worked as a housing developer/builder and dedicated his life to raising money for Israel and other Jewish causes. When I lived back East as a child during my early grade school years, we lived in Hoboken, New Jersey, right across the street from Stevens Institute of Technology on Hudson Street. My grandparents had moved, in their retirement from Passaic to Hoboken where they bought a Brownstone with rooms they rented out to students from Stevens. As a young child, I remember there was always an interesting cast of characters and young engineering students from all over the world who were tenants in the brownstone. My mom had a special relationship with my great-uncle Zalman and we would often go visit him and his wife Sonja at their farm. Zalman had found a wild Blue Jay that somehow had injured its wings and it couldn't fly. This wild bird became my first pet. We did have a dog prior to my living in Hoboken when we lived with my father Edward Abbey in National Parks throughout the southwest but I was really young and have few memories of Homer who was a Dalmatian. I called the Blue Jay ?Jay-Jay.? He was the smartest animal I've ever had as a pet. The bird actually learned how to play hide-and-go-seek with me and my younger brother Aaron. We would leave the cage door open. Aaron and I would go hide. Jay-Jay would wait about thirty seconds and then come find us. Then we would go to the cage and Jay-Jay would hide under the bed or elsewhere until we found him. It was astounding. That's amazing. Yes, he was an amazing pet. Unfortunately, in those old Brownstones, you could hear the rats in the walls because we were near the wharf and the river and Jay-Jay must have found some rat poison somewhere. He went into convulsions and died. That was one of the most crushing blows of my youth when that poor bird passed away. I was really heartbroken about it. After Jay-Jay?s passing, my grandfather Joseph Deanin got throat cancer when I was in 3 third or fourth grade. He was convalesced and died in our home in Hoboken and that was very, very traumatic for my mother, my grandmother and my brother and me too, of course. He was only in his late 50?s and the story went that when he was younger he had come home on a hot summer day, went to the fridge and grabbed a container of liquid and drank it very quickly. It turned out to be bleach. Oh my gosh. He had a horrible reaction and then they attribute his throat cancer to that, but he also smoked incessantly, as did many people of his generation. I have fond memories of him walking me to elementary school. The school that I went to was one of those big entire block-by-block five-story buildings, like many of the old public schools were in those days. We lived a good half-hour from the school and he liked to walk me there. My mother says that he really adored me. I have only faint memories of our time together because I was quite young when he passed. On my father's side, I never really knew much about his family?s genealogy. I knew that both sides were many generations Americans based in the Appalachian region of Pennsylvania. My father was raised a little bit east of Pittsburgh in a small, little hamlet called Home; Home, PA in Indiana County. My grandfather, his name is Paul Revere Abbey and his wife, my grandmother, was Mildred. They had five children, all boys and one daughter. My father was the first child born. There is an old family photograph of me as a baby with my mother and my father?s family, which I can share with you? Oh, yes, that would be great. ?at their home in Pennsylvania. They were very much the opposite of my Jewish side of the family because they were Presbyterians and more austere. Not that they weren't a tight family, 4 but they rarely showed emotion. My mother tells me stories of how when she or other Abbey family members were visiting each other for a few days, they would literally leave late at night or very early in the morning so they wouldn't have to have an emotional exchange saying goodbye. I do remember my grandfather Paul, however, being a very animated, energetic, smart and kind person. He worked as a lumberjack and his hobby was being a rock hound. He loved to travel out West and collect rocks and he had a huge rock collection in his house including a special room with phosphorescent rocks that glowed in the dark under UV lighting. He was also a socialist, anarchist and an atheist. I'm sure that my grandfather?s political and religious views as well as his love of the west are part of what inspired my dad (along with his reading Emerson and Thoreau) to start dreaming of the spirit of freedom represented by the west, that he eagerly began exploring after he graduated high school. Some of my father?s brothers were also lumberjacks. Like my grandfather, they worked in the sawmills. My grandmother Mildred was a teacher and very involved in her church. My grandmother, unfortunately, died instantly in her 80?s when she was hit while driving by a big truck. My grandfather died afterwards in his late 80?s. Did they remain in Pennsylvania all that time? Yes, my grandparents on my father?s side stayed in Pennsylvania their entire life as did most of the brothers. My aunt Nancy (the only daughter of my paternal grandparents) settled in Santa Cruz, California and my uncle Billy (the youngest) was in the military and wound up in Hawaii. But since my mother and father divorced, I've had very little contact with my father?s side of family partially because there was no outreach on their part, mostly because my mother had such an intense divorce from my father and my father didn't pay any child support for a number of years. 5 I only discovered details about my father's ancestry in the 1980?s after I was married. I always had a fascination with Switzerland and I married a woman from Switzerland, Yve Eiholzer. About three or four years after we were married, I saw a detailed website online about my father who is a well-known writer and environmentalist. The website was created by a man from Sweden who had done extensive research about my father and created a genealogy page. I discovered that my great-great grandfather came from Switzerland. On September 6, 1869 the ship Westphalia arrived in New Jersey. On board was my great-great grandfather Johannes Aebi who was born in Heimiswil, near Bern, Switzerland about May 3, 1850. In the ship's log he was listed as "Johann Aebby" and the dock records lists him as "Jean Aebbi". He anglicized his name to John Abbey, settled near Ohiopyle, Fayette County, Pennsylvania and then sent for the rest of the family. His father and mother Johann and Magda Aebi, arrived with their other 10 children in New York on October 7, 1871 with the German ship Helsatia. Everyone in the family had their names anglicized to Abbey except a sibling named Friedrich who kept the Aebi name. The father Johann died of smallpox in 1873, two years after arriving in America. This left the family to fend for themselves, and they had a hard time of it. The youngest son Siegfried also died. It must have been somewhat of a "come-down" for the family; in Switzerland Johann Aebi had been a town official in their hometown Heimiswil and the family was quite wealthy. It is unclear what made them move to America, maybe Johannes spoke well about the endless possibilities in the New World or perhaps religious persecution was a factor. A book of Aebi genealogy exists and it traces the Aebi family back to Peter Aebi born in 1562. Many of the brothers and sisters who arrived in America married and some remained single. I don't know if any other branches of the family have ever been traced. 6 On September 2, 1877 John Abbey (the oldest son) married Eleanor Jane. They raised 11 children with their youngest was Paul born in 1901 (my dad?s father). There's not much information available about my paternal grandfather?s mother Eleanor. Her family, the Ostranders were Hollanders of French descent, Huguenot. Eleanor?s father William Ostrander was born in New Jersey, but there must have been many Ostranders in Washington County, Pennsylvania, since two of Eleanor's cousins also married Abbey's. Eleanor loved poetry and wrote some herself, such as this poem to and about my grandfather Paul written in October, 1918: When I hear your whistle Oh I love to hear your whistle When you're coming home at night, Tho' the way be dark and dismal, Or the stars are shining bright, At times, you don't know it, But it thrills me with delight When I hear you gaily whistling When you're coming home at night, For I know your mind is merry And I know your heart is gay And I'm sure you've not been walking In the paths that lead astray. 7 If your heart had lost it's music And your smile had lost it's light, You would never come a-whistling, When you're coming home at night. So my ancestry on my father?s side is Swiss. When my wife's father, who lived in a small village near Lucerne, Switzerland, an extremely beautiful area near a lake with Habsburg ruins on the property along with old cherry trees and bountiful gardens, just completely like fairy tale kind of environment? It sounds very romantic, sensory, yes. Yes. When my wife, Yve, told him she was going to marry an American, the first thing he asked was what my name was and when she said, "Abbey." He just laughed. He said, "You didn't have to go across the ocean to marry an Aebi; there's one across the lake." After I learned about the genealogy, I printed it out and went to visit my ancestral home of Heimiswil. Every village and town in Switzerland has a Gemeindehaus (a town hall or house of records). They keep impeccable records about the history of their particular community, very similar to the archival work UNLV is doing with the Las Vegas Jewish community. When I introduced myself, they were fascinated that I had the genealogy of the Aebi family from the 1800s in America going forward to the present and they had the genealogy going back to the sixteenth century, really far back. I learned that the house that Johannes Aebi had lived in still existed and that some distant relatives were living there. Yve and I went to find it. It was one of what they call Bernese Oberland style giant farmhouses. Part of the structure is the house and the remaining part is the barn. This style of architecture has huge overhanging roofs and the entire structure was meticulously built out of solid wood. There were two wooden beams 8 coming out above the front door and emblazoned (one letter) on each beam were the initials J and A, which are my initials. The carved initials were originally done for Johannes Aebi because Johannes is spelled with a J. I had arrived at the home of my Swiss origin. Amazing. So did you meet distant relatives? Yes, although we arrived unannounced they greeted us pleasantly when we met them. Fortunately, Yve speaks Swiss German because they didn't speak any English. When they first heard my story, they seemed a little apprehensive that I might be coming back to claim my birthright. They were very kind and shared with us what was called a House Book that belonged to my great- great grandfather, Johannes Aebi, but it was in written old German. Yve couldn't read it and they also couldn't read it. Remarkably, they happened to know someone in the village that could and they contacted them to come over and help us decipher the beautiful penmanship of the old handwritten text. It turned out that the book was a mundane record of daily business, how many eggs were sold and so-on. They had kept the diary of all the business transaction of day-to-day living on the farm. But it was totally fascinating to see the handwriting of my great-great grandfather and visit a part of my European roots. Oh, yes. So even the mundane is meaningful when you're experiencing it that way about your family heritage. That's very cool. It was a great experience. As my father once said, "I am descended from an endless line of dark-complexioned, lug-eared, beetle-browed, insolent barbarian peasants, a line reaching back to the dark forests of central Europe and the alpine caves of my Neanderthal primogenitors.? So you were a product of mixed religious marriage. Very much so, yes. 9 Did that have an impact, do you think? Well, my father was not religious at all. I don't know if he called himself an atheist, but he definitely didn't believe in God and had no time or concern for religion. He fundamentally considered himself an anarchist. In fact, his master's thesis, from the University of New Mexico where he first met my mother during their post graduate work in the 1950?s, was about anarchism. His graduate thesis was titled "Anarchism and the Morality of Violence.? He went on to become famous as a writer and the so-called father of the radical environmental movement, and an organization called Earth First. His credo was basically protecting the earth by any means necessary (short of hurting any human life) using terrorist/sabotage activity to preserve the natural world from human exploitation and destruction. Earth First was inspired by one of his novels called The Monkey Wrench Gang, which is about a disparate group of radical environmentalists who eventually blow up Glen Canyon Dam because when the dam was built; it created Lake Powel under which was drowned and destroyed hundreds of miles of Glen Canyon, the most serene pristine natural canyon land, an extension of the Grand Canyon going north into Utah. And now, ironically, the government is talking about decommissioning Glen Canyon Dam and draining Lake Powell to fill Lake Mead because the combined reservoirs have way too much evaporation, millions of gallons of water, due to their exposed surface area. So my father?s dream may come true. Glen Canyon may indeed come back. They probably won't take out Glen Canyon Dam, but they'll release the water over time and eventually the silt will burn off and The Monkey Wrench Gang, has been under option by Hollywood to be made into a major motion picture since it was first published in the mid 1980?s, but it was controlled by Paramount Pictures and it never got made. Nobody could understand why because it had such a huge cult following and it was an important best-selling book. It turned out that Paramount Pictures' 10 parent company was Gulf Western and that was the last thing Gulf Western wanted was to have the book?s message promoted to the public. Then after the 9/11, portrayal of terrorism in any form became very taboo. None the less, the option has been renewed year after year after year for almost 30 years. A friend of mine is Gary Burden a famous graphic artist who designed many famous California band?s album covers in the early seventies such as Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, and Joni Mitchell. Gary now has the option on The Monkey Wrench Gang and he has dedicated himself to making the book into a movie. It looks like it's about to finally happen. So that's pretty exciting. Isn't that interesting, as we will learn as we talk about your life history, but to have film come... Gary promised to at least bring me to the set, but I'm hoping I'll get either a small speaking role or be an extra player so I can participate more fully in the production. Oh, yes. You've got to get your name into those credits. We will see. That's fun. I grew up?I didn't really get into my youth yet. But I spent most of my youth as an actor, and then moved into directing and producing theater and film. All the stars will collide on this if that comes to... My only major acting credit was in Robert Redford's The Natural. I had a small speaking part in the film, which got cut down to five seconds in the final cut, unfortunately. So my name is in the credits longer than I am in the film. But I did get my Screen Actors Guild membership card out of that. I love that movie, too. 11 Yes, it's a great movie. You can literally see me for a flash. I'm the photographer at home base when Redford comes around the bases after hitting a home run. I'll have to go back and revisit that movie. Like I said, it is easier to see my name in the beginning of the end credit roll than to catch my appearance. So your father's background is clear. And then your mom...How did you get to Las Vegas? How does everybody get west? Before my father made a living as a writer after my parents got married (meeting as students at the University of New Mexico), he worked as a park ranger in the late 1950?s on the most remote parks he could find because he didn't want to be a park ranger to greet tourists; he wanted to be isolated in the most beautiful nature in America so he could explore and write. My brother and I were born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and I was raised in Taos, Arches, White Sands, Casa Grande, Sunset Crater and other extraordinary places like that. I spent my infancy and early childhood in some of the most beautiful parts of the southwest. We usually lived in a government provided trailer and my mother would paint outdoors while my father would work on his writing and do the minimal that he had to as an official park ranger. His most famous book Desert Solitaire is dedicated to my brother and me and is composed of a series of essays about living in Arches and his experiences there. After I began school, we would go back east to Hoboken, New Jersey, to live with my grandparents and my mother would continue making art in a rented studio there. My mother and father were separated quite a bit during our time back east as my father hated big cities and the east coast. Most of their 13 year marriage was spent apart from each other. Soon after I started 12 school, my mother, my brother [Aaron Abbey] and I never really saw my father during the fall or winter. Only in the summers would we come together as a family, and even then he was constantly disappearing on adventures. He was more interested in following his urges than being a dedicated family man. He had been married once before his marriage to my mother and by the time he died he had been married five times altogether. He had three other children besides my brother and me (from different marriages), who are all still living. In 1964, I remember being in Hoboken when the presidential election was going on and there was a big parade for LBJ going down Washington Avenue...through the middle of the city. I have very fond memories of living in Hoboken because, first of all, the Maxwell House coffee factory was there, so the whole city smelled like freshly brewed coffee. Very near where we lived was a park high up on the Palisades that had incredible views of Midtown Manhattan. We would often take the ferry boat across to Manhattan and go to Broadway shows and the museum exhibitions. I was blessed with this incredible balance of both living in national parks and in the epicenter of most sophisticated culture in the world. I had a remarkable childhood. But eventually, my mother?who endured a very difficult marriage with my father?followed him to Las Vegas because he had found some work here with the Welfare Department. He worked many odd jobs until he made a living exclusively from his writing. As soon as we came to Vegas, my mother found out he was having an affair with a showgirl who taught dance after she retired. My brother Aaron studied dance with her, not realizing who she was. When I met her once, she privately told me about her relationship with my father. After this episode, my mother finally had an epiphany that the problems of the marriage weren't her fault. She had internalized their conflicts for many years, believing that she could make things better somehow and save the relationship. 13 Marriage is a tough thing. She divorced my father in 1965 after thirteen years of marriage and she got a job teaching art at UNLV when it was called Southern Nevada University. I was nine years old and my brother was six. But she decided to stay in Las Vegas. Yes. We lived downtown at the top of Bonanza hill on 12th Street. Those apartments were small, inexpensive, four-unit apartments, but they had an upstairs with a balcony facing east over the most spectacular view of North Las Vegas and Sunrise Mountain. My mom rented two apartments side by side and used one as her studio. After my grandfather died, my grandmother Frieda came to live with us there. It was a very small two-bedroom and I shared a bedroom with my brother. We survived on my mother?s minimal single income because my father didn't send any financial support whatsoever. She was accustomed to being financially independent because he rarely supported the family even when they were married. He just vanished all the time. Oh, he didn't remain here, the