Sunday, August 31, 2008


Ever have one of those days where everything you’ve ever done that you’ve regretted seemed to come back an smack upside the head? Well, today was one of those days for me.

I got up early this morning to help a friend of mine move. Let’s call her Scrabble Queen. I actually didn’t know about this until less than a week ago, but Scrabble Queen’s longtime boyfriend, Indecisive Boy, broke up with her, and for the past month she’s actually been dating someone new. Actually he’s not new. He’s yet another member of our group of friends, making it seem evermore claustrophobic. We’ll just call the new bf Handsome Brown.

According to Handsome Brown, Scrabble Queen has been having a rough few months because as Handsome Brown puts it, Indecisive Boy “doesn’t know what he wants.” Handsome wanted to give Indecisive a fair chance to say everything he wanted to say to her. We are all friends, and the last precedent he wants to set is to tell Scrabble who she can and can’t see. But apparently, Indicisive Boy was the one who pushed Scrabble Queen toward Handsome Brown in the first place. And I understood entirely why, because I’d done exactly the same thing with N/A.

That’s right. I broke up with the woman two years ago, haven’t spoken to her in almost a year, and somehow I’m still not over her. I probably never will be.

Sure, I never pushed her towards another guy, but I hinted that there were better ones out there, with more appealing features, and that surely he was right around the corner for her. What was really going on was, because I, like Indicive Boy, felt bad about breaking my lover’s heart, so I come up with this pathetic kind of rationale that she could find happiness elsewhere, as if I was doing a good deed pointing her toward it. But truth is that I was a coward running away from commitment. She didn’t want to find happiness somewhere else. She already had it. And so did I. And I totally blew it. And still, somehow two years later I feel like she must still hate me for it. And who could blame her?

Another friend of mine who was helping us move, let’s just call him the programmer, has been dating the same girl for six years. As we all talked about commitment, he mentioned that his girlfriend keeps asking him when he’s going to propose, sometimes throwing angry fits that eventually subside, but saying things like “this relationship is going nowhere.”

“Well, why not?” I asked him. “Why not at least get engaged to her? I know you love her, man, and you’re a great couple. You’re already living together. What’s holding you back?”

The reaction from everyone else was astonishment.

“She’d be overjoyed to hear you say that, but don’t you dare,” he said finally. I realized maybe more of what I was doing was pulling my own regrets out of the past and vomiting them out to him because I could no longer stomach them. I also realized that I sounded just like my mother. It was not 3 years ago that she said the same thing to me about N/A. I remember those words.

“I think you’ll really regret it someday it if you don’t at least get engaged.”

And now of course I realize that I need to be thinking about N/A like I need a hole in the head.

I entitled this one Wicked, because I actually saw the musical, Wicked, tonight with my parents and sister. We all thoroughly enjoyed it. The music, choreography and special effects blew us all away, and it really is a beautiful story. If it happens by your town, I recommend you see it. It really was an inspiring way to end a day like this.

On the way home, my mother asked me how I got roped into helping my friends move today. The best response I could come up with was, “because she needed someone. When I left Toronto, I didn’t have anybody at all.” As the expression goes, many hands make light work.

In truth, I did have one person help me move from Toronto. I called N/A for help at the last possible moment, when my other helpers failed to show. She came through for me and helped me with the really big stuff, like my oversized mattress, that we’d shared intimate moments on so many times. Even though I had turned her away from my life, she came through for me. The very fact that she did this for me makes me still feel sick for leaving her.

Today wasn’t a bad day. All things considered, it was a great day. I just still can’t help but shake the feeling that I’d enjoy it all so much more if I could share it with N/A.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I needed that surgery like I needed a hole in my head…

Actually in my case in was literally the same thing. Only there are two holes.

This morning I went for my surgery to finally remove that huge-ass cyst from the top of my head. I thought I’d get the doctor to remove a smaller one while he was at it. Now, I’ve had some cysts removed from my body once before, but this experience was completely different. It just goes to show that two doctors dealing with essentially the same problem will have radically different approaches.

The last doctor, let’s call his Whitehead, froze the area with some jelly and then simply cut the cysts out with a knife, and then sewed the wounds back shut. The scars from that procedure are pretty much invisible, since minimal healing is involved if you just pull the skin closed with a suture.

This time around, doctor Bobo decided to use a laser to burn around the entire area, and just remove a huge chunk of flesh, leaving the gaping hole to heal.

“It’ll take awhile to heal,” he said. “Bear in mind it has to heal from the bottom up.” Right. From the bottom up. Well, I suppose I’ve had worse. Actually, I’m starting to wonder.

When the nurse showed me what the doctor had done, I think my initial reaction was horror. I looked like I’d been shot in the head twice. And the wound from the small cyst extraction looks worse than that of the large one.

And my head still smells a bit like burnt bacon… Not bacon exactly. It’s that burning human flesh smell, which is something very distinct, and deeply disturbing.

Anyway, the good news is the cyst is gone. The bad news is, I still don’t know if I’m going to look alright with a shaved head. I guess I’ll have to see how much healing happens this month.

And son of a bitch… now that the anesthetic is wearing off, the gaping wounds on my scalp are really starting to hurt. You know, I even took some pics for the record, but you don’t want to see them. Trust me. They’ll haunt you for days. They certainly burned an impression in my mind, so to speak.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Don’t let the Audition Go to Your Head!

I went to my dinner theater audition yesterday. I think it went reasonably well. I prepared a monologue I stole from Mad TV, I sang a few bars from Sukiyaki, and I told them a joke. It’s a joke I actually got from Ema Nymton, who’s a great source for such humor. What I like so much about this joke is that it’s flexible and you can make it your own. Sure, it’s not as legendary as The Aristocrats, but it’s also not as crass. It’s a clean joke that I think has tremendous potential. Anyway, here’s my version of it:

A man walks into a bar with a giant, spherical, orange head.

“Excuse me sir, you can’t wear that in here,” says the bartender.

“You don’t understand sir, this is my head,” the man replies.

Seeing the mouth move and the expressive eyes and everything, the bartender looks in awe.

“How on earth did that happen?”

“Well, it’s sort of a long story. Get me a rum and coke and I’ll tell it to you.”

So the bartender fixes his drink and the orange-headed man begins telling his story.

“Okay, well, a year ago I was part of this excavation – I’m an archaeologist you see. Well, I found this oil lamp, and I started cleaning it, and wouldn’t you know it, a genie popped out of it, you know, like that movie Ali Baba.”

“You mean Aladdin?”

“Whatever. The point is, this big gay genie popped out and granted me three wishes. Now, I should preface this by telling you I’m a very impulsive person, so I needed some time to collect my thoughts. I mean, it’s not ever day that you get three wishes, and, oh, I was just so excited you know?

“Okay, so I thought for awhile and finally I was ready for my first wish. I wanted to have a lot of money, but not be too famous you know? So the genie made me this sweet wallet which always has whatever money I need, wherever I go. It has every currency for every country and this way I can spend what I need and live in relative wealth, without the notoriety attached.

“So I thought long and hard about it and I decided that my second wish would be to be able to go wherever I wanted, and really fast. I needed like a spaceship or something. So the genie made me this really sleek spacecraft that can travel at speeds of mach 8 through the Earth’s atmosphere. I can get from Ottawa to Beijing in under an hour. I’ve got it parked just outside, it’s awesome.

“And then for my third wish, and I think this is where I really went wrong, I asked for a giant, spherical, orange head.”

“Why on earth did you do that?”

“I don’t know. I told you I was impulsive. I was on a roll, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Haunted by Daydreams, Nightdreams, and Pipedreams Alike

I awoke this morning from a dream about N/A. She was doing a project of some kind, and I was there, and she was really angry to see me, and I insisted that all I wanted was to see her presentation. So she said I was allowed if that’s really all I wanted. But she never showed up for it, and I sat there with everyone else, waiting. Then, to my horror, I found out she took the opportunity, knowing I was across town, to visit my own home stab all my cats to death.

I was already terrified of ever showing my face around her again, but now I’m doubly spooked. Because though there’s a part of me that knows she would never do something like that, there’s another part of me that believes she hates me that much.

I’m also trying to figure out how to get a work visa for Hollywood, and it seems totally hopeless.

My friend, let’s call him “Al,” has been living in the U.S. for 5 years, and has two parents who are U.S. citizens, and even he is having trouble getting accepted, and is facing a 10-year ban from the country.

My aunt Twiggy, her daughter Twiggy Jr., and Twiggy Jr.’s son Boogers are visiting. (Boogers is a good kid, I’m just trying to be funny, and Twiggy the 3rd gets too redundant.) Anyway, Twiggy Jr. and her husband and son live in L.A., and I did actually visit the place a number of years ago, and stay with them.

Anyway, I brought up my friend Al’s plight, and how she might remember his mom, (who worked for her great uncle for awhile), and his sister (whom I dated for awhile – that’s how our families became entangled in the first place), and all Twiggy Jr. could think about was how much she hated Al’s mom. Let’s call her Papaya. Twiggy Jr. hates Papaya. Not necessarily the fruit, though she is quite the picky eater, but definitely the person. Why does Twiggy Jr. hate Papaya? Twiggy Jr. claims Papaya “poisoned by great uncle against me, and he died hating me. She told him he’d already given me millions of dollars, and then though I was a liar for saying he didn’t.”

Twiggy Jr. also claims that Papaya said weird things to her like “rich Jewish bitch,” (unprovoked, I’m sure), and when Twiggy Jr. was pregnant with Boogers, “It must be a boy. I can see a tiny penis in your belly.” Now, this definitely sounds like the Papaya I know, you used to call her daughter “the whore of Babylon” right in front of me. But this is just Papaya’s larger-than-life way, and she was usually kidding, provoked, or just blowing off steam.

On another occasion, Twiggy Jr. said one of my female friends that stayed with her was a prostitute. This may actually be true, but I doubt either she or I could verify that claim. She just likes to gossip.

Anyway, I guess my point is that I’m feeling a bit discouraged right now. I guess I’d always figured I could go off to Hollywood when I was ready, but now I’m finding that if immigration even has the slightest reason to suspect you’re planning on staying, you can kiss your visa goodbye.

I haven’t heard from Pagan Girl either in five days. I know she’s been logging into lavalife though. (It keeps track of when every user was last on.) So now I’m of course wondering if I said something in my last e-mail to put her off, and I’m thinking of sending her a message saying something to that effect. I’ve already been called a creep by two women I was interested in over the past year. I think it’s affected me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What’s the Deal with Dog-People?

It’s amazing how often people will stop you in the street to talk to you when you have a dog. I, for one, resent this rampant, blind assumption that just because I’m walking a dog, that I’m one of those mindless dog-people who wants to baby these basically retarded abominations of nature, and talk about how lovely the weather is, or if it’s not lovely, how lovely it’s supposed to be later. It doesn’t seem to cross their tiny minds that maybe I’m only walking this dog because I absolutely have to, because unlike cats, they cannot be toilet trained.

“Oh, what a beautiful dog,” they’ll say. “Is it friendly?” They ask, so as not to be bitten when they reach for the seemingly mandatory urge to pet a strange animal.

“Why yes, the dog is very friendly. I, however, am not. Piss off.”

Finally, My G1

So last week, or maybe the week before, I said something about making an article about getting a work visa in the states. Well, obviously a work visa isn’t the only option, as you may also simply want to move there.

I went to see Grandma Depressia last night and she started ranting about how Russia is going to invade the United States. Prusmably this was set off after reading all of the turmoil between Russia and Georgia.
“Right, grandma. First Georgia, then the world.”
“If America goes to war, Canada will have to follow. What if you get drafted?”
“Granma, nobody’s been drafted in this country in over 60 years.”
Fret, fret, fret. Anyway, I didn’t tell her about my potential plan to move to the states.

Oh, also I finally got my G1 learner’s permit! (Yeah, baby!) I mean, I know that isn’t much of a feat, but at least I can start booking my driving lessons. For those of you not familiar with Ontario’s “Graduated Licensing” system, (which was designed by people who didn’t have to go through this staggered, exaggerated program themselves, though they insist it saves lives – something that’s impossible to prove, and frankly, quite typical of our province’s infrastructure-mentality), the G1 is the first of three steps to getting a driver’s license, which involves a written test. It costs $125, (this is just for the written test and eye exam, oh and the little laminated card – yet another exaggerated way for the province to bleed its subjects), and you have to score 80% or above, or you fail. I passed thankfully, but a number of people in front of my flunked it by one or two questions, and they had to do it again. I felt bad for them. But I suppose we do need people to know what a stop sign is. You would think that was common knowledge. You would think. Maybe graduated licensing was introduced because people are getting dumber. I haven’t ruled out the possibility.

Anyway, I’m at the office today, and as there’s not much to do, and I haven’t heard from Pagan Girl, I may post again later today.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gimme Five!

Sorry I haven’t been blogging the past few days, but my internet connection has been up and down inconsistently, and any time I do find online, I tend to favor correspondence with Pagan Girl, who by the way, is having a very nice vacation on the west coast, with her extended family. We correspond almost every day, and I pray to the god I don’t believe in that she doesn’t turn out to be obese, or think I’m ugly, or something like that. Of course I’m never gonna know until I finally meet her in person.

If I had been blogging over the past few days though, it wouldn’t gone something like this:

Savory Saturday

Went out for sushi with a relatively new friend of mine, let’s call her Nurse Betty, and her gay friend. Let’s call him Brokeback. I’m going with movie titles today. I must admit I have a bit of a crush on Nurse Betty, but alas, she’s spoken for by Handsome Rob. He wasn’t there, but the three of us talked about how pretty he is. Even I will admit he is prettier than she is, and she’s fucking hot.

She told us a story about how she found a Tupperware container in her mother’s fridge, and she didn’t know what it was, but it was blue and green. She ate it anyway. Apparently what she ate was pure mold. Brokeback and I were stunned. Knowing that this is a nurse in radiology at a fairly major hospital in the city, this doesn’t instill me with a lot of confidence in our healthcare system. It’s a good things she’s pretty, because man…

And apparently, I didn’t realize this until later on when Nurse Betty sent me a message, but I set off Brokeback’s gaydar, at least at first, and he’d hoped she was sneakily trying to set the two of us up. It’s a shame I’m not gay, because he was quite pretty too, and funny.

Stuttering Sunday

Despite my better judgement, I agreed to babysit my grandmother Loopy today. I’m sure those of you with relatives with advanced dementia can appreciate how tedious that is.

At first wee sat and talked for as long as I could stand it. The conversation wove into patterns, and I felt like I was in Groundhog Day. She started by asking what grade I was in, or was I in university. So I told her about my film degree, and that I have a portfolio, and that I’m planning to head down to Hollywood to work as a script reader and screenwriter, and I told her a bit about the industry. Then she told me about how she left the family farm at 18, scared, moving to the big city for a government job. And she never looked back.

She then asked me if I had a girlfriend or six. I told her I went on the odd date. She said that was good, and clearly nothing had made any impression on her, because this is where the cycle would repeat, over and over again.

So I figured I’d be the variable to her constant, and see if anything stuck. I told her I was, among other things, a lawyer, a garbage man, a doctor, a clown, and an astronaut. Nothing stuck, and each time she replied with her story about having left home at 18, and never looked back.

And she kept offering me coffee, so I kept explaining different reasons why I couldn’t drink it. Invariably she’d then say, “I’ve been drinking coffee since I was five.” Something which is probably true, but really doesn’t man anything. Particularly when you hear her say it thirty times in a day.

Oh, and she kept asking when dinner was, starting right after we just finished cleaning up lunch. That was fun. Not.

Medical Monday

I finally went to see a specialist about the cyst on my head. Let’s call him Dr. Bobo.

When I got to the office, the secretary said, “Oh, you had a missed appointment in May.” Which I confirmed and then she asked to verify my phone number, which was wrong.

“Ah, that explains why I never heard from you the first time.”

“Oh, no we never call anyway.”

“Then why do bother with the phone number?”


“If you never call anyway, why do you bother with the phone number?”

“I case we need to call it.”

“I see.”

So I got in to see the doctor right away, even though I was probably half an hour early.

We got down to business quickly. Dr. Bobo said he excise the cyst for $300. I said that was fine. He said there’s also a $200 charge from OHIP for this, if I tell them I’m using his services, but that he’s “choosing to save me money.” Now, I’ve done this before, and last time it was a mere $200 I paid out to OHIP, with no other charges. So I get the distinct impression he’s just trying to bleed me for more under the table income for himself, but you know what? I like his style, so I’m going to overpay him and undercut OHIP just to spite it. Also, frankly anything else I do is just gonna set me back another 5 months. JESUS H. CHRIST, what in the blue hell is wrong with Canadian health care? Our dogs get better health care than us, without the wait and at a fraction of the cost. I was seriously thinking of growing a beard, donning a collar, and then having my mom drag my ass to the vet at the top of the street.

So then we get to scheduling the actual surgery, and I ask for the day after my audition. So he asks me about it. So I tell him it’s dinner theater. So then he says to me all snooty-like,

“Oh, you’re a thespian.”

“Yes, I am.”

“And what do you do for money?”

And this is where I say something offensive, like “I turn tricks, bitch!” Then I take a swing at him, and he dodges and kicks me in the nuts. Then he looks down at me menacingly as I writhe in pain on the floor. “Aw, whatsamatter, ya big nancy? Lost your nerve.” Well, it didn’t go down like that, but that would’ve been funny.

Terrible Tuesday

Talk about your wastes of time. Today, my sister and I went down to the MOT to get our learner’s permits. It took us half an hour to get there, and then another 15 minutes in line before the mindless civil servant at the counter tells us the certified copies of birth certificates we brought weren’t good enough. Thanks for nothing, guys. Thank you for wasting yet another day of my otherwise worthless life. No please, waste some more. I’m only 28, I got lots of ‘em left.

Oh, did I mention we have a dog now? Now that Grandma Loopy’s at the Loopy Lodge, we have her boxer. Today she made a bunch of whining noises and peed on the floor. I’m pretty sure each of the four of us walked her at least once today, so it’s not like she had a lack of opportunity to empty her bladder outside.

When my mom got home, she got so mad about it she started yelling at my sister for not cleaning it up right away. So now they’re not talking to each other. My mom threw a tantrum and refused to eat until sis left the table. I tried to say something to the effect that maybe we shouldn’t be turning against one another like this.

So my dad responds to this by saying he knows I have my own opinions about this, but that they both had a really bad day. Now, I think the appropriate response to this was,

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean? You think it’s cute that I have an opinion, but that I should keep it to myself? Well right back at you, I couldn’t give a flying fuck about your opinion either. Mom, leave your pissy mood at the office! Because when you bring it back home, we all have to share your pissy mood, and we all hate you for it. Life is too short to spend pissed off over something stupid like a dog piddling on the floor. You guys chose to take the dog in, this is what happens. Don’t take it out on sis, and don’t you dare turn around and start trying to take it out on me either.”

And by “correct response,” I mean only if I wanted to avoid talking to my mom for two weeks, because she just can’t change emotional gears very quickly, and when she’s stuck in angry gear, you just sort of have to wait for it to stop. That can be awhile.

Willful Wednesday

I swear to god I’ll get back on that careers project! I swear to god. Right after I get my learner’s permit today, oh, and visit Depressia. I promised I’d visit her today.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday Office Update

I wrote an article yesterday that I didn’t publish. This is because over lunch, my boss/mom voiced a concern that she or the other lawyer at the office might face dire consequences if the people involved are ever identified, as one of them is a potential young-offender. So I’m going to stew it for now, out of respect for the fact that she’s my boss. She also read this.

That said, this is also my blog, and I control its content. This is my place to express whatever I feel like expressing, to whomever is willing to read it, and I will not be censored by anyone. I love my mother and all, but not even she has that authority. My only true censors are my own morals and common sense. That said, I believe it’s a good story that does the world better to be told than untold, and I will probably publish it next week. I never use real names, so it should be completely possible for this to come back to haunt anybody, but I suppose one can never be 100% certain. My sister found this blog completely on her own, much to my amazement.

I’m corresponding with Pagan Girl again. Recently, tragedy struck her family. Her uncle was murdered. She has left town for a little while to be with old friends and family. I won’t way more about this, because with what little information she gave me, I was able to find an article about the murder fairly easily.

Aside from that, my day seems to be consisting of putting old bank statements in chronological order for three different female family members. Fun stuff.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Men Like Sex, Women Like… Surveys?

Good news, Inkpot! I’m not writing about law today. (Yay!) I also have good news about Pagan Girl, although then again, also bad news. The good news is that I heard back from her today. The bad news is that a member of her family was murdered. That’s why she’s been incommunicado for awhile. This is actually terrible news. It always saddens me when this sort of thing happens. At least she isn’t using it as an excuse to stop talking to me. That actually happened with another girl I met on lavalife. We corresponded for a long time, and never wound up meeting. Instead, she told be a close family member had died, and then disappeared without any further explanation. She sent me a cryptic e-mail perhaps a month later, and I replied, but I never heard from her again. To this day I don’t know whether she was making up some bullshit excuse because she was too anxious about meeting me, whether she was simply lying about who she was, or whether she was genuinely too affected by the death to be able to deal with dating. Then again, I decided it didn’t matter. Regardless of which of these three reasons, it was a sign she would be no good for me anyway.

So, I’ve noticed something, in contrast to my other findings about lavalife, (which was that the male to female ratio of online users is 2:1.) The polls on Lavalife seem to tell a completely different story. There actually seem to be more answers submitted by women than by men on two of the three survey sections. (In both “dating” and “relationships,” the number came out 55% women and 45% men. “Relationships” had more polls answered by both sexes, but with the same proportions.) The third sexion, (believe it or not, that was a typo, but I left it in because I thought it was funny for me to fall prey to my own innuendo,) “intimate encounters,” which are mainly questions about how hot you like your sex, (um, medium spicy, please!), saw more answers by men than women, (surprise, surprise), with 58% men and 42% women. This is still a far cry from the severely skewed 5:1 ratio of males to females at any given time on the site.

And now, the fun part, where I take the data I collected and pretend to know what it means.

While the men on the site are busy trying to hit on the women, the women are busy answering surveys. Furthermore, men are likelier than women to fill out a survey if it is about sex. That is all.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

High Heels and Law-Lifes

It occurs to me that the story I’m about to tell you is the sort of thing that happens to lawyers all the time. I expect this sort of thing would become rather tedious after awhile, and wear down one’s faith in the general population.

Oh, I should probably start by saying what I’m doing this week. My mother is a criminal defense lawyer, and her secretary is away on holiday. So this week, I’m the replacement. It never ceases to entertain me how disappointed callers are to find out the usual secretary is away.

Anyway, I got a call from my mother’s assistant at the courthouse, (a very charming, intelligent, and frankly, drop-dead-gorgeous law student), whom I’ll refer to as Head-Turner, not just because she’s gorgeous and turns lots of heads at the courthouse, but because it sounds lawyer-like. Maybe I just feel that way because of T. and T., which I used to watch as a kid. Does anybody remember that show, about a lawyer and Mr. T working together? Probably not many of you. It was Canadian, and a pretty shameless star vehicle for Mr. T, but hey, I was a kid, and I loved that shit.

Anyway, at about a quarter to ten, Head-Turner calls me and tells me one of our boss’s clients did not show up for court.

“Grab his file, and call every phone number in it until you find him,” she instructed me. “The crown doesn’t want to stand down, so if he doesn’t show up to court sometime today, there will be a bench warrant.”

“That’s no good. Okay, I’ll try to find him.”

So I grabbed his file from the cabinet and called his parents. A pre-pubescent boy answered the phone, saying his parents weren’t home. I specified that I was actually looking for his big brother, whom I’ll call Junior, for lack of a better, or otherwise non-condescending name.

“I don’t know where he is.”

“Okay, does he have a number I might be able to reach him at?”

“Actually, he might be here.”

“Oh really?”

“I can check if you like.”

“Yes. Please.”

The boy disappeared for awhile. I heard thumping in the background. Then silence. Then more thumping.

“Yeah, he’s here, but he’s asleep.”

“Well, maybe you’d better wake him up. It’s important.”


More thumping, silence, and more thumping. Finally a groggy adult male voice of a man around my age answers the phone.


“Hi, this is Mal from (your lawyer’s) office. You have court this morning.”

“Oh, really?”


“No shit. What time?”

“An hour ago, actually.”

“Aw, man.”

“Anyway, you should probably head down to the courthouse, like right now.”

So he thanked me, and bumbled off. I gave him the cell number to reach my mother too, which I know he decided to call fifteen minutes later, because, it was forwarded to the office, so I spoke to him again.

“Uh, yeah, I don’t know if I can get down there in time.”

“Why? How long will it take you to get there, say, if you take the bus?”

“Like, 45 minutes. Maybe an hour.”

“Okay, that should be fine. I really suggest you just hustle on down to the courthouse. That’s your best bet.”

And with that, he was gone.

So, 10:30 rolls around, (another half hour later), and Junior calls the office again, to report that he has “no way of getting there.” Now, by bizarre fluke, I had his father on the other line, because I actually called the father’s office also, looking for Junior, but no one had been there. So I politely asked his father if he could pick him up.

“He knew full well he had court this morning. I can’t believe he is doing this. He is just being so irresponsible. I am downtown, and he is all the way… I am going to pick him up now. I am sorry for my anger.” He apologized.

“No, no, please sir. That’s very understandable.”

So I switched lines again, and let Junior know that his father would be picking him up. I felt rather sorry for both of them. The father was so apologetic for his son, and so embarrassed. And probably, he was filled with a sense of shame. Not having children of my own, I can only imagine how awful that must feel. And as for Junior, well, I thought I was immature. And let’s face it, I am. It looks like we both have some growing up to do.

It takes a very strong strength of character to be able to baby-sit these folks, and help them through the system. I’m not quite sure if I could hack it as a lawyer. I’m not sure I could keep a straight face, or maintain my composure and not say something like, “You’re kidding, right?”

And of course, at the end of all this, I learned that hasn’t yet retained legal aid, so it isn’t clear we’ll even be paid for this.

Damn. I’m still thinking about that old Mr. T show. I’ll have to see if I can find an episode or two of that when I get home tonight. “I pity da foo!” And I really do pity the fools.

Addendum Ad Expostulo

Hi all! I just wanted make an adjustment to my assertion a few days ago that I’d turn out an article on a career track for every day of the month. Once I got started on the first one, I realized how much work and research was actually involved. The only article I was actually able to complete in one day was, for obvious reasons, screenwriting, because I’m already an expert of sorts there. But here’s the good news – I’m spending extra time on these articles, so the overall quality should be very good. I’ve even got interviewees lined up for a number of career tracks, and I’m looking forward to chatting with them about their careers, and then expositing them here.

I’m currently about halfway done the second article, which will be on the legal profession. I’m actually working at a law office all week, so I should have ample opportunity to acquire info on this career track. I’ll try to have this article, as well as the work visa article churned out by Friday.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Career #1: Hollywood Screenwriter

Welcome to the first entry of career month, and what better career to start with than the one I’ve still clearly got my heart set on: screenwriting.

Where to begin: Many aspiring screenwriters hope to make their start by writing a brilliant screenplay, and then dashing off to Hollywood with, it hoping that someone will buy it, and praying that maybe they can even stay attached as the director. And believe it or not, this actually happens, though it is more the exception than the rule.

One example of this is Troy Duffy, who signed The Boondock Saints to Miramax for $300K and a budget of $15M. Unfortunately, the sort of ego it takes to push your way into a deal like that is the sort of ego that proceeded to ruin it all for Duffy, having him make countless remarks about being Hollywood’s new hard-on, taking over the world, bad-mouthing celebrity after celebrity and just generally being a homophobic, anti-Semitic, racist cunt. Or to put it less crudely, it is an example of ego exceeding talent.

Most screenwriters face rejection after rejection, as there are very few film optioned per year, and even fewer actually made. Fewer still are the newcomers, as many films produced by the major companies are sequels and franchise films. The major studios get tens of thousands of screenplays a year. You know how many they actually make? Not nearly as many.

To give you some numbers, in 2007, Paramount Pictures made 11 films, of which 6 were remakes, 3 were franchise films, and 2 were original films. For the record, those two originals were Hot Rod and Bee Movie. In 2007, Universal Studios released 19 films, of which 7 were based on books or true stories, 4 were part of a franchise, and 8 were original screenplays.

In other words, statistically, your chances of being “discovered,” and your screenplay being picked up are about 1 in 20,000. Granted, that’s a lot better than your odds at winning the lottery jackpot, but it’s also considerably more work.

For television, similarly, many, many shows get pitched, significantly fewer are made into pilots, and fewer still make it into their first season. And fewer still into their second.

So what does this tell us? Well, it actually tells us two things. First, you have to be extremely lucky and talented to ever get your own TV show or film produced. But second, these production companies need people to screen all those screenplays. They need script readers. If you like writing scripts, you probably also like reading them, so this sounds like a fun way into the biz.

So, what exactly does a script reader do? Well, essentially you read screenplays and then you write what is colloquially known in the industry as coverage, which is essentially a short summary of the film’s plot, as well as a treatise to its marketability and potential demographic. Most importantly, the coverage is the short-cut to producers (or actors, or directors – the high-demand celebs hire script readers too, not just major production companies), telling them whether they should pass on it, that they might consider it if changes were made, or if you would actually recommend the script.

Some say that becoming a script reader is a terrible idea if you wish to make it as a writer, as the work is fairly draining. However, it is an invaluable insider’s look at how to get your work out there, (or why it will never get out there), and it can also make you invaluable contacts in the industry. Regardless of whether you like it or not, it certainly seems well worth doing, particularly when the alternative is an unpaid internship, which is illegal anyway, unless you’re getting a college credit, which I certainly won’t be.

How much does a script reader make? Script readers will typically make $40-$80 per script.

So, how does one become a script reader? Well, obvious as it sounds, you start by reading scripts. One very good online resource for this is a link my dear old Scriptwriting Professor gave me: Drew’s Script-O-Rama. Read a few of those, (make sure they’re the “scripts” and not the “transcripts”), and then write mock coverage for them. You’ll want to follow the proper format, so you may want to poke around online for some coverage samples. This should work quite well as a portfolio to show potential employers that you know what you’re doing.

If you’re fortunate enough to get script reading work for a large production company, you’ll get an insider’s look at which producers like to make what, and what to pitch to whom. You’ll have an added advantage over many of the other would-be screenwriters. You know the producers, and if they come to value your coverage on other screenplays, it’ll give you more pull when it comes to pitching your own.

At the same time, you’ll want to keep tabs with the script dept. to see if you can get hired on as a staff writer. This is a significant step up in your career, and for this you’re going to need to prove that you can write, which again, will require samples. Again, the best way to write good samples, is to read good samples, and perhaps read a few how-to books on screenwriting. For television, your script samples will be speculative scripts, which are essentially sample episodes of existing shows. Pick a show you’re really familiar with, preferably a TV show you adore, and write the script adhering to the rules of the show.

How much does a staff writer get paid? Well, staff writers rates are governed by the Writers Guild of America, in their schedule of minimums. This year, the minimums are $58.477 for an original screenplay and treatment, $21,585 for one half hour episode of television, and $31,748 for a full hour episode, just to give you some examples. Bear in mind that these are minimums, and that writers of primetime television shows will make significantly more. Also, you would have to join the guild.

If you make it this far, congratulations. You’ve just made your career. You may never attain fame, but you now have a lucrative career that you enjoy. If all goes really well for you, and after years of proving yourself as a rock steady staff writer, you may graduate to the status of script doctor. The word “doctor” here is right, because the really lucrative script doctors can make in a week what many conventional doctors make in a year, as much as $200K for perhaps 2 or 3 weeks of work. It’s like a doctor’s salary on speed.

There. Sounds easy, right? Well, wait a minute. Before you buy your plane ticket to L.A., you also need to be American citizen. If, like me, you aren’t, you need to apply for a work visa. This article is long enough though, so I’ll give applying for a work visa its own section.

Suggested Reading:

Hollywood 101: The Film Industry by Frederick Levy

Screenplay Story Analysis by Asher Garfinkel

Reading for a Living by Terri Katahn

500 Ways to Beat the Hollywood Script Reader by Jennifer Lerch

How to Write a Movie in 21 Days by Viki King

How To Write For Television by Madeline Dimaggio