Light at the End

So it looks like I blew my 500th post last time by telling y’all I wasn’t going to be around much this month. So much for arbitrary milestones, que sera sera. I think – maybe – the worst is past now. Possibly.

6623950883_e01f3719c5_zAs I write this, rains from the remnants of Hurricane Odile are hammering Texas, and I keep expecting the lights or Internet to go out. We have it a bit easier in the Houston area than further into the interior, but it’s serious enough that a whole bunch of scheduled things are now questionable. It would probably be best if I stayed home tonight and got some work done, but I really need to go to the opening night of a show my wife has been working on for the past month.

By and large, though, it seems that my days of being triple-booked are over for the moment, which is good; yesterday put me back on the cane for a while (and the weather ain’t helpin’ my rheumatiz, by jingo!). I am behind in my writing – oh, when am I not? – and I look forward to Sunday, when, gloriously absolutely nothing is scheduled. Well, I’ll need to buy groceries, but that’s at my leisure.

I did do something novel last Sunday – I read for a small part in a indie movie being filmed here. I haven’t heard anything yet, but there are three days in October I am currently keeping open. More bulletins as they occur, but I’m pretty sanguine about this. Like my wife’s show – which I read for, but was not cast – if I get it, fine, it’s something new and different in my life. If not… well, it would have complicated things anyway, right? Of course, when you measure three days of shooting against a month of rehearsal and then another month (at least) of performances, you are talking vastly different levels of complexity.

I still have two more City meetings to run sound for in the next two weeks, then we’re into the new fiscal year and I’ll be back to my regular work load there. So I’m not saying I’m back here with any confidence, mind you, but things are looking a bit better in that respect.

Now I’m going to go see if I’m flooded in.

Signing In Late

Yeah, suck it, salaryman.

Yeah, suck it, salaryman.

Well, I had a pretty good run of Wednesday updates going there. Looking back over previous posts (and sometimes I could even be bothered to correct errors) I find this is the Status Quo. Every September, my life shifts gears, and I get much busier. I get back into the new-story-every-week mode at the Day Job, hopefully pick up another writing contract, and City Meetings that need audio support in the last month of their fiscal year (when they’ve run out of money) hire the cheapest guy. Which would be me.

My weekend gig is also reviving an old show, so rehearsals also cut into the time.

So my spare time is getting sparser than the hair atop my head (hint: there is damned little up there), so I’m afraid this is going to be the normal for a while. I don’t much care for that, but the alternative is a tad troublesome, ie., having no money.

That’s the big blockade to a cherished dream: just watching a movie a day. Lots of people do this. Lots of people watch more than one movie a day. I could do it if I gave up sleep. But I’m already a pretty grumpy bastard, no need to ratchet that up. I’d also need to stop writing about the damned things, at which some of you would likely breathe a sigh of relief.

(hm. That would free up an hour or three every week…)

Anyway, I’m likely to be pretty scarce this month. If it’s any consolation, I’ve been working on something for October with some other movie bloggers, and you’re going to get absolutely sick of me next month.

See ya in the funny papers.

Some Filler

This will be quick (I hope), because I’m tired, tense and not a little angry. None of these are good by themselves, and in concert, they feed on each other relentlessly. I also have quite a bit to do.

These Three Horsemen of Negativity are headed up by their leader, also known as Freelance Work. Or to be precise, the freelancer’s plight – completing one’s work in a timely manner, whereas the payment for same is, shall we say, lackadaisical.

I'm either stressed out or getting scanned. Getting scanned would be preferable.

I’m either stressed out or getting scanned. Getting scanned would be preferable.

“Our Accounts Payable person takes July off.” Thankfully, that sentence was not followed with, “Is that a problem?” because I would have had to answer that. The bigger paycheck which is causing bigger stress… well, I can take the tack that every day I don’t find it in my mailbox, it is made more probable that it will be there the next day, right? It is one of the vagaries of the postal system that if I send a card to my mother (or vice versa) who lives 100 miles away, it gets there the next day, which is pretty remarkable, when you get right down to it. But if I am mailed a paycheck from downtown Houston, which is 15 miles away, it takes a week or more to get to me. That is a completely different form of remarkable.

I try to impress upon myself that the bills that were due are paid. We aren’t starving. We have a roof over our head. I have enough money to pick up my blood pressure medication tomorrow. It could be worse. It’s been worse.

Still. Tired. Tense. Angry.

I’m entering into one of those lop-sided hell weeks full of city meetings. Have a writing deadline, No shows this weekend, a financial hit that makes that missing paycheck from downtown even more important. That does, however, mean the freedom to have a Crapfest this weekend, which will soothe some hurts. Likely won’t get to write about it until next Wednesday, though.

Last Saturday, I hit critical mass. There was just too much hateful stupidity being thrust at me from all directions, and it was time to walk away from social media. @rstevens, the creator of Diesel Sweeties, one of the most consistently smart webcomics out there, put it best on Tuesday:

Go to that URL. Buy his stuff.

Go to that URL. Buy his stuff.

And let me tell you: going to Netflix and watching old episodes of Forensic Files is not going to help you get rid of that gloomy “What the fuck is wrong with people?” feeling. Quite the opposite. Protip, and all that.

And sweet Jesus, it’s an election year.It’s only going to get far, far worse. I’m either going to be a saint or a sot by the end of the year, and I know which one sounds more worthwhile.

guardians-galaxy-movie-trailer-humorOh, yeah, you probably want to hear about movies. I saw Guardians of the Galaxy. It was good. I only gave it four stars out of five, but it was fun, and left plenty of room for the sequel that was announced like the day before it freaking opened. The only real flaw, past an overly familiar storyline, was, once more, fight scenes where I could only assume what was going on. On the extras for The Raid 2, Gareth Huw Evans, who is one of the best action directors now living, refers to that as “hearing a good fight scene, not seeing it”.

Past that, it has fun. It has a hero who is “not 100% a dick” – and in fact, has a tremendous amount of heart. What I wasn’t expecting was the movie itself to have so much heart. Almost all our title characters are dealing with grief in one form or another, and they find out they don’t have to deal with it alone. That’s a good message. I will endorse it.

The fact that stuff goes boom a lot is a definite bonus.

So see you next week folks. I’ll try to be a lot snarkier, if not happier.

 

Mavis.

mavieI’m not sure exactly when it was that I decided I wanted a Pug. I had always been a big fan of the squashed-face breeds, ever since a childhood encounter with a terrifying-looking but incredibly friendly and good-natured English Bulldog. I decided I always wanted to keep something around that was uglier than me. Wait, I think it was actually during my first viewing of Dune, when I started noticing little details to distract me from my Frank Herbert-fan dismay. During a battle scene, noticing people not only carrying weapons but Pugs, because in a life-or-death fight, you must always save the Imperial Ugly Dogs.

But purebreeds are expensive, and I was warned away from them because of the health problems inherent due to excessive in-breeding over the centuries. I gave up on the idea. Then in 2002, my wife, Lisa, was in a conference with one of her students’ mother, and the lady had to take a phone call. She listened to the other end of the line a moment, and said, “No.” Then a bit later, “No. My kids already have enough animals. I don’t want a Pug.” And Lisa said, “Wait a minute.”

Lisa and MavisSo the Pug’s current parents brought her over to check out the house and us. They were moving to a place that did not allow animals, and they were hoping to get her into a nice house with a backyard where she could play, or else they would have to surrender her to a shelter. We’re nice people, and my son, Max, at that time age 4, thought she was greatest thing ever. So the transfer was made, hands were shaken, and we were given food, treats and toys. I am told her mother managed to hold it together and didn’t start crying until they got a block away.

At the time, she was called Clover, because she was born on St. Patrick’s Day. Lisa thought that was a horrible name, and re-christened her Mavis, which was later lengthened to Mavis Louise, because that is how my wife rolls (It was later shortened to “May-May”, because that is also how she rolls).

There was a period of adjustment, to be sure. Mavis kept running away, the first few weeks, looking for what she knew were her real parents, and I would have to chase her down, sometimes a block or two away. But as time passed, she realized this was where the food was, and where the love was, and we started the second phase of our relationship. This was aided immeasurably by Mavis meeting our then-neighbor’s dog, a little white furry foo-foo piece of fluff, and the two became pals immediately. They even dug a hole under the fence so they could visit each other. Fortunately the neighbor thought that was grand.

Halloween Mermaid; She liked it better when she found out how much attention it got her

Halloween Mermaid; She liked it better when she found out how much attention it got her

Pugs are very sweet-natured and incredibly energetic. They are known as being a lot of dog in a small package. Our house is two stories, and the first floor is arranged in a circle around the staircase, living room into kitchen into dining room into living room, and whenever anyone new came in – or heck, even anyone familiar – Mavis would get so excited she would run around the circle, sometimes twice, before she exploded with joy, or something.

I walked her every morning before work, and she would constantly strain at the end of the leash, practically choking herself with her collar, because we weren’t getting there fast enough. I bought a harness to fasten around her sturdy chest, and one of those extendable leashes. I used to laugh at how adept she got at stepping into that harness.

Mavis was the very essence of a lap dog. Whenever I settled down to watch a movie, she would leap into my lap, get settled, and soon be snoring contentedly. Pug snores also belie their relatively small size. Every living thing in the house at that time snored, so she fit right in. I didn’t mention to my wife that her snores sounded just like Mavis’, because I’m not an idiot. Max took Mavis into his bedroom every night. He didn’t seem to mind the snoring. Swear to God, kids can sleep through anything.

sleepy palsMy niece gave me one of those magnets you can put on the back of your car, that said “My Pug Is Smarter Than Your Honor Student”. I put it on my car to humor her, but that was far from the truth. Mavis was the sweetest, most loving creature on the face of the Earth, but she was dumber than a box of rocks. That huge head held a brain that was, I am certain, perfectly smooth. I didn’t care. I’m a fairly intelligent guy, and smarts just lead to unhappiness and woe. My Pug-dog was relentlessly happy, and we lived to see that Pug grin.

santa pugYears passed. We got older, and so did she. She wasn’t able to jump up into my lap anymore, so I gladly lifted her up. More and more often, she wanted to end her walk early, and sometimes I had to carry her home. Eventually she grew to prefer just going out into the backyard, doing her business, and barking at the local squirrels.

lap dogsMy sister-in-law lives in the woods of West Texas on the Dry Frio River, with a bunch of strays she has adopted. One week my wife brought home Brownie, a mutt who was the smallest of the pack, and was getting bullied and starved by the others. Brownie was a traumatized little dog, and didn’t trust Mavis; but Mavis only wanted to make friends and play. Eventually she won Brownie over. The dark side to that was that Max took over Brownie as his dog, and started taking her into his bedroom at night instead of Mavis, who could no longer jump into, or safely jump down from, his bed.

profileI felt for my poor little Pug but Lisa didn’t want her in the bedroom, and since I eject the cats from said bedroom every night (I have a thing about things walking on me at night, ie., I tend to scream and hurl them across the room), I couldn’t really complain. We set a bed in the upstairs hallway for her, and by God she would laboriously climb up that stairway every night to be close to us in her sleep.

The trip down the stairs was getting more and treacherous, too. I would try to be downstairs when she attempted it, because the final three steps always resulted in a blind scramble, and stumble, and crashing into the wall. Her eyesight had begun to fail, too; too often I felt the heartbreak of watching her run into a wall or door. She didn’t always make it to the pee pad we laid out for her upstairs, or perhaps she couldn’t find it, or perhaps she didn’t care that much any more. Lisa lobbied to keep her in the kitchen, with its more easily cleaned tile floor, and I was forced to admit she was right.

pug wrasslinWe set up baby gates at the two doors. Mavis adjusted to this quickly enough. One of the gates was next to the back door, so it was easy to let her and Brownie out to do their business and romp and do whatever it is dogs like to do. Mostly sun themselves until it gets too hot, which doesn’t take too long in Houston.  She usually found her way back and scratched at the door to be let in.

Then, one day, while I held the screen door open for Brownie and Mavis to go out, it happened: Mavis slipped, and lay on the concrete slab outside the door, convulsing. I scooped her up off the rough concrete and moved her over to the grass. She peed all over me in transit, but I hardly noticed. I laid her on the grass and stroked her head, thinking, God if this is it, please make it as painless as possible. After a few minutes she sat up, then stood up and waddled across the yard to smell the flowers.

old pugA couple of days later, Max was home because they were testing at his school, and it wasn’t his day to test. Mavis had another seizure, and Brownie started howling, and Max reasonably enough freaked out and called his mother, who called me. I was already leaving work. I got home and Max was sitting with her; she was in her bed, and seemed alright, but over the last few weeks her breathing had become more labored. As someone with no appreciable nose myself, I can tell you that breathing is a chore anyway, but this was something new, and more difficult. She had been spending more and more time in her bed, only lying down to sleep. The rest of the time she sat up, because breathing was easier.

I relieved Max and sat with her for an hour until she went to sleep. I went upstairs to get a little sleep, because I had a meeting to cover that night. That seemed to be it for the seizures – that we witnessed, anyway – but I cleaned up a couple of pools of urine that were streaked with blood. One night Lisa slept over at a friend’s house because she had just moved and her dogs were still in the kennel, so she needed company. I had a bit of surprise the next morning when I got up, and there, sleeping in the bedroom across from the master, was a certain grizzled old pug-dog.

I gently picked her up and carried her downstairs. One of the baby gates had fallen over – on top of her bed – and she had climbed up the long, impossibly long staircase, just like old times, to be near us. She started struggling to be put down, because she didn’t like to be held too long anymore – I think it made breathing even more difficult.

The next week work was ridiculous – I had my morning hours, then running support at City meetings in the evening. The Wednesday night City Council meeting was a real corker, moved to a larger venue so angry citizens could complain about – well, let’s just say it was Classic Not In My Back Yard and leave it at that. My call time was 5pm. The meeting adjourned at 3:06am the next morning, and equipment still needed to be broken down and transported back to home base. It was almost 5am before I got home.

Needless to say, I slept in. When I got up and went to work, Mavis was in the kitchen, not in her bed, but lying on the floor under the dishwasher. That wasn’t too uncommon; it was right under an air-conditioning vent, and Pugs are notoriously hot little dogs. I petted her and went to work for a truncated day.

When I came back, she was still, there, and I realized what this actually was.

I quickly changed out of my work clothes and ran back to her, sitting down on the floor next to her. I grabbed a handful of paper towels on my way, because the tears were already coming, and I knew there were going to be a lot more.  I didn’t try to move her, I didn’t want to make things worse. I just sat there, crying and stroking her, telling her how much I loved her, how beautiful she was, how she was Daddy’s Pretty Girl, and it was okay if she had to leave, she didn’t have to stay if it was too hard. Eventually, Lisa and Max came home from school, and found us there. Max tenderly touched her back, Lisa stroked her head and said, “May-May?” and she moved her head once, and stopped breathing.

She was just hanging on to say goodbye to everybody.

my chair nowI’m not sure how long I sat there, my hand on her cooling back, still stroking it as if she could feel it in the Beyond. Finally, I got up. Lisa borrowed a shovel from our neighbor and the three of us started digging a hole in the back yard.

It’s good to have physical labor to do at a time like this. I was able to think about something else as we cut through roots and dug out discarded brick and rebar from the previous owner’s failed attempt at a herb garden. Finally it was deep enough, and Lisa wrapped Mavis in a tea towel – “Blue, to match her eyes” – and brought her out, because I couldn’t. Seeing those poor, gray lifeless legs as she carried her across the yard really brought home the finality of all this. She laid Mavis in the grave. I tossed a handful of dirt into it, and my family followed suit. We took turns filling in the grave, then we held hands while Lisa said a few words, because, again… I couldn’t.

While Max cleaned off the shovel to return it to the neighbor, I went upstairs, closed my office door, and gave myself up to the wracking sobs I couldn’t before. When I finally came downstairs, Lisa was cleaning the kitchen. It looked so empty without a little sausage-shaped dog with a curly tail, sitting in her bed, or maybe sidling over while I was cooking to see if I could spare some chicken, or hamburger. I usually could. I put the baby gates in the garage. They weren’t needed anymore.

sunbathThey say that dogs were put on the Earth to teach us that unconditional love exists, and to show us what it looks like. Mavis was part of my life, a part of my family for 12 years. Max can’t really remember a time without her.  I miss her. I miss her reedy little bark, I miss her smile, I miss her stench when she went too long without a bath, I miss her snoring, I miss her sneezing, I miss that bizarre sound, between a bark and a howl, that she made when I came home too late at night. I miss her sitting at the top of the stairs, looking down into the living room, trying to look like the Hound of the Baskervilles but failing because she was a lovable little pug dog with a goofy face. I miss going into the kitchen and having her immediately start hoovering and snurfling around while I misquoted a line from the show that Lisa and I met during, saying “Pug dog, you are hideously in the way.”

I miss my May-May. I miss her so much.

It will get better. I know it will. Well, at least, it will get easier. This isn’t the first time I’ve lost a beloved animal, and probably not the last. But I should only live so long to know this love and sorrow again, and – what would be better – to love as much as a certain little squashed-face dog, who stole my heart and took a little piece, just the tiniest little piece, but such a painful piece – of my heart with her. That would be an accomplishment.
Rest well, Pugnacious. I’ll see you in heaven.

 Daddys Pretty GirlMavis Louise Williams
aka Daddy’s Pretty Girl

2000-2014

“I’m dainty. Daddy said so.”

 

Talk Among Yourselves

Last week was rough. This week is going to be rougher.

My third job (of four, because as we all know I am a taker) is audio support of the televised city meetings on the local Municipal channel – what I refer to as doing my part for the transparency of government. Two such meetings blew up last week, and the debris is landing this week. For the School Board, a literal turf war over whether or not to spend the remaining money from a bond on synthetic turf for the stadium. City Council is getting involved (this is one of the very few Municipal School Districts in the nation).

City Council is also going to receive part two of public acrimony from a Planning and Zoning meeting last week; citizens are outraged that a light industrial building is going up near their neighborhood. I’d often heard of the phenomenon of NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), but this was my first opportunity to witness it. Two and a half hours of talking in circles, threats (I love people threatening to “vote out” a board manned by appointees), and shouting down people trying to defend themselves. It was the opposite of fun.

So the Mayor declared that the City Council meeting that would have the final say on this would be moved to a larger venue, meaning that our crew would have to set up cameras and all the other necessary equipment, and another day of my week vanished.

Spanish_Godzilla_2014_PosterI had another post prepared, which went into much more detail about my woebegone life, but you know what? Nobody wants to hear that crap. I didn’t get to watch any movies last week, and I won’t be able to watch any this week (miracles may happen. Who knows?). But I did get to watch Godzilla today, so I’m in a good mood. I’m dumping the longer, downer version of this post and moving on.

I hope you have a better week than me, unmarred by political infighting and mobs with torches and pitchforks. If you’re at all interested in giant monster movies or disaster movies, go see Godzilla – I really feel it is the best Godzilla movie since the very first one.

See you on the other side, amigos.

Before The Gold Rush

I’m going on yelp and giving this new flu a bad review.

The last couple of weeks have been a delirious fever dream, as I pretty much lived on Dayquil and sugar-free cough drops. I punked out of work when I could, but most of the time I couldn’t. The most amazing bit, to me, was when my church asked for my voice at two Easter services and if I felt too bad I didn’t have to do it but could I please also do a rehearsal on Saturday morning, too? After the rehearsal, one musician reportedly said, “Darth Vader just opened our service.” Yeah, I sounded profoundly sepulchral. No problem hitting those low notes. I radiated gravitas. And phlegm.

caught fluSo after Easter weekend – when I did the Show, and the services, and made homemade chicken soup because I was the mobile one in Plague Central – I took Monday off, and then a surprising thing happened. Exhaustion took its toll and I actually slept through Monday night, awakening only occasionally to cough up a piece of lung. I felt good enough to go into work, pound that week’s story into shape and submit it before the deadline, go home, nap, go do audio support for that evening’s Economic Development Corporation meeting (honestly, I have watched un-subtitled Mandarin movies that were more comprehensible to me), slept again, and felt almost human Wednesday. Which is good, because I had a traveling show at a refinery in Deer Park (and it’s always good before a show to receive that little lecture about what to do if there were some sort of catastrophic accident while we were there), then run home, change clothes, and do a remote broadcast that evening.

I felt good enough that I won’t even mention that the remote was for a Candidate Debate between folks running for School Board and City Council positions. No, what I’m actually not going to mention is that one of the Council candidates was sick, so we had a Candidate Debate with one participant. That was good TV.

death1Oh, yeah, I watched some movies while I was sick, too.

First up was Death Promise, an odd little homegrown kung fu revenge flick from 1977. This was nowhere near as bad as I was told, and I found it pretty entertaining. Okay, admittedly the boom mike should have gotten a credit. Indications are we’re going to devote a Daily Grindhouse Podcast to it, so I’ll leave my blithering to that, and leave you with this truly remarkable fight scene, including a bad guy whose ki-ya sounds like an asthmatic cat who’s smoked too many cigars:

And oh yeah, ignore them. Buy this fine movie at Amazon.com.

Speaking of the podcast, one of the best things it turned me onto was the delightfully insane, inept-in-all-the-right-ways movie Raw Force, aka Kung Fu Cannibals. This was the first of two movies directed by Edward D. Murphy. We were all curious about his second, and last directorial effort, Heated Vengeance, but I was apparently the only one who cared enough to do something about it.

In other words, I took a bullet for the team.

heated-vengeance-movie-poster-1985-1020693907In the three years between Raw Force and Heated Vengeance, Murphy learned a few things, and got a better budget together. This is obvious from the very first scene, which depicts a Viet Cong attack on an American firebase in Laos. Richard Hatch is there as our heroic commanding officer, Joe Hoffman, who gets wounded and choppered away from his native translator lady love Michelle (Jolina Mitchell-Collins). Hoffman gets sent back to the States and his wife, and years later he returns to Thailand, newly divorced and looking for Michelle, now a doctor, and what could be his son. Too bad he runs into Larry Bingo (Ron Max), a guy in his command who was getting sent up the river for raping a native girl, but escaped during that expensive Cong attack we keep flashing back to. Bingo kidnaps Hoffman, takes him to his drug production base (set up in Hoffman’s abandoned army camp), intending to wreak some heated vengeance. Hoffman escapes, and goddammit, we’re watching The Most Dangerous Game again.

There is surprisingly little action in this action movie; there’s a lot of talk, though. Murphy still likes his villains kind of colorful, and Bingo leaves no scenery unchewed. Among his henchmen are Michael J. Pollard, being very Michael J. Pollard-y, and Robert Walker Jr., an unfortunate actor who Hollywood just never figured out what to so with. Things don’t start getting really weird until about the last twenty minutes or so when the wounded Hoffman is taken in by some Laotian natives, and Michelle and his son track him down with the help of a friendly traveling toilet salesman (a pretty welcome Dennis Patrick). By this time, Bingo is down to a flamethrower and Michael J. Pollard, and there is an explosive finale which Murphy could not have possible been able to afford, but he goes ahead and tries to do it anyway, which was the Edward D. Murphy I had been looking for all along.

heatedvengeance5big

“Wha? Heated? Vengeance? That’s a thing?”

It is a very good vehicle for Richard Hatch, though: he does the everyman with his back against the wall bit pretty well. But honestly, I spent a lot of time in this flick checking how many minutes it had left, and that is never a good thing.

So how do I recover from the disappointment of not finding another Raw Force? I watch Boardinghouse, because I’m an idiot.

I was pretty much unaware that Boardinghouse  even existed before noted sociopath Joe Cosby forced me to watch Things for Daily Grindhouse Podcast Mark I, and evidence showed that Things was inspired by Boardinghouse, at the time the most successful made-for-video Canadian movie evar. The video was apparently even transferred to 35mm for a theatrical release.

Huh.

boarding-house-movie-poster-1982-1020230391After an opening where we find out the titular house has a history of violent deaths (one involves an incredibly effective garbage disposal), most of which can seemingly be traced to a telekinetic sibling who’s committed to a mental hospital for life. The house eventually devolves to Jim Royce, who opens it as an all-female boardinghouse, with him as live-in landlord, figuring that this will be the ticket to a “bachelor’s paradise”. This means that he will soon be banging each and every one of his tenants, when he’s not meditating on his desk in his underpants, honing his telekinetic skills.

That’s right, there are two telekinetics in this movie, soon to be three when Jim teaches Debbie (Lyndsay Freeman) his methods. Good thing, too, because the original TK escapes from the hospital after forcing a woman to hang herself and a man’s intestines to jump outside his body.

vlcsnap-2012-07-07-23h03m57s59The women in the Boardinghouse are about as well written as your typical frat house movie, which is to say they are not written at all, and they appear to have little inclination or ability to be anything more than casually catty and evil to each other. There is an Asian girl who mysteriously vanishes after her sex scene – and it’s not like when another girl vanishes and it’s part of the plot, no, she just ceases to be. There is also a black girl, but we only see her when she’s going to work (and she’s the only one who appears to do so, so I guess that should be counted as a positive character trait). Well. she does show up at the big party scene at the end just in time to get killed, but – groundbreaker! – the black character isn’t the first one to get killed! Admittedly, it’s because she hasn’t been around for most of the movie, but still…

Maybe these two ladies have expanded roles in the Director’s Cut, which is  apparently a full hour longer, but I don’t care. I JUST DON’T CARE.

I will give it this: Boardinghouse tries to outdo Rock N’ Roll Nightmare in the bizarre, terminally-silly-ending-that-is-supposed-to-be-terrifying department, and it certainly gives Jon Mikl Thor a run for his money. This amazingly dark trailer should give you an idea of the visual splendor of the movie:

Folks, video equipment doesn’t do well in low light environments, unless you know what you’re doing, and even then... And oh, yes, “Horror Vision”. When you hear a sound and see a black glove, you’re supposed to close your eyes. It’s like Chamber of Horrors‘ Horror Horn and Fear Flasher, except the makers of Boardinghouse get tired of the gimmick about 45 minutes in and forget about it. Maybe it shows up in the last few minutes, but you know… care. Did not.

Folks, I watch a lot of crap like this. No dilettante I, I have seen shit that would turn you white. After a while, it gets to you, it really does. This is why I take off May and watch movies on my Wall of Shame, movies I should have watched years ago, almost all taken from Roger Ebert’s Great Movies List. At a low ebb, I kicked this off early and knocked one of those bricks off the wall: I watched Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush.

I hear many of you screeching about the whiplash injuries incurred by that sudden turnaround in quality. Fine. We’ll leave that for next time.

 

 

 

 

HALFTIME SHOW

As usual, I feel the need to step outside the English language to express, in only one word, my life in the last few weeks: Oy.

Let’s see if I can use that to inspire succinctness in the remainder of this post. Brevity is going to be necessary. I’m in the midst of a writing contract, first off, and funny thing: when people pay you to write, they expect you to write. This particular project is taking such a grindingly slow, meticulous approach that I feel like I’m constructing the story molecule by molecule. It is such an antithesis of the way I usually work that I find myself sullen and depressed at the prospect of going into the file again. I generally produce work like Frankenstein’s Monster, birthed whole and gloriously misshapen, with additional surgery to make it more perfect (perhaps Moreau would have been a better simile). This is more like writing a novel the way a stalactite is formed.

So when writing becomes work and not a form of expression, all forms of it suffer, like this blog. I still love watching movies, though. My pal Dave once put it to me that all I have to do is play the movie and then write while it’s going on, but I can not do that. Like I said, I love watching movies. That means I only watch them when they can have my full and undivided attention. Those opportunities have become few and far between, what with building the stalactite, the show I do twice (and sometimes more often) a week, and my duties at the Municipal Channel and city meetings. I also like to throw my family a bit of attention every now and then, you know?

Cripes, don’t even talk to me about podcasts. My commute is ten minutes. No time.

So of course I got sick last week, and absolutely lost two days. Not kidding there. I have vague memories of walking to the bathroom and nearly not making it back to bed before collapsing again, but not much more.

I’ve been watching movies, though, when there was absolutely no way I could do anything else on any of these things without something breaking (likely me). I fully intend on writing about them (why waste that suffering?). It will happen.

And a nice, new poster, too!

And a nice, new poster, too!

In the meantime, there is one thing that mystifies me, and bears examination: it’s the taste of my fellow B-movie fanatics. I personally champion some incredibly disposable titles, but as we recall, I was moaning about The Visitor last time, and in the intervening time Drafthouse Films has come up with a 35mm print that is playing to some acclaim as an undiscovered masterpiece.

As you probably noticed, I didn’t feel that way. I felt it was crap. And not even lovable crap.

The first inclination is to doubt your own taste. Did the people whose raves I’m reading see something I didn’t? Has my own tour through the higher echelons of film blunted my taste for the absurd, for the cinema of lowered expectations? Good Christ, am I growing up or something?

The second inclination is to doubt everybody else’s taste, but that’s pretty short-lived as you hit on the probable reason for the gulf between the two schools of opinion: the people posting good reviews did so after watching one of Drafthouse’s presentations. In short, they saw it with an audience.

I have very fond memories of The Apple, mainly because my first viewing was at B-Fest, with a crowd buzzed on caffeine and high on their own creativity. That was a fabulous experience, and yet, I am positive that watching the very same movie, by myself, all alone, would be nothing less than a season in hell.

So, watching my Code Red DVD of The Visitor (which, like the Drafthouse version, is uncut) was possibly doomed to failure. I might have been more attuned to its *ahem* charms had I been in a hooting, hollering assembly… but I also think there’s still no way in hell I would ever consider it a good movie.

So bear with me. I’m still going to tell you about a bunch of movies I don’t consider to be good, either.

Eventually.

Labor Day Weekend & The Getting Back of Grooves

I know I’m not the only person who thought August sucked. Reports have poured in from all over the globe that yes, the August of 2013 was particularly brutal in all sorts of ways. Yours truly was seeking to get his mojo back, and not having a whole bunch of success. Let’s see how that shakes out:

The small matter of diabetes. Generally this was pretty favorable, as I settle into my new official lifestyle. The last week I was working on a solid seven days of healthy sugar levels when bam! my levels Saturday night shot up to 207. The cause? Apparently the stress of performing in my weekly show – that was the only change in my daily routine. For someone who has been acting most of his adult life, this is a daunting development. Frustrated, I had a cheeseburger after the show. The next morning, my fasting sugars were normal.

Wacky. I prefer to take this as a lesson in the magic of cheeseburgers, nature’s perfect food.

One thing I did manage when I wasn’t ruminating on the heat attempting to kill me and everything around me, was to develop a plan for re-organizing my home office. Yes, because I don’t have enough things to occupy my Copious Free Time. This is actually connected to one of the other problems of August, the Not-Watching of Movies.

Oh, I still did, as these infrequent ramblings prove. Just not to the excess or with the zeal of previous months. That most notorious of self-imposed regimens, The List, may not be completed this year. Things change. I change.

"I hate you, Netflix! HATE YOU!!!"

“I hate you, Tom Cruise! HATE YOU!!!”

I’ve done two movie-watching challenges this year, and those have done a number on me. I don’t necessarily regret either, but the cost extracted is problematic. I enjoy watching movies, and injecting a definite discipline into that watching kills some of the joy. Probably one of the reasons I never pursued a career as an actual film critic: I want that joy to stay. I’ve seen too many give in to a gradual souring until all they can do is point out negatives; I respect people who continue their love affair with the movies on a regular basis, and keep their writing fresh and accessible.

So. Just because I haven’t been watching movies on a regular basis doesn’t mean I stopped acquiring them, either. I now have quite a few movies I am genuinely excited about watching.

Which is why I want to re-organize my office.

My office pretty much arranged itself organically. When we moved into this house twelve years ago, most of the bookshelves found their way into my office, and they got filled. Then filled again. Then the overstock started hitting the floor. Then I added a reading chair. My computer desk has not moved from its corner, where I can look out the window and, if necessary, see who may be approaching the house – the paranoia of my youth has not completely vanished. There is an increasingly narrow path from the door to my desk.

booksSo current plans involve clearing out the piles of electronics and cabling and power sources that have landed in this room over the years. Clearing out the table that holds a TV/DVD player that hasn’t worked in ten years. My laserdisc player, which surprisingly, still does. Cataloging and boxing up stacks of books and either clearing a space in an equally chaotic garage to store them, or actually investing in a storage room (not ideal). Unpacking the boxes of DVDs that sit in the center of the room, determining which of them I am never going to watch and getting rid of them, and putting the rest in theoretically cleared bookshelves.

Then: Reorienting the former TV table and the reading chair to face each other. Buying a TV manufactured in this century and (ideally) a region-free Blu-Ray player. Maybe a sound bar, probably not. I still have the Roku that was on the downstairs TV, but I mothballed when we got a Smart TV.

When I bought that TV and its companion Blu-ray, I thought I was being exceptionally sly by making sure the first thing seen on it was Dancing With The Stars, thereby convincing my skeptical wife that it was, indeed, a necessary purchase. In the style of classical tragedy, however, this rebounded on me by ensuring all subsequent broadcasts of Dancing With The Stars had to be watched in HD, and I swear to you that fucking show is on four nights a week.

"And we have PEGGED Freeman's Hate Meter!"

“And we have PEGGED Freeman’s Hate Meter!”

So. I of course rarely buy DVDs anymore, because drool drool Blu-ray slobber giggle. And ergo, I need my own little island of Blu-ray viewing so I can watch these fabulous movies I’ve been stockpiling, at will.

The real problem with this dream is the amount of work it’s going to take, in a schedule that includes my part-time job, the other part-time job, the other other part-time job, and the two ongoing writing projects, not to mention any housework, cooking, or parental duties. I estimate two months before I’m even ready to price TVs (I’m lying, I’m already doing that) and start reaping the benefits of this madness.

But like i said, in the meantime, I managed to watch some movies.

the-vixens-of-kung-fu-movie-poster-9999-1020686440Sometimes your interests in obscure movie subgenres lead you down a darkened alley with whispered promises and then punches you, takes your lunch money and runs away. Actually, that’s a pretty fair description of what happens most of the time. That is certainly the case with Vixens of Kung Fu. It’s a somewhat legendary grindhouse feature, primarily legendary because for years, it was damn near impossible to see. It’s a hardcore sex film with kung fu elements, although the martial arts elements here make David Carradine look like Jet Li possessed by the spirit of Bruce Lee.

Bree Anthony is walking through some autumn woods and gets accosted by three porn actors (One of whom is supposedly Jamie Gillis, though I didn’t recognize him). She runs away, but get shot in the back. The three lowlifes then proceed to rape her semi-conscious form while the music changes to bluegrass. About a half-hour later, under the tender lesbian ministrations of a female kung fu master (C.J. Laing), we are told that she was shot with “the gun of anesthesia”, which explained the lack of bullet holes and other trauma, I suppose.

So there are some ladies who are Laing’s students, who practice some questionable martial arts and meditation that causes smoke to issue from their lady parts. A lanky yellow-clad caucasian monk ventures into their territory, gets waylaid, is declared an unsatisfactory lover and tossed out. He begs another female master – currently disguised as a cook in a Chinese restaurant – to teach him “Golden Dragon Raising Head Kung Fu”. Which involves training and masturbating in the woods. There is another showdown, with the Monk and Anthony acrobatically schtupping each other into unconsciousness.  Yeah, forget the rapists, I guess they were too expensive to bring back for a vengeance scene.

vixens fuThe Vinegar Syndrome DVD is unbelievably gorgeous – the autumn foliage really pops. Porn, however, is always boring, and there wasn’t anything Vinegar Syndrome could do about that. Vixens has its wild moments that raise it slightly above the norm, but there’s not enough of it to make it interesting enough for a recommendation.

Hey, remember Jack Reacher? Remember how a lot of people were pissed off that Tom Cruise was playing the main character? Man, that seems like it was so long ago. Long enough that the Blu-ray is cheap, so I bought it, primarily because I was intrigued by the idea of Werner Herzog playing the bad guy.

tom-cruise-goes-badass-in-new-jack-reacher-poster-117953-00-1000-100I haven’t read any of the books – and was, in fact, unaware of the character at all – so I didn’t have a dog in the Tom Cruise hunt. What I did find was a pretty serviceable, if fairly unoriginal, crime investigation movie that morphs into an action flick as our heroes get closer to the truth.

The plot concerns a sniping incident involving the death of five people, apparently the work of a crazed loner trained in Iraq. His only statement under interrogation is “Get Jack Reacher”. Reacher is a former Military policeman who caught the culprit in a similar incident in country – but there are several inconsistencies with the current shooting that stick in his craw. Behind the machinations, of course, is Herzog as a man known only as “The Zeck” – who once gnawed the frostbitten fingers off his own hand in Siberia to prevent gangrene.

Herzog is muted and incredibly creepy as the criminal mastermind. I thought Cruise was fine as Reacher, though, as I said, I have no prior knowledge of the character to color my judgement. The supporting cast is terrific, there are a couple of good fight scenes. Overall, though, you can wait to see this on Netflix.

Over the past year or so, I’ve watched two movies about Idi Amin. One, Amin: The Rise and Fall, was a somewhat sensationalized docudrama. The second, The Last King of Scotland, was pure fiction with enough basis in fact to make it solid. So somehow I find myself watching Barbet Schroeder’s General Idi Amin Dada: A Self-Portrait, which is undeniably the real thing.

general-idi-amin-dada-a-self-portrait-movie-poster-1974-1010675046Amin granted Schroeder a number of interviews and staged several adoring rallies for the camera. He also gathered together 150 French citizens living in Uganda and threatened to kill them if Schroeder didn’t cut three minutes from the movie. Schroeder, of course, did so, and at this point the “Self Portrait” portion of the title came into being, as Schroeder felt it was now totally under Amin’s control. After the dictator’s deposing, the cuts were restored, and that is the version Criterion rightfully issued.

The cut portions mainly concerned public executions, and a few snippets from a dispassionate narrator mentioning the staged appearances, or pointing out people who would later be found mysteriously dead or vanish altogether. These quite undercut the persona Amin presents otherwise, an affable man of the people, always ready with a joke or a laugh – downright charming, most times. It’s surprising Amin didn’t want one entire section cut, when he is conferencing with a very critical group of senior physicians, and Schroeder zooms in his face – unhappy, brooding, eyes darting back and forth as if seeking escape – as in that moment he actually looks capable of ordering the death of almost 300,000 of his countrymen. Then he turns on the charm and gets the doctors laughing.

Schroeder ends the movie with that same close-up, and with a bit of narration that Amin did insist be cut; that cut remains, and the moment plays out in powerful silence.

Labor Day I journeyed into town with pal Dave to see an animated movie that he – and a couple of my other friends – did voice talent for a couple of years ago: Last Flight of the Champion. This was apparently the culmination of two brothers’ lifelong dream, and by golly they even managed to get a (very) limited theatrical release. There were about seven of us in attendance, and we owned that theater.

the-last-flight-of-the-champion-105892-poster-xlarge-resizedThe plot isn’t new; galactic despot is taking over planets (I guess because he can), and a painfully earnest young turtle guy finds a buried spaceship left over from the last round of galactic despot fighting, the Champion. Yes, turtle – this is a sci-fi universe populated by animal toons alongside humans. The turtle puts together a crew of similarly painfully earnest misfits and flies off to take on Darth Meanie and his armada.

I went into this movie with great misgivings, mainly thinking that there were movies I really wanted to see but couldn’t carve out the time, like The Conjuring or You’re Next, but here I was walking into a theater to see something that had been described as having computer animation on the level of a local TV commercial.

Well, it wasn’t that bad. Pixar has nothing to worry about, but there were some very nice sequences. The characters aren’t very detailed (and there are way too many of them), and for some reason the animators, when the script says “Let’s hurry!” still has everyone cycle through the same walk animation they’ve been using the whole time. The script is pretty good, though there are some clunky parts, and the story shows some drastic cutting – but my friends did good work, there’s some cleverness in the background details, and overall, it didn’t suck. In fact, it was downright painless.

So that’s The Last Flight of the Champion. You got kids who like science fiction, it’s a safe bet.

“Rated PG for some rude humor.” Huh. That means a monkey flings poo. Offscreen. People only talk about it. I don’t get the MPAA.

A Report from Busyland

You know what? It actually does chafe my lazy ass when I don’t weigh in here for a while. Really, it does. Though that amounts to the posterior of a rat when I don’t have the time to do a halfway decent job of it; I suppose if I didn’t care about things like spelling and general grammar it would be a lot easier. Speaking of spelling and grammar:

Most of my free time is taken up by being paid to slam words together. I’m currently working on three separate projects, of which only one is a sure thing, but that sure thing is paying me actual money. Money is good, I like money. I’m fairly certain that not stressing over getting the bills paid has put an extra month or two on the back end of my lifespan.

SAY HELLO TO MY LEETLE FRIENDS!

SAY HELLO TO MY LEETLE FRIENDS!

Money also helps in the other current fun struggle of my life, my recent diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes. That is not going as swimmingly as I would like, but pfft! What does? It doesn’t take a pack of scientists to point out to you that Eating Right is expensive, which makes no goddamn sense to me, but that only means that it fits in well with the rest of the world at large. I started with unregulated sugars near the three hundred mark, and now generally clock in under 200. I need to exercise more, but A) gyms are also expensive, and B) we are currently experiencing one King Hell heat wave, which renders the outdoor exercise idea kinda risky. Twenty years ago, I would get up at 4am to get in five miles before the sun came up and tried to obliterate the city. I was also twenty years younger then.

Besides trying to coax creativity out of a brain trapped in a system with changing blood chemistry, I find that the other thing cutting into my movie-watching time is the twice-daily blood test. Most of my movie-watching got done in the evening, after dinner. I now have to wait 30 minutes after din-din to do the evening stick, and I haven’t gotten good enough at it to perform the ritual in my easy chair. I need a desk or table to hold everything at the ready, glucometer, lancet, alcohol pad. Doing otherwise really tempts the Blood Gods and I wind up wasting a test strip, which even bought at a discount cost 25 cents a pop. What I’ve gotten really good at is cursing, though many would opine I already had a fair mastery of that art.

As I’m writing prose, I’m also reading more. I’m pleased to announce that so far, Richard Kadrey’s Kill City Blues may be his best yet. But I feel that I’m stealing time away even for that.

Enough. I watched some stuff.

BurdenOfDreams_poster01Ever since Fitzcarraldo, I had wanted to see Les Blank’s documentary on its making, Burden of Dreams, which, unlike a lot of Blank’s work, is fortunately available on a Criterion disc. Given Herzog’s penchant for absolute, even dangerous realism – that is damn well a real boat being hauled up that incline – it is no surprise that the actual filming was a massive clusterfuck on the level of Apocalypse Now.

But the surprising thing is – and Herzog acknowledges this in the supplementary material – is that Blank produces a documentary that is not so much a retelling of the filmmaking process, but of the life around the process, how it affects and possibly even changes people. The film junkie in me is kind of disappointed, but Herzog admires and respects the result, so I probably should, too.

My son & I went to see Pacific Rim, and we had a whole lot of fun. I am bemused that a whole generation of kids are going to know the word kaiju and have no idea who Godzilla is, or worse, think he’s a giant iguana. Maybe next year’s movie will change that.

Yes, I know a lot of people diss Pacific Rim. I don’t care. Haven’t you figured that out yet?

And speaking of not caring: it was about that time that Sharknado hit. It certainly lit up Twitter, though that didn’t seem to convert into ratings numbers; nevertheless, it was rebroadcast the next week, got a theatrical booking, and the sequel is on the way.

Sharknado_posterI don’t have cable (too expensive for something I wouldn’t use). This did not stop people from chiding me over my lack of opinion and bloviating about Sharknado. They were disappointed in me. Where was my bad movie moxie? When was I going to watch it? Huh? Huh?

Well, since I am apparently some sort of dancing monkey, I found a way to see it. The movie achieves Maximum Stupid in the first three minutes and spends the rest of the movie trying to match it. It comes close many times. This really is the sort of thing I would have gone on and on about for 2000 words back in the day, but you know what? There are lots of people already doing that for Sharknado. I see despairing posts from other critics about how they’re tired of spectacle, how Man of Steel‘s fight scenes put them to sleep, waaaaah. That’s how I am with stupidity. Especially willful stupidity. Make no mistake, that’s what this is; once they had that title, they ran with it. I appreciate that. However…

I had Wild Strawberries and The Life & Death of Colonel Blimp waiting on me upstairs, but there I was, succumbing to peer pressure and watching Sharknado. This dancing monkey didn’t even get some coins in his tin cup.

So after spending most of its running time wondering where the title character was and saying things like, “Wow, you can firebomb a tornado out of existence from a helicopter?”, I shot the world the finger and watched Onibaba.

full.onibaba-mexicanlobby-21292__11538.1374517744.1280.1280Onibaba had been on my radar for a long, time, since my teen years when it cropped up in a book about horror movies. So it finally got scooped up in one of those Barnes & Noble Criterion sales.

Based on a Buddhist fable, it’s the tale of two Japanese women in the (I think) period of constant civil war preceding the Tokugawa era. They are a mother and her daughter-in-law; the son went off to war and while they wait for him to come back and work the farm, they make ends meet by waylaying defeated samurai seeking to hide in the sea of reeds surrounding their hut. The samurai’s bodies are tossed down a  deep hole and their armor and weapons traded to the local black marketeer for grain.

The son’s friend returns with news of the son’s death, and so begins the unraveling of the relationship between the two women. The friend makes a play for the recently widowed daughter-in-law, and she returns his interest. Mom is worried that she’ll be left to fend for herself, and is also dealing with not a small amount of sexual frustration herself.

onibaba2While the two young’uns are out dallying, Mom has to take out a samurai wearing a demon mask all by herself, and gets an idea. Once she takes the mask off his corpse – revealing a hideously disfigured face – she uses the mask to scare the daughter away from her nighttime visits to her stud. Since I found this in a book of horror movies, we can be pretty sure that this is going to backfire in some terrible manner.

Onibaba is definite slow-burn material; director Kaneto Shindo (who passed away only last year, and was also responsible for Kuroneko, another Criterion offering) serves up great vistas of tall reeds swaying in the wind like a vertical ocean, its turbulence obscuring and drowning his characters. It’s astounding how erotically charged the relationships become, how the daughter blossoms under the interloper’s attentions. This is another movie that, although made in 1964, when even Roger Corman was making color movies, could not have been produced in any medium but black and white. The characters, though far from smart, are drawn with such craft that their survivalist cunning was more than a tonic for Sharknado.

Absentee Landlord Writes In

You may not believe it, but I do try to post here at least once a week. That really doesn’t seem too much to ask, does it? A few hours a week, devoted to this little corner of the Web? Except that this hasn’t happened this month, and here’s why.

The stunningly obvious: there was that Roger Ebert month burning me out on watching movies and writing about them, followed up by the local Independence Day festivities, which always serves to point up exactly how old I am and how many of my body parts have been busted over the years (fewer than Jackie Chan or Evel Kneivel, but then, I don’t feel their pain except in the most vicarious ways). I retreated to one of my older favorite activities: sitting in my easy chair and reading.

devil saidSo, for our first digression: I finished Richard Kadrey’s Devil Said Bang, the fourth Sandman Slim novel. I love Kadrey’s work – its punk tone, the characters, the dialogue. It’s Raymond Chandler for people who cut their teeth on splatterpunk and b-movies. If I have one complaint about Kadrey’s novels, it’s that his prose is so stripped down, eschewing even the idea of chapters, that his novel’s climaxes don’t have as much raw power as they deserve. His endings seem a little too tidy, with the exception of Aloha From Hell, which had a pretty remarkable game-changing denouement. I still look forward to Kill City Blues, out at the end of this month – his novels are great rides, and the pros far outweigh the cons.

gun machineWarren Ellis’ Gun Machine was taken up after that, which, while not as gonzo as his previous prose novel, Crooked Little Vein, is still a bracing, fiery beast of a detective novel. In one day, NYPD detective John Tallow loses his partner and opens the most bizarre case in the city’s history when he discovers evidence of a serial killer’s work going back 20 years: a room decorated with guns used in practically every unsolved homicide in that time. He’s aided in his investigation by two eccentric CSUs named Bat and Scarly, a very entertaining Odd Couple. Intriguingly, the killer himself seems to slip and slide between present day and pre-Revolutionary War Manhattan. The ending was a tad disappointing, but the characters are incredible, and it’s with a mixture of joy and sorrow that I find out Gun Machine is being developed for TV.

I needed something to fill my time between Gun Machine and the release of Kill City Blues (which I hope to tide me over until Lyndsay Faye’s Seven for a Secret comes out in September), when I remembered Andrew Vachss had a new novel out, Aftershock.

andrew-vachss-aftershockI’ve been reading Vachss for years, starting with his Burke books. He writes fascinating, dark books filled with compelling characters on the fringe of society. He’s also a writer who pumps a very large amount of his personal rage into his novels. Aftershock is very obviously based on the Stubenville High School rape case, and presents a new character, Dell, a highly-trained, emotionally-damaged mercenary trying to make a new life with the woman he loves (a former nurse with Doctors Without Frontiers who saved his life and his soul). Dell has the smarts and the skills to take on the people responsible for the rape culture in his new hometown, but is savvy enough to use the System to pull it up by the roots. Not my favorite Vachss novel, but I also have to admit I could not put the book down in the last 75 pages or so.

Well, that was a nice diversion. Now let’s get to the bad stuff.

There has, thank God, been an uptick in paying work this year. The hanging on by fingernails stuff was getting very wearying. That, you might point out, is good, and I agree. I enjoy having a little money as compared to no money at all. But. This also means I was able to pay for the labwork my doctor was insisting on. Oh, it was high time for it, I admit. I’ve been on blood pressure and two forms of cholesterol medication for the past year and a half. In my last bout of dental work, a routine BP check showed it to be running a little high, so that dosage needed to be looked at, blah blah blah.

When I received my copy of the lab results, I knew trouble was on the way. I had successfully gotten a couple of the cholesterol counts down, but one was still a little too high and my triglycerides were through the roof, and probably took out three jet liners on their way up. But there were other indicators that confirmed some suspicions I’d had for a year and more.

At my last eye exam, the optometrist said, “Hm, your eyes are dilating very slowly.” There was a lessening of sensation in my feet. My vision would be very blurry after waking up – when I managed to sleep. My blood pressure med is a diuretic, so I had to go to the bathroom more often, but I was doing that with ridiculous frequency. Constant fatigue was beginning to be a problem.

hmmm-diabeetus-you-saySo while the nurse practitioner was going over my results with me, she looked up and said, “Have you gone diabetic on me?” I could only say, “Sure looks like it, doesn’t it?” Following in the footsteps of my father and his father before him.

So I have more pills now. No insulin – at this point, we try to control it with pills, diet and (ha!) exercise, meaning I have to find one that doesn’t put me on the cane more than I already am. A lot of the lifestyle changes I had already made; I’m now working on stuff like reducing carbs and saying farewell to my beloved hot dogs. Sugar I largely cut out years ago. I stick myself for the glucometer twice a day; the initial outrageous readings have trended downward since.

The blurry vision has abated. I’m sleeping a little better. I may not have pep in my step but my mind seems clearer of late. It’s kind of like I was cocooned in some sort of white noise for the last few months and that’s finally diminishing as my chemistry normalizes.

Needless to say, this isn’t an experience I recommend. Just stepping into the field of glucometers was a nasty eye-opener, as those things and their test strips are based on the printer/ink cartridge business model. The first thing I did was search the Internet for a place that sold test strips at a quarter of the price of my drug store. My wife, who has years of experience as a diabetic, has been an invaluable resource to me in this time. I think she’s glad to finally have someone close to share this with.

fail-owned-wendys-failSo that took up quite a lot of my time (the saga of six separate trips to the lab? Won’t bore you with that story). Finally, in attempting to end this on an up note, I’ll say that a couple more writing projects have presented themselves. One won’t start paying off until next year, but another will this year – and the other writer backed out on this one due to time constraints, so I’m flying it solo – for more money – but that means my work there just doubled. My weekend acting gig has decided it is time to mount a new show NOW DAMMIT, so there goes even more time. My time management skills will get a workout, even if it’s not the kind of workout I need.

I’m still finding time to watch the occasional movie, though. Maybe I’ll even have time to tell you about those. Some time.