Category Archives: Musings

Rely on the Reply


Cover of "Akeelah and the Bee (Widescreen...

Recently, my script came up in reply to an article on diversity in black film on The Black Board. Here is part of my response with other diversity in film stuff added.

I think the real reason for the difficulty getting black movies made is a lot simpler and a lot more complicated. Studies show that too often people classify their fellow humans as something so separate from themselves they have trouble empathizing with them. It took this study for me to understand why white friends would say they don’t consider me as black. That has always hurt me. I never understood why I couldn’t be myself to be their friend. The article Brain Research Shows White People Lack Empathy for Brown People and the even more relevant Why White People Don’t Like Black Movies. explains this concept of the racial empathy divide in more detail.

This is one of the main reasons that White males are the default as a story’s protagonist. We have all been trained to see things from the White male perspective from a very young age. In many places around the world, we are still taught that he is the penultimate human being. It hurts my soul when I hear people of color praising or lamenting the shade of their skin. It is easy for whites to accept films on racism. We all know where they belong in these films. They are the bad guy and also the savior. Black people would not be oppressed without whites and would not escape this oppression if not for the one exceptional, kind white person. This gives white people an entrance to the story, someone to empathize with. Where does that emotional connection begin in a film like Akeelah and the Bee?

At the Austin Film Festival this year I saw one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while, The Little Tin Man. I had no intention of seeing this great movie. Why? Because it had a little person and it said it was a comedy. I have been trained that all comedies with little people are of the dumb guy variety. The little person will be flung around and/or treated like he’s (it always seems to be a he) a prop. Many people love the Mini Mes and Jackasses of the world but I hate these gags. Maybe part of the reason people who don’t have this empathy problem still don’t go to black films is that they’ve been taught that if it’s not historical it’s all stupid race jokes, bad writing, and melodrama. We have to make more of all kinds of films so the movie going audience can be open to seeing something that will surprise them that was made with people who will amaze them.

When I Die Young


10.2.12 028Not if. I don’t want there to be an if. I want to die young. You don’t have to bury me in satin or lay me down in a bed of roses. I know what it’s like to be old and I don’t want it. Though I do think that sinking me in the river at dawn would be pretty cool especially if there’s archers with fire. My Viking dreams aside, I’m good with being cremated in a cardboard box and having a party where those who I leave behind can eat and do what ever the heck else they want in my honor.

I know a little bit about being old because my arthritis robs my body of being ignorant of it almost every day. That old is just physical and means a lot, but nothing at the same time. Of the two grandparents I’ve had in my life both have gotten old. My grandpa died in 1988 of an Alzheimer’s that burned through his brain leaving his body untouched. This man wandered off to be found later that day having walked thirty miles. The sweetest memory I have of my brother is when he coaxed me out of my hiding place after Grandpa hit me in a confused rage. In the end he was a mute that didn’t notice when two little girls snickered over the outline of what was under his hospital gown.

Grandma is different. She has dementia. We’re pretty sure it comes from when she had her strokes. It rolls over her in waves of varying length and intensity. Like a teenager trying to find herself she’s gone through phases and personality shifts that effect those closest to her the most. Her body has not fared well. It’s disintegration causes her even more confusion. She doesn’t know what to do with her own body anymore. It doesn’t work like it used to and she is incapable of learning the new quirks she must use. Unlike Grandpa she knows who we all are and can fake a level of health for the people who see her infrequently. The memories of her past are as spotty and subject to exaggeration as those in the present. The slow erasure of the woman she used to be effects my memory of her as well. From the days before she was sick, I only remember flashes of her in the kitchen cooking. When she dies I will remember her as she descended into old age. I will only clearly remember the times when my mom, and sometimes I, took care of her. I don’t remember when it was the other way around. I don’t remember when I came home from school and she was there waiting with a meal. I don’t remember her taking me on adventures while my mom was at work. I don’t remember her letting me sneak out to the movies in the summers starting at twelve years old. I know all those things happened but the woman who stares, and smiles, and waits, does not seem like the same woman.

Soon Grandma will go into surgery to get her pacemaker replaced. A quick 15 minute procedure, but at 97 they give her a 20% chance of surviving the anesthesia. If it was up to me I don’t think I would give permission for the surgery. I would let the battery die. I would let her die. Being a caregiver to someone who is being stripped of humanity from the inside out is hard for me. Death doesn’t scare me as much as never being able to learn another thing in my life.

A couple of years ago, there was a medicine that worked for my arthritis. I danced, I worked out, I walked. What I couldn’t do was read, or write. I also couldn’t drive. I could feel my IQ take a dive and my freedom was linked to who could drive me that day. I chose to let my joints stiffen and the pain to return because I learned that without my brain fully functioning I could not be me.

I don’t know what Grandma would choose if she was still the person in the not so solid memory of my  youth. But I have made my choice. So let me die young, I have already seen old.

[The song If I Die Young by The Band Perry]

If I Die Young

Listen for Your Life!


009The things I know about you would curl your nose hair. Don’t worry, none of it has to do with that one sex scandal ’cause I don’t care about that. Once, I had the unfortunate experience of being told, in great detail, that a performer I knew was a swinger and always had regular orgys. To this day, I can not look at the man without imagining his glasses bouncing on his sweaty face. Yeah, not cute. Most of the time the real truth about people is the thing that they really want to hide even though it’s there for anybody who pays attention. We all can know a person if we bother to listen, with our ears, our eyes, our hearts.

About once a month I pick a theme for tweets where I suggest whom I think people should follow on twitter. I do this in the hopes that people will actually be intrigued by something I said and click follow. This month I chose people who listen. Almost immediately I was struck by how difficult it was to say why I chose these people as great listeners. That they listen to me is so much more and so much less than what their ability to listen means. There is a truth in what I see in their listening that is not mine to share. When talking about those who teach one can describe that teacher’s effect on them without ever really saying anything about that teacher. But when one talks about those who listen, the most honest description of that experience is to talk about who the listener is.

Frozen by my fear of revealing a heart that is not mine, I got to thinking about listening as a large part of our humanity. Listening is a skill that so many don’t have, or choose not to use. There have been times when I have deliberately misunderstood someone as to not have a confrontation or to give them their privacy. Communication is a life skill that depends as much or more on how we receive it as give it. As writers, listening is important to creating character but it also helps understand this crazy entertainment industry. Too often the destruction of a movie begins with people who believe that the power they have means that they don’t have to listen.

In the following story the names have been changed to protect the innocent…and the assholes.

During the production of a movie, Dick Jones, an up and coming star, decides to cast the inexperienced Cutesy McGee. Everyone tries to talk him out of it but he is determined. Powerman, the studio head, had previously nixed the top billed leading woman that everyone had agreed on so I can only assume he took Cutesy McGee as his problem to make up for. In his rush to increase the star power, and hopefully the bottom line, he did not consult the director or producer before casting a Lady Star in a supporting role. Suddenly, this supporting role had to be deepened and expanded by the writer. The story suffers because not only is the supporting female role now more interesting than the leading role, but Cutesy can not help but be over shadowed by this bigger name with the now bigger character. The producer, loosing confidence in every aspect of his project begins to ignore suggestions to make it better.  He just wants it to be over. This sad disconnected overdone story is barely saved from being a horrible movie by Dick Jones’ desperate performance. When it opens, the movie under performs. Dudes flinging boogers at each other could have gotten better numbers.

(Wow, props to Doug Richardson for being able to keep things from being confusing in his blog while at the same time as keeping everyone anonymous. It’s hard.)

What would happen if people in the world stopped thinking about only themselves and started working with each other? What would happen if the people with the power accepted that they don’t have to be right? What would happen if we all started to show that we listened? I’m not sure, but I’d like to think it would make the world better.  So why don’t we each start now?

Can you hear the Cumbayah chorus playing behind this post? You would if you were listening.

The D is Silent, The ism Invisible

"White" and "Jim Crow" rai...

Cartoon by John McCutcheon.

Let’s get this out of the way right here. In this post, I will be using nigger, not the N word. I will do this not because I use the word but because I feel that any academic discussion about language should be able to verbalize the language being discussed. Code words cheapen the discourse by constantly reminding people to censor themselves. If no one is allowed to talk about it in a civilized, educational, debate how are we going to eliminate the problem.

It disturbs me that the use of the word nigger for a pre-Civil War narrative is a cause for such anger. I don’t understand why history has to be, excuse the term, white washed. If people studied and discussed the true history of the United States open and honestly actual progress could be made on the racial divide. Because the movie I am focusing on in this post is about black slavery I will only be writing about that. However, I recognize that honest discussion is needed for the Native American Genocide, the Japanese Internment, and many other times in our history.

There has been some accusations that the word nigger was not used until after the turn of the century. This is not correct. With little effort you can find first hand accounts of slavery and they use the term as a fact of life. There are regional differences in the frequency and circumstances the word was used, but it is valid to use it for this time period. Too often the word nigger is something to scream about. To shut down any intelligent conversation and wield as a weapon. That is not OK at anytime, but is especially unwarranted regarding use in Django Unchained.

Django Unchained is violent, gory, funny, disturbing, historically flexible, and… a movie. It’s a really fun ride. There are people who have said that we should not allow slavery to be treated with anything but complete and utter reverence. Bullshit. It’s a movie! There have been all manner of movies about the holocaust and I guarantee that because of that more people have discussed, mourned, connected with, and remembered the holocaust. The guilt that many white people in the United States have over slavery combined with the historical shame and anger that black people in the US have regarding racism prevent us from doing better.

A couple of months ago on twitter a Jewish man was complaining that his five-year old had been told about the holocaust in school. He was soliciting opinions on whether he was wrong to think that was too young to know about such a horrible thing to happen to your people. Many people agreed that it was not all right and he should have been allowed to broach the subject himself when the child was older. Something about this conversation bothered me. Throughout the day, I followed the responses and was unable to form an opinion of my own in reply. Finally, I realized why. No black person in the US ever got to choose how they heard about our history of slavery or oppression by the Jim Crow laws. No black parent ever gets to choose when or where a child will learn that his or her people were considered inferior, herded, bought, sold, beat, and killed. Having few creative escapes in which to process this only internalizes it and hurts us as a society. We should embrace the art that encourages us to accept slavery as part of our past.

I actually don’t have a lot to say about the movie. It was good entertainment with some great scenes and brilliant performances. The bad guys were vilified instead of glorified. Jamie Foxx was the best I’ve ever seen him. I didn’t recognize Samuel L. Jackson until he spoke which had to be after over a minute of screen time. And to watch Christopher Waltz in character is a master class in acting as reacting. Now having seen Django Unchained the biggest problem I have with it is actually with everyone who saw it before me. Y’all so busy talking about “the N word” that you couldn’t let me know the D in Django was silent? I’ve been walking around saying Da-Jang-O like an idiot. Still trying to correct myself.

Some links to Slave Narratives:

Get Down. Get Downer.

Frank Darabont

Frank Darabont

On twitter we have been discussing downer endings. I mentioned to @unkscreenwriter, who started the conversation, that the initial idea for my thrillers never have what anyone would call a happy ending. So far I’ve been talked into the usual hero triumphs ending because I feel it would help the reader/watcher be more emotionally connected to the overall story. I don’t know if this will always be the case but so far it has been.


After discussing downer films such as Arlington Road, Far From Heaven, Se7en, The Road, A Clockwork Orange, and Gone Baby Gone. We came upon The Mist. Definitely a downer film, however, I don’t believe it earns my emotional breakdown like the rest of them do. My fellow tweeters disagreed, so here is my defense of why I don’t appreciate the end of The Mist.

I love Frank Darabont’s work, the writer/director of this film, so much that I have previously referred to him as screenwriting Jesus but in this case I believe he made a mistake.  I have no problem with the ending being a downer but I do have a problem that the audience was so removed from the climax of the movie, that we didn’t experience it.  By the climax I mean the main character shooting the other four people in the car, including his son, so they would not have to experience the horror of being eaten alive. (I warned you there were spoilers!) I felt that the characters took the easy way out. They run out of gas so they make a homicide pact.  They  didn’t wait until they felt the car was under attack, or they got hungry, or they had to go to the bathroom. I found it hard to believe that these people who had the courage to fight to escape and survive this long would take such an easy way out. I am aware that what he did was not easy, especially regarding his son, but the filming of it made it feel like it was. The camera pulls back to hover above the car so only gun flashes can be seen through the windows. I’m not naïve enough to think that anyone would have or should have let us see his son being shot in the head. But I would have liked the camera to be on the main character.  His face as he fired. The pain, determination, and horror of it as blood speckles his face with each life of a loved one lost. Scrambling out of the car trying to run from what he’s done desperate to die the gruesome death he believes he now deserves. Then rumble, rumble. The military rescue. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Hee hee. That “no” was just for giggles but, to see him fall in on himself after what he just did after being through it would have been more powerful. He can’t call out for help. There’s nothing he can do to reverse it. Then he sees the woman and her daughters. The proof of what would have been if he had just had a little more faith, a bit more hope. We all, as an audience, would have been messed up for days. Instead, we used our logic to reflect on how horrible that was for him. To this day, I remember feeling more emotion for the woman standing with her daughters than the man who felt he had to murder his loved ones.

If a movie has to bring us down I want to experience it. The terror and pain in film that I hope to never feel in life. Film should always be an experience whether it’s the satisfaction of kicking a bad guy in the face, the triumph of a successful heist, or the joy of love reciprocated. Hell, if I can experience peeing standing up through film, (thanks Micheal Fassbender!) I can experience anything.

Lawd Help Me!

united states currency eye- IMG_7364_web

(Photo credit: kevindean)

There is nothing that will help a writer fully develop a villain better than listening to politics in an election year. It’s made up of people whose ideas of how to reach the exact same prosperity and opportunities are called by the other side naive, even evil.

When I was 24 Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash. I had helped out on his campaign every weekend and had even appeared in a couple of commercials for him. I have not been involved in politics since that 2002 election. Until now.

I haven’t been volunteering for a specific candidate like I did in the past. Instead, I’m telling my story. Trying to put a human face on the issues that have turned into statistics and dollar signs. These last four years have been the hardest of my life. Due to my chronic disease, and the reactions to medicines taken for it, I have lost my job, lost my health insurance, and come close to death more than once. When politicians talk about healthcare and social welfare reforms they are talking about my life. So when I see or hear someone in my personal range talk about these things like the people using or wanting these services are all moochers who just need to “pull themselves up by the boot straps” I tell my story.

It’s not easy for me. In fact, I mostly hate it because I know my words will have no effect. Most times the response I get is one so off the mark I know that the person was not truly listening to me. For example, today I read a comment about how much money could be saved if only those at risk were insured.  I responded by saying driving is a risk. At any moment we could be hit by an under insured* or uninsured motorist. The response I got was, “Secure the boarders!” That woman was so set against anything that might challenge her belief she blurted random rhetoric.

Even knowing my words will probably mean nothing to the person on the receiving end, I still say them. I used to bear these comments with shame and silence, but no more. I am strong enough to speak up now so, I do. I figure if everyone who depended on these services spoke up eventually we would become a friend, a neighbor, a human being instead of a number.



*Most states don’t require more than $300,000 coverage and most of us (US Citizens) get the minimum. Extended stays in hospitals with surgeries could reach over a million very quickly.

Fifty Shades of Don’t Hate


Now that I’m older, my mom and I have a relationship that’s closer to friendship. Well, except when I swear…and when discussing Fifty Shades of Grey. My mom doesn’t want to know if I think any of that is sexy and I sure as hell don’t even want to say the word bondage around her. My mom, the most asexual person in the universe, at least in my eyes, read the entire Fifty Shades Series. Why? The story.

I’ve heard so many writers say they would never read these books because they’re poorly written porn masquerading as literature. And they are. But as a writer you must read them. There is a reason that they are so sickeningly popular. It starts with a S. Story. As someone who regularly pays for sex from my local book store, I have read much better written books where the sex was just as steamy. Opal Carew and Megan Hart are two of my favorite word pimps. If you have never read Broken you are seriously missing out on an awesome book in every regard. Every other chapter is almost pure sex, but between there is an incredible tale of a woman and her quadriplegic husband.

The one thing that those books don’t have that Fifty Shades has is a specific world that is so clearly defined that it translates into a universal human experience. Even if, like me, you knew sub/dom relationships existed in the world and have scrolled hastily over the ball-gagged during a trip to a porn site, you didn’t know all the things that E.L. James lays out in the pages of the first book. That specificity of worlds is so crucial in all great stories. If the Godfather was just a family full of criminals would we have been as fascinated? Discovering the very clear rules of an Sicilian mob family was crucial to understanding the conflict that was created when the rule of the oldest son taken over was broken. In Shawshank Redemption, we were thrust into that prison’s world through the eyes of someone who had seen every part of it. There is only one rule. Don’t hope. Hope keeps you from finding the tiny slivers of good floating in that world full of doo doo. Andy oozes hope from every pore threatening to destroy the delicate balance Red uses to survive. The world is the reason the first 100 pages of sub-par writing in Fifty Shades of Grey is necessary to the story.

Yes, Christian Grey was super hot and the sex was even hotter. But I still wanted to put down the book after a few romps until the unbelievable happened. She said no. No. Two letters that changed the purpose of this book from an excuse to masturbate into a real story. Too often characters do stuff because the writer thinks they need to do more of this or that. It would have been so easy for Ana to say yes to the S&M lifestyle, even if she changed her mind later. That, however, would not have been real and all the women reading would have wrinkled their noses. Consciously or not, they all would have known that only a character in a story would do that. The average woman who Ana is painted as would not.

Could we all have lived with only one Fifty Shades book? Gone on with our life carrying that heartbreaking ending seared on our brains? Most definitely yes. We have to go through the other two though because they’re there. These characters are real to us now. We need to know what happened to them. Through all three of the horribly overwritten books we stay with them because they stay real. I’ve never met a person that hasn’t wondered what their significant other is thinking at some point in their relationship. There isn’t one who didn’t need to be brave and communicate something they worried might hurt their relationship. Or one who hasn’t begged in their heart for their mate to just understand. Fifty Shades amplifies these issues through a defined specific world and that’s why it is so popular.

Despite the inevitable internal eye rolling at the Fifty Shades of F’ed up writing, there are surprises and a relationship based in reality that is worth the read.

Story is the most beautiful thing in the world. It even shines through an ugly package.

Taxes Can Save Lives


I haven’t posted on my blog for a while because I’ve been ill. My disease makes me very sensitive to heat. So sensitive that this black person has to wear sunscreen whenever I’m out in the sun. You should have seen me the first time I got sunburn. I was going to go to the doctor because I couldn’t figure out why my skin was peeling off. I’ve talked about my auto immune arthritis on here before but in light of some of the responses I’ve heard to the Supreme Court upholding “Obama care” I thought I’d share my thoughts.

Sorry if this feels a little disjointed but I’m not going to do a lot of editing on this because I am having a hard time just sitting up long enough to type.

The day of the ruling I re-tweeted a list someone compiled of people saying that they are giving up on this socialist country and moving to Canada. This was one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. One person tweeted me back with a comment about how bad the Court’s decision was. I asked if he could see the humor in moving to Canada in spite of his political views. He said he could but also said something else. “I’m a social liberal but a fiscal conservative.” After originally accepting that I realized I had no idea what the hell it meant and whether or not it was even possible.

When I was first diagnosed when I was 16 my mom had just enrolled me in our state’s health plan for children. Even though she was a full-time worker making about $22,000 per year she did not have the option to add her children to her work’s health insurance. I had been an extremely healthy kid involved in a different sport for every part of the year. Then at 16 my body gave up on me. At 17, I spent three days in the hospital getting inter venous drugs as a last resort. My mom didn’t tell me then but now I know the doctor was worried I was going to die because I was deteriorating so rapidly. I saw the bill.  $20,000 for three days that saved my life.  Thank God the state paid for that or mom would have gone broke to save her child’s life. So as a social liberal you have to believe I deserved to live. But as a social conservative you don’t think the government should have paid for my life. But that is where I have the trouble. If my mom had paid  for that hospital bill we would have ended up on welfare, food stamps, and possibly homeless for who knows how many years. I don’t understand how that is better and more cost-effective than having the government give me healthcare.

My mom was not forced to get me, a healthy child, healthcare but I’m glad that when she found out about the state program she did or we would have been out of luck.

After I got laid off from my job at one of the studios, I applied for health care because even though I had been in remission for nine years my childhood experiences taught me that anything could happen.  I was denied because of my previous condition. I sighed and continued to look for a job.  I applied for a job at the USPS for the holiday season and after passing the tests with perfect scores they asked me to speak to a nurse to answer some questions. It was part of the process so I thought nothing of it. I was applying for a desk job where the only lifting would be that of my fingers to hit the next key. The woman asked me if I had been denied for health insurance in the last year. I answered honestly and we laughed at the insurance companies with their rubber stamps. Moments later, I was taken outside and dismissed because they could not hire me with my condition. I was so angry boiling hot tears scorched my face. I wailed to my mom if my past health would be a hindrance to me throughout the future. I stayed on unemployment a few more weeks because of that.  More money from the system because of my health problem. I realized I could only get healthcare from a large corporation that had too much money and employees to ask those questions. So my talents and education could not be shared at a small business. I took a peon job where I was only a cog in a great machine.

Sadly, as I was tolling as a cog my remission ended. I did everything I could to hold on to that machine. I didn’t want to be without a job. Without a contribution to society. I held on until I broke. Depression set in as I believed I was worthless without the means to be the person I chose to be. There were three types of people in my therapy groups. One, the chronically depressed. They’d struggled with it off in on throughout their lives. Two, the grief-stricken. Sons, daughters, mothers, brothers, all dead. For some reason these people thought they could have stopped the accident, the fire, the pills and their lives were torn apart. Three, the useless. Like me, these were the people who had been yanked from the life they knew and thrown into the deep end of the pool. A laid off fortune 500 executive, a broken family man who could never fully recover from his accident, the woman suddenly tasked with everyone else’s job who finds out she can’t do it all. People who not only want to be part of the productive world but when they can’t their lives fall apart.

One thing I’ve learned since I’ve been sick is most people who need and use the system are very quiet about it. We are ashamed and don’t want the world to see us, see what we consider a failure.

Back to the beginning of this post, Canada. For a couple of years now I’ve been debating on breaking the law and renting some form of mail box in Canada so that I could get  hook worms shipped to me.  Some people say hook worms help auto immune diseases by secreting something that suppresses one’s immune system. Despite being completely harmless and easily eradicated, the FDA won’t allow them to be shipped to the US. Our healthcare system is broken. Insurance will pay ten to twenty thousand dollars a month to give me infusions but won’t allow a one time payment of $3,000 for me to swallow some worms. Yes, I am that desperate to swallow a capsule full of worms.  That’s how much I want to work again. I don’t want to be on disability. I don’t want my body to dictate what kind of life I have. I want to stand, walk, run, date, work, park at the other end of the lot. I want to be able to choose.

It Only Hurts as Much as Childbirth


No, I haven’t had any kids but the faces the women make on those TLC shows look about right.  National Autoimmune Arthritis Day is this Sunday, May 20th.  So I thought I’d annoy you all with tales from the hurt locker.  I know that’s combat lingo and I’m legally 4F (at least according to my understanding from It’s a Wonderful Life) but I think it’s appropriate.

When I tell people I have arthritis they don’t understand what that means.  Many minds conjure up images of their grandma’s osteoarthritis with swollen fingers or knees worn down from years of usage.  Unfortunately, autoimmune arthritis is not your granny’s arthritis.

When I was 16 years old, I was at a  six-week math/science summer camp staying in a dorm at a community college not far away from my home.  One day, we took a break from classes and went to an amusement park for the entire day.  I had a great time walking around the park, riding the rides.  Happy from a day of sun and fun I strolled into my dorm room with my five roommates and closed the door.  Laughing on my way to put my things on my bed, a spear was suddenly trust down the line of my spine.  I screamed and I fell to the floor.  I was being sliced in half.  “Help me.”  The other kids just continued their conversation in full view of me.   I pleaded, explaining that I couldn’t move and they all said I was fine.  As I clawed and dragged my way to the bed, I wondered why no one was helping me and if this is what it felt like to die.   Minutes later, I had made it to the bed and did what has saved me a great amount of pain in my life.  I fell asleep.

They pain was on and off.  At the end of the camp, my evaluation concluded that I faked illnesses for attention and to get out of work.  I argued but it was put in that elusive permanent record anyway.  A few months, and just as many doctors later, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and Spondoloarthropathy.  My body had decided that the fluid in my joints were a foreign body trying to invade.  It attacked those joints with the same force, and as much success, as the Ebola virus.   One half of my junior year and three-fourths of my senior year were spent in bed using my super power of sleeping through pain.

As an adult, I lived in remission for ten years.  Then, the joy of not noticing my body stopped.  When the remission first ended I was desperate to regain my independence and continue working.  I tried drug after drug.  When I was young the best thing they had was small doses of chemo therapy that I injected once a week.  Now, biologics are the rage.  Petri dish concoctions made of mice cells and drug companies profit margins.  Hours of sitting in a room hooked up to an IV getting an infusion that cost thousands of dollars an ounce.  My insurance was paying 10 to 20 thousand dollars a month for those drugs that healed my body but attacked my mind.

For months, I couldn’t read, write, or drive.  My mom had to be with me when I took a shower to make sure the dizziness didn’t land me ass up, sucking on the drain.  Facing these severe side effects, I became suicidal and was forced to choose between my mind and my body.  I chose my mind.

It took me months to accept that I wouldn’t be able to go back to work.  During the three years it took for my social security “government safety net” to kick in, I lived off my mom’s retirement fund.  After catching my mom crying over finances, I swallowed my shame and embarrassment about accepting food stamps.  I loved the freedom to buy food but I hated it as well.  My inability to move had contributed to me gaining 80 lbs.  I was thrust into the stereotype of a fat young black woman with no job on welfare.  I was angry.  I had always been a person who changed my situation if I didn’t like it.  But I had lost control.  Arthritis had taken it away from me. Took me almost four years and countless therapy appointments to accept where I am now.

I write and I sleep.  I try not to worry about not having any real arthritis meds to stop my body’s attack.  I try not to think of it spreading to my lungs, to my heart, to my eyes, like it has for other people with uncontrolled autoimmune arthritis.  I try to be grateful for getting pass the times when I didn’t want to go on.  The autoimmune arthritis online community has a couple of people each year that don’t make it through one or the other.  We mourn these people we only knew through pain and pray that things will get better for us all.

This is not your grandmother’s arthritis.  This is a disease with no cure.

I am 34.  My diagnosis is the dual arthritis of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis.  My dream is screenwriting, and my hope is understanding.

I’m the Pink Pineapple in the Relationship


I once went to a WGAF event where the speaker asked if anyone had ever felt like they were from an alien planet.  I raised my hand.  Surprisingly, so did a lot of other people.  Writers are weird.  I have accepted my weirdness as  part of me and embraced it.  I am convinced that a lot of my weirdness comes from having to grow up so fast ’cause I was smack dab in the middle of so many social issues.   The biggest area that this infection of weirdness has broken out on me is in my ability to make friends.

I read, a lot.  I used to choose what I read by what grade I was in.  If I was in fourth grade and your book was titled Tales of the Fourth Grade So and So, or The Fourth Grade Blank I devoured it off the shelves of my local library.  No matter what books I read, even the outcast kids always had a best friend. (Well, with the exception of Robert Cormier.  Compelling writer but that guy’s a downer.)  I never had a friend that came over to my place and vise versa until I was in college.

The first Friday night of Freshman year, I went into the hallway of my dorm and it was deserted.  The quiet was startling.  Because of my disability I had a single handicap accessible room and no one was forced to talk to me because they were my roommate.  I was so out of the loop that I had no clue as to where everyone went.  As I stood in the hallway contemplating the likelihood of a mass alien abduction where the gimps were left behind, another head popped out of a room far down the hall.  A tall blonde woman with a crooked nose (which I love that she loves) came out lamenting how she was surprised how many people went out to drink at house parties.  Of course, she had been invited but she was a “good girl” who didn’t believe in drinking before 21.  So that night, we went to the brand new dry dance club on campus and that’s where we were every weekend night (running the place since we were the only ones there) until they shut it down for low attendance.  Our senior year, we became roommates and continued to hang out after college.  For a short time anyway.

I don’t know what happened but a weird distance that had started to grow between us when we turned 21 became too much.  She started to drink socially on a regular basis and I was still dry, mostly because I can’t dance well when not sober.  A few months after graduation she stopped calling me back.  It hurt but I was used to being alone.  All these years later, I finally figured out it must have been because she thought I judged her drinking.  I didn’t care that she drank.  I just didn’t want to.  The one night I did decide to get drunk, I ended up crying on the bathroom floor of the club.  As I’ve noted before, ending up on a public bathroom floor is never a good thing.

When I moved to Los Angeles I left my family behind, knowing no one but a dude from my acting class who I drove across country with (a story of epic proportions that I will tell at a later date.) Being in LA I thought what the hell, I’ll change from writing prose to screenwriting.  Should be easy.  Yeah, I was stupid.  By the time I wrote my first screenplay, I was working as a courier on a studio lot.  I asked around about who I should give it to.  Unknown to me at the time, they sent me to the VP of film development’s assistant.

I gave her my screenplay and about a week later we met for lunch and she handed me back notes from a studio reader.  She had changed my name on it so I wouldn’t be passed on for life, which I am eternally grateful for.  The notes were three single-spaced pages telling me how much my screenplay sucked.  When I finished reading them I laughed.   The rage that came out in the writing of that reader because she had to read my crappy crap was hilarious to me (sorry reader, wherever you are.)  I had thought I was so great, but having my ego throughly pounded into the ground was a good experience.  She looked confused and relieved at the weird girl sitting across from her that was so jolly about getting a trouncing.  We ate lunch and talked about things I could do better.  I visited her office more and more during my lunch breaks.  I don’t remember exactly when I wanted her for a friend or when we started hanging out outside of the office, but I counted myself very lucky and wanted very badly not to screw it up.

Not being great at making real friends, I constantly worried that I would do something to get her to abandon me.   At work, I hid in the corner trying to be invisible when her boss was around, and almost got into a fight at Starbucks over a drink that she asked me to get for Leonardo DiCaprio.  (Ahhhh! That woman is stealing Leo’s drink! Doesn’t she know it’s Leo’s drink?!)  Outside of work, I monitored my phone calls and visits to her, constantly worrying if they were too much or too little.  When she caught me at it, it cracked her up.  She told me to relax and I did.

She has so many friends from all periods of her life that I didn’t think it would make a big difference in her life when I left LA headed home.  Then one night when I was crashing at her place on a visit she told me that she had been devastated that I had left her at that time.  I thought, What?  Me?  I’m weird, awkward and don’t know how to be a friend like the ones you’ve had for years. It made me feel super good that she was still my friend after I messed up so bad.  Also, I liked that she missed me even though I wish she had told me sooner.  I might have stayed.   Even though I still worry every once in a while that I will lose her, I feel blessed that she calls me her friend and I call her mine.

So if you’re weird, and awkward, and lonely, don’t worry.  There is someone out there who will take all that in and still think you’re pretty neat.