Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Writers' Gathering

Last night I went to a screenwriters' panel held in downtown Spokane and sponsored by a group called FAVES (intended to promote movies in the Spokane area - similar to, but different from, my KNIFVES movie-networking group). (They considered the name FORKS - as a true complement to KNIFVES - but went with FAVES instead.)

What a blast! I'd found out about the symposium by happenstance, and had then alerted KNIFVES members to the event, so there was a whole bunch of KNIFVES people there. The panel consisted of writers who have been in the business of making this business happen. Two on the panel - Don Caron and Lyle Hatcher - have just written a novel (after having written the screenplay), called "Different Drummers," about a young boy, and his friend in a wheelchair, and something about finding God. Sounded interesting, so I bought a copy. Now I have reading material for the plane tomorrow (oh, I'm going to Chicago, btw).

The panel comments were interesting, the questions were great, and there was just an overall buzz of excitement throughout the room. We had a chance to make some KNIFVES announcements, and several people came up afterwards to find out more about our group, so it was just a great, fun night. It also dovetailed well with my own goal of keeping my writing moving right now - not so much in a specific way ... but definitely the spirit of that goal was met.

Oh, and at the end, the FAVES group announced a short film contest, entries due in December (I believe was the information). Check out their website - - to find out more.

photo credit: Nick Wheeler, found here

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Now, this is a fun class. Dancing exercise at its fastest.

As mentioned a couple weeks ago, I'm taking two Zumba classes - a beginning one, and an advanced one - both from the Parks and Recreation Department. Zumba - hmmm - is a Latin dancing exercise class. Best I can figure out, it incorporates Salsa and Merengue and other Latin dances from an aerobic point of view. The beginning class is right now better exercise because the instructor explains the steps and takes them just a smidgen slower, so I actually can figure out what to do! Though I do not - repeat, do not - have any idea how to make my hip do a figure eight. What in the world does that even mean??? Besides - I am of Northern European descent. Our hips are not designed for this. The closest I come to ancestry with flexible hips is a tiny bit of Cherokee and then that little bit of Irish I get from my mother (and the Irish blood qualifies only because they are just a little on the crazy side of everything - you know, in a Celtic sort of way). Still, I'm having a blast. And I'm sweating. The best of both worlds.

Here's a video from our very own Spokane of a previous class, though this makes Zumba look easier than it is:

Making Progress

Another week under my belt on getting my writing out there. What I appreciate is the support of the KNIFVES folks in this area. This is the movie networking group that I joined this year. "Networking" being the key word there. These are first steps, not last ones, but they are a start. And I'm planning a trip to Los Angeles at the very end of October - will go see Paul Castro's class at UCLA Film School in amongst a couple other meetings. Again, first steps, not final ones. But it all feels like movement. So involved am I in this process that it woke me up in the middle of the night last night, in the wee hours of Sunday morning. There I was, wide awake. Thinking through it all.

Monday, September 21, 2009

... and back

Got back from my road trip to Sun Valley, and the spiritual film festival there. Had a great time. I left first thing in the a.m. on Saturday (4 a.m.!) and drove eight or so hours to get there. I saw a handful of films and then headed back home (early, as it turns out, but I had a blast for the time that I was there). One film in particular moved me. Called "The Human Experience," it was a documentary-type film - but storytelling as well - about the journey of two brothers, and others, into the lives of people who were homeless, orphaned, or shunned (or all of the above). Great movie. Very touching. There was also another movie that I saw where the actress in it would be perfect for a smart horror film that I've dreamed up (and I mean "dreamed" in the literal sense).

Now, here's my whole story. Part of the reason I went to Sun Valley was to maybe run into Stephen Simon (producer of such movies as "Somewhere in Time" and "What Dreams May Come"). He is co-founder of Spiritual Cinema Circle, which was formed in New Mexico, and he has written a book about spiritual cinema. I met Stephen seven years ago, when he was giving a talk in Oregon (he likely doesn't remember). When I heard on Friday that there was a spiritual film festival going on, I thought, well, Stephen Simon should be there. And those were the next words I heard - that he had spoken to the group on Thursday night. So when I thought that I should travel to this festival, a part of me hoped he would still be there when I arrived on Saturday. Last time, I drove six hours one way to see him. This time, I was driving eight.

He was still there - was speaking as I arrived. I snuck in to the theater and sat down to listen. It was a nice crowd - synergetic to the topic. The room buzzed with people who had things to say in response to Stephen's stories, and commitment to spirituality in film. I had heard one of his stories seven years ago - about how he got Christopher Reeve to star in "Somewhere in Time" (a great story) - and enjoyed the preview of the Circle's "The Gift." I laughed out loud in parts.

And then afterwards, everyone wanted a piece of him (as the expression goes). As did I. I went from the front of that line to the back somehow, which I didn't much mind. Finally we talked, and he offered to give me some of his time via email about my projects - advice, I think - and then I said, hey, why don't I tell you some details about the baseball story - of the 1946 Spokane Indians team, how these men died in a bus crash midway through the season - nine of them died... eight of those who died had served in World War II... I told him how I wrote the story in a field-of-dreams way, where the bus crashes midway through the novel, and now the men's souls are coping with the tragedy of their untimely deaths - how it is about fate, and destiny, and what lies in between.

His face lit up as I spoke. I could see that he could see the story. It was as though he could see it on screen already. Just his look helped to energize me. And he is right. This story is an incredible story, for as sad as it is... And then, for me - there I am, getting ready for My Week Of The Big Push, and it starts before it begins on a Saturday in Sun Valley with Stephen Simon's recognition. A very big deal.

No description of a road trip is complete without a description of the road. I took some photos on my cell phone, on the way. Two of three photos - one of a cabin under majestic mountains, and one of fog rising from the river - well, they didn't turn out. Sorry. They looked good on the phone! But here's one - of clouds hanging in the sky. Does the photo show how they looked in person - like they were just painted there?

The other road adventure was the animals. On the way there, a wild turkey showed up (no, not a bottle of alcohol, but a real wild turkey). I wouldn't have noticed too much about it - though I slowed down to go by - except that turkey decided to stand in the middle of my way. Just stood there. So I stopped completely. "Go turkey," I said, waving it on. So it moved, and joined a second turkey on the safe side of the metal railing. "Giveaway," I thought to myself as I kept driving (the Turkey's symbol, according to Native American tradition). It didn't dawn on me until the ride home - the gift of sharing my baseball novel with Stephen Simon! It was also on the ride home that I saw the fox - representing not me but someone else, I thought (don't know why - maybe because it was on the other side of the road from the turkeys). And I thought, someone has a secret (which I remembered as the fox's symbol). I wondered if the secret was good for me or not. About 50 miles later, I saw a cat at about the same spot in the road as where the fox had been. I smiled. It must be a good secret.

And then I came home, and saw I'd mixed up foxes with lynxes. It is the lynx who holds the secrets. The fox? Is good at camouflage. Except the other night, when my headlights caught a glimpse, and illuminated it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

On The Road Again...

Just as I target this coming week as my time to move forward on my writing...

I happened to learn this a.m., while on a conference call about film-making, that there is a spiritual film festival in Sun Valley, Idaho this weekend. This - is my genre. Though what I write is grounded in reality, it also has a touch of the mystic. So I've decided to go. It'll be crazy, and a looo-oong drive, and I'll miss the first half (since it started last night), but I'm going. I'll get there tomorrow afternoon. This is, after all, the exact time that I said that I was going to start my movement upward and outward. It wasn't the plan I'd set up - I didn't even know the festival existed until a couple hours ago - but it fits just the same.

Besides, it's a beautiful drive. Or so I'm told. Oddly, I go through Montana to get there. Talk about a circuitous route!

sun valley
photo credit: spunkinator, found here

The Silent Years

Jimmy Carter swept up a furor of anger a few days ago, when he talked about the furor of anger at anti-everything protests recently. (Check out his words - he didn't say that everyone who protests is racist. He said, "I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man." Some people are mad at the word "overwhelming." But it modifies "intensely demonstrated animosity," making it still only a slice of the people protesting.)

What's interesting about Jimmy Carter's comments to me is that it dovetails with my thought flashes recently. I keep thinking about Jackie Robinson. Started about a week ago. Remember that slice of history? When Branch Rickey met with Jackie Robinson back in 1945, he made a pact with him: for three years, Jackie Robinson would not respond to the jeers and slurs made against him. After three years, he could choose what he wanted to do. And after three years, he was beloved by many, wasn't he? It is how baseball began to integrate. It is also how the country got ready to integrate. It wasn't until 1953 that the Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education. Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson played an important role in this country's ability and willingness to desegregate.

I bet if Jackie Robinson were alive today, he'd agree with Jimmy Carter. After all, spewed hatred and one-liners look like they're coming from some place other than reasoned debate.

Here is a potent article by Henry Aaron, remembering Jackie Robinson. It gave me tears.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The "Way Over 40" League

Boot camp ended Friday - just as our co-ed outdoor soccer season began on Saturday. A friend was asking me if I played in the "over 40" soccer league. "We're way over 40!" I said - and thought, now that would be the right name for our league. The "Way Over 40" league.

Our league's technical name is "Grand Masters" - a euphemism for "old people." At 48, I'm one of the youngest on my team.

But we have such a good time! Though we lost this past Saturday. Without one of our players, we would have been skunked. Thanks to him (and the assists he got), we scored 3 goals - still lost, but with a little dignity intact.

Boot camp seems to have agreed with me. Though it was about 85 degrees on the soccer field Saturday afternoon, and though I don't play well in the heat, and though we were playing without enough women again (which meant all the women on the team played the entire game) - I never really got out of breath. This - borders on a miracle.

I usually play fullback - not halfback, not even forward - so I should always be able to say, at the end of a game, that I did not struggle, since fullbacks do the least amount of running. But usually I am too out of breath to say anything, much less that I "did not struggle" (irony sounds).

And if I wasn't in too bad of a shape at the end of a hot day... Boot camp has made its impact.

So, let's see - highlights of the game... Well, one of our players scored a hat trick (three goals), as I mentioned above. Our goalie did an amazing job... We had a couple new women who played valiantly - one of them has an amazing "cross" (she played wing - which means, forward and on the side). She needs to play up there all the time.

I had a couple headers (well one header and one noser - mmm hmmm, that means I got to the ball, only it missed my forehead...) And I think I had a couple of hippers, too (again, this is not a real term, but is descriptive of what actually happened on a couple of occasions, when the ball came sizzling towards me and my "stop" of it involved sacrificing my side rather than my front - or my back! I wasn't totally chicken! Um- or, maybe I just didn't twirl around fast enough...) Oh, and I did suck the ball once out of someone's foot as she tried to get by me. I love that when it happens. It's like I am a vacuum, and the other player has just stepped out of their shoe (and sock), so surprised they are that they no longer have the ball at their feet.

And then there's Zumba - which I'm starting on Tuesdays and Wednesdays... This apparently is a dance class, with Latin flavor. I'll find out more tomorrow night.

Between boot camp and walking, soccer and zumba - I'm calling this the "Season of the Body." It's been a long time since I've taken the time to get in physical shape. Usually I'm too busy with all my mental responsibilities to take the time to care about my physical being... But I'm 48, and it's now or never. Or, well - it's now, anyway.

And here's a funny thing that's happened on that way to that forum... My entire right side (not just a little noggin of a lower back) is in some sort of traction. It would be funny, if it didn't hurt from my rib cage down to my knee cap. Ha ha. (Actually, it is a little funny, and I've been laughing, trying to imagine what exactly I might have done to have caused this new, expanded ailment.)

But then, here's the good thing - I'll make an appintment to see my chiropractor. Maybe it is just my body's subtle way of encouraging good care all around.

'Tis the season!

Friday, September 11, 2009

All in the Family

Two Saturdays ago, when I was visiting my mom in El Paso, I returned an Idaho friend's phone call from the day before and found myself on his car's speaker phone. When he rushed in to let me know I was on speaker phone, I made the reasonable assumption that there were other people in the car. My assumption was correct - "I have Jim (garble garble) and (garble garble garble) here in the car with me," my friend said, and explained they were on their way back south from Sandpoint. I'd hardly said hello when my friend continued, "Well, we shouldn't keep you - they need to make phone calls home," and I thought - ah. A carload of Republicans, is it? That would be the only logical answer for why he would rush me off the phone like that. (As if I didn't already know that a carload of people with this particular friend would likely be a carload of Republicans.) I felt like texting him: "You don't have to rush me off the phone. I promise not to say anything about how great Barack Obama is..."

I started to say goodbye, But Jim Garble-Garble decided to keep me on the phone. "Yes, we've just come back from campaigning for (garble garble)," he said. Great guy, he said. Oh, that's so nice, I said (wondering who in the heck they had been campaigning for). Sounds great, I said. Jim asked me where I was, then asked why I was in El Paso, and about my family... "Good for you," we said to each other. And then my friend finally got me off the phone. That Jim's a nice guy, I thought as I hung up. Even if he is a Republican.

Later in the day, I decided to check my local newspaper's website to see the news back home. There it was. The headline. "Sarah Palin's father and father-in-law visit Idaho," it said. "Jim Palin and Chuck Heath are here to campaign for Republican hopeful Vaughn Ward, who is running for Rep. Walt Minnick's congressional seat..."

Had I just been talking to Jim Palin?

I checked with my friend later. Yes indeedy, I'd just been talking to Sarah Palin's father and father-in-law. How funny is that? I don't know about Chuck Heath, as he didn't say much beyond hello. But I stand by my first impression of Jim Palin. He's a really nice guy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cat Idiosyncrasies

I took Alex to the vet yesterday. I was worried that he was losing weight. We got there, weighed him. He was fine. But it was the ride there and back that was such a joy. Alex, unlike Annie (my other cat), hates the car. Hates it. He paces back and forth as I drive. (If I keep him in his carrier as I drive, he is more terrified. I figure watching a pacing cat is better than listening to his heightened terror.) He meows the entire time - except when he goes guttural, meowing from deep inside. That's when he sounds like a little cougar. At one point yesterday, he crouched atop my headrest and meowed in my ear as I drove.

It's my fault, really. I'm the one who wanted to take him to the vet.

So then I got home and went searching for a pen to write a check. It was not on the table, where I had left it the day before. Why not? Because Annie had stolen it away during the night. This is a favorite game of hers. She wanders the house at night, locates unsuspecting pens lying around, and confiscates them. Usually she carries them into the bedroom and then spits them out - pah! - on the floor next to my bed, as though urging me to get up and start writing (at 3 a.m. in the morning).

It's my fault, really, that I couldn't find my pen. I'm the one who left it on the table.

Though I do have to admit to real responsibility to the pen game. I leave them around on purpose, for her to find and relocate. Why not? It makes her happy. Which makes me smile.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


I have this philosophy: life is art, if we choose to see it that way. Symbolism exists in our day-to-day lives. Sometimes the story is larger than life, and so can make its way to the printed word. But even if the moments of our lives do not carry screen-worthy drama, they still are so often filled with potential for quiet realization (if we choose to see symbols and patterns, themes and metaphors).

Like trilogies. When something happens for the third time in a short span, it's my wake-up call. What can I get from this now-surfaced theme?

I apply this philosophy to body parts. Now, now, get your mind out of the gutter and instead pick up a book called "Heal Your Body," by Louise Hay. In HYB, Hay describes what each body part and/or ailment symbolizes so that you can focus your healing on what the ailment itself represents.

I'm not a proponent - not at all - for the idea that we bring on our illnesses. In fact, I get upset when people talk like that. (Use the illness as information, yes. But don't blame people for their illnesses!) However, I do think that if we are headed for illness, we can pay attention to where the illness manifests and use that as an opportunity to ask questions that can lead to "ah ha" moments and give us a little bit more insight into a part of our lives. So Hay's book is helpful to me.

Most of Hay's connections are pretty logical - if you have a sore throat, you might want to consider in what ways you haven't been speaking up (or have been speaking too much). Clogged ears - what is it that you don't want to hear? Hands and feet symbolize movement. (Well, actually, a foot symbolizes movement while a hand symbolizes how you "handle" things. But you get the idea.)

The reason I bring up feet is because of my big toe. Or, more accurately, my big toe's nail. Right side. I injured it years ago playing soccer. Now, a feather can hit it the wrong way and it will turn black and blue. Well, that's an exaggeration. It usually requires some stronger force, like another soccer player stomping on my foot, before it starts up the colors of the rainbow...

But once it goes blue, I know I have about nine months' worth of nail trauma. It won't hurt. It'll just look ugly and then, within a few months, it'll fall off, and it will be another several months before the nail is back to normal. It's a dance we do, my big toe and me. When it does happen, I find myself wondering (sigh, sigh, sigh) if I'm going to have to get patient again about something that I really really want. (Apparently Hay says that injury to the "big toe" signifies obsessing too much about the details of the future. Hmm.)

So it happened again. This time, it happened because my tennis shoes were new when I started my walking program a few weeks back, and the pressure on the big toe created black and blue. Now, the shoes are broken in, and the same outcome wouldn't occur now. But that doesn't change the fact that my big toe is already injured, and looking pretty bad. And by "bad," I don't mean "good." (I am wearing red nail polish to camouflage.) (Actually, it happened to both big toes.)

Now, here's the switch. I don't think I'm losing the nail. For 25 years (which marks the first time I had this injury), if my toenail went black, I lost the nail. Every time. Probably half a dozen times in 25 years, this has happened. But now - after 25 years - I think I'm keeping the nail. A whole new pattern of being... Which doesn't have to mean anything, other than I get to avoid nine months of an annoying pattern... which is nice to know...

And then something else happened. The day I started my boot camp class - about three weeks ago - I injured my lower back. For most people, they think- oh, I'll just rest, it'll be fine... But for me, this was potentially catastrophic. I had a lower back injury when I was 19 that stayed with me until a few years ago. It could go into agony at just one wrong turn. In 2000, however, when I was in particular pain (couldn't even stay seated), I did all this work on the back - a combination of therapies, including chiropractic, massage, acupuncture and actually talking the whole thing out. It's a long story, but one day I realized something about the history of my ancestors that caused me such great sorrow that I just cried and cried... And three days later, my back was healed. Done. Finis. Never to bother me again - every so often getting tight, but then the tightness would go away.

And then - OMG - there it was again. Injured, on the first day of boot camp. Truly injured.

So, here's the thing. It's okay now. There's a twinge, but it's almost completely better. And it hasn't stopped me from continuing with the boot camp. This is not the old story at all. It's an entirely new story. Just like my toenail is an entirely new outcome, though the injury is familiar.

So I'm a little happy. It's like my body wants me to know that something traditionally "bad" can happen without being life-altering for months or even years.

And now I'm in trilogy mode, waiting for the third shoe to fall... This time, though, I'm happy to anticipate. Or maybe the third thing already happened. Was my anemia. Which I always knew to be temporary and fixable.

photo credit: Darwin Bell, found here

Friday, September 4, 2009

Topol's "Fiddler on the Roof"

Last night, I had the chance to go see Topol perform in "Fiddler on the Roof." He is on a months-long farewell tour. He's been all over the country - Los Angeles, etc. - and now Spokane.

What an incredible story, what a great performance. I loved, loved seeing Topol perform! Our seats were a little far away, but not too bad. We could see the funny grimaces and gestures... When he bowed at the end, from different places on the stage, I thought: this is it. The end of an era.

I think "Fiddler" is one of the best written works out there. It is a roller coaster of emotions, a timeless story set in a very specific time and place. I grew up loving it. Now that I'm older, I am more conscious of its potency. Last night, I went with a friend who had never seen it before (while I know most of the lines). I wondered what that would be like, watching this musical for the first time as an adult. It was hard to imagine.

When I was a kid, we saw "Fiddler" in San Diego, at the zoo's open air theater. (We saw many plays there.) I remember it so vividly. As I read about Topol coming to Spokane, I thought - hey - didn't we see him in San Diego? So I asked my parents. They don't remember (making them officially useless), though my mother did say she thought perhaps it was Marcel Marceau. (You mean Zero Mostel, I told her. Oh yes, she said. But we did see Marcel Marceau once, in Arizona, so she was partially right.) ;)

So then I thought, you know, I think it was Zero Mostel that we saw in San Diego! As my mother pointed out last night, no one can contradict me if I say that (certainly my parents can't!). So that's my story. That I've seen both Topol and Zero Mostel play the role of Tevya on stage.

What a controversy there was back then, when Topol was the one chosen to played Tevya in the movie version (early 1970s). Yet he owned the role there, and owned the role last night. This is not to say that Zero Mostel was anything but phenomenal as well. For he "owned" the role too, when he played it.

It is odd, isn't it, that there can be two such brilliant actors playing the same, stunning role during the same time period in a play that shall go on in history as one of the best musicals (and stories) ever. It was unlikely for that to happen, but it did happen. All quality - in acting, in script, in voice, in score - had to be present to succeed in the ever-precarious stance of that kind of multiple perfection. Just like - a fiddler on a roof.

photo credit: Thwaites Theatre Photos, found here

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hurry Up And Wait

The best laid plans...

I wrote on this blog, almost two weeks ago now, that the day after Labor Day would mark my big push to move my writing up and out. One thing has led to another, however, and I've decided to delay my move until the week of September 20th. Actually, it's a good idea. It gives me a chance to get some more feedback, and finalize my screenplay just a little bit more. It also lets me resolve some legal projects that are coming due in the next couple of weeks. (You remember - my day job?) So it's a good thing.

In the meantime, I've come up with a new screenplay idea. It's really good, though it's going to take some research. So I'm puttering around with that, content. And setting into visual place my next steps - step by step.

Oh - and I'm home from El Paso! Great trip. Great to be home. It was good to see the cats. Annie is next to me, holding vigil (as she does, when I write). (Okay, now Alex - who couldn't stand it, that Annie was sitting in such a privileged spot - has jumped up on my lap and is trying to curl up in my arms as I type. We're all in one chair out on the front porch - not even indoors on the couch, where there might have been space for this menagerie...)