When false accusations of child abuse and abandonment by my ex-wife led to things falling apart and I opted to quit fighting and instead completely remove myself from my daughter’s life in the summer of 2000 after receiving a letter from her in which she was prompted to write horrible and hateful things to me, I did a radical thing: I purged my Encino apartment of all traces of Kate. Everything. From the $500 doll house I’d bought her for Christmas a couple years earlier down to the littlest trinket and everything in between, I either threw it out or got it the hell over to Goodwill or into my mom’s Sherman Oaks garage later to be either sold in a yard sale or thrown out or given to charity.

In the matter of one day my one-bedroom flat went from being an obvious shrine to my daughter, to a place that held literally no trace that I was a proud father — albeit an every-other-weekend one — to a wonderful little 10-year-old girl.

Cold-hearted bastard as I can be I didn’t get rid of e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. A number of boxes of her drawings and our photographs and whatnot survived the exorcism. I just stowed them way the hell out of sight and mind. And they stayed stowed through my moves from Encino to Sherman Oaks (2001) to my first Silver Lake address (2003) and my current one (2004) — even o with our remarkable reconiciliation and reconnection last year they stayed put away.

When I moved in with Susan some of the stuff went down into the basement and some went into the storage space above the library closet where it was forgotten about until yesterday when I decided to clean out and organize that storage space that had become stuffed and a mess. During the extraction portion of the proceedings I pulled out an old Crate & Barrel box that was stuck way in the back and when I opened it up to investigate its contents I was greeted with this picture:

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The buttons all around the matte are courtesy of Kate who decorated it as a Father’s Day gift. The photo was taken of us I’m not sure when — maybe 1996 or ’97 — or exactly where… somewhere up PCH around Malibu or perhaps even further north. I do, however, remember the event. It was a fathers-and-daughters outing. I’m not sure who it was organized by but it involved many of her classmates at St. Cyril’s school in Encino. I remember it met at the school parking lot off of Ventura Boulevard from which a mass caravan of dads drove to the ocean for a beach party that at one point included climbing to the top of a bluff and watching for any whales passing by (we saw a couple off in the distant waters as I recall).

It’s always been my favorite picture of me and my little girl during some of our happiest times. And though I finished reorganizing the space above the closet and moved the Crate & Barrel box down into the basement, this picture now sits on my desk. Where it belongs.