The History of an Alternate History
When people ask me about my father, I have to start by asking, "Which one?" The stepfather I was technically raised by, Jim, was a kind but altogether average human being. A public high school history teacher with a love of bad puns and a short temper, he could best be described as "present." Until he wasn't. He left me and my mom when I was 5, or was it 6? No, 3? That's how much of an impact he left on my psyche. My mom, on the other hand, is still imprinting on me today, a few years after her death.
The story of The Tolls is the story of my mother. Just as the story of the making of The Tolls is the story of my father, my REAL father, the one I didn't know existed until he inserted himself into my life with a kind of bizarre induction I had thought only happened in movies. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I'll begin with my mom's story. During WWII, her father, Corporal Wesley Morris, was a Signal Corp radio operator stationed at The Presidio in San Francisco. His wife, Sadie (my mom's mother) was a navy nurse. Weeks before the end of the war, her vessel was lost at sea, and everyone aboard was presumed dead. "But your Grandpa Wes wasn't having any of it!" Mom would tell me as she tucked me into my Star Wars sheets in our cramped one room trailer. "Every single goddamn day, rain or shine," she'd say through puffs on her Marlboro Menthol, "He'd go out to them cannons along the coast with his radio and try to find her ship. Every. Single. Goddamn day."
"After a while, he decided that if he didn't find her by the time the war ended, he would end himself." Now she'd mime a finger pistol beneath her chin. "And he was ready to do it too! But on VE Day, the end of the war, as your gramps put the cold barrel of that .45 beneath his chin and was about to squeeze that trigger? The universe had other plans." Here she'd always pause, take a deep drag, and blow smoke towards the ceiling as if creating a portal for me to gaze into. "Because that's when Sumthin' Else happened..."
I know, fucking anticlimactic. But to tell you more would give away the film (or at least the first five minutes, which are true and impossible).
The rest of the movie was inspired by my father, the one I hinted at earlier. He taught me that the "Sumthin' Else" that could've happened to my grandpa after that moment is as limitless as my imagination. He steered my mother's story more and more towards science fiction and fantasy, and I'm grateful for it. See, my father was very skilled at steering people towards fantasy and some would say mass delusion. In the 60's he helped to establish a revolutionary New Age movement which thrived in San Francisco until 2012. His name is Octavio Coleman.
The story of how we met is the greatest Sumthin' Else that ever happened to me. It is a story that (like my mother's) is both true, and impossible.
I made another movie about it, I hope to share it with you sometime. In the meantime, here's a light snack.
-Wylie Herman, ESQ.
CEO, Crystore Inc.