March 2014 – Occupational therapy, ‘What a long strange trip it’s been’

Things have been getting better. I’ve been out of rehab for almost almost four weeks and I saw on the news over 4 million more people have signed up for Obamacare since I did back at the end of December / beginning of January.

I started to drive last week, which has been liberating. I’m still not quite sure of the clutch foot in my VW van. I’m likely to get an automatic transmission vehicle and have been renting one for a week and getting around pretty well.

I’m looking to lease a car.

Meanwhile, the Eurovan started right up after sitting fallow since December 16th. I’m able to push in the clutch and drive it. I have a love – hate relationship with it, though. It’s been nothing but trouble since the day I bought it, but luckily much of the failures were covered by warranty.

There still are some quirky things happening when it starts up. I take it to the garage on Sunday to get it checked out. Who knows when it will be out of the shop. I’ll check on Wednesday.

As for now, the car lease quest is now a waiting game hoping for a better deal. The one in December that I missed was zero down, 24 months $197 for a Ford Focus. The best I’ve been able to find now is zero down, 36 months $239 for a Subaru Legacy sedan.

I digress.

Meanwhile, I figured out that the main reason doctors get sued so much is because healthcare is imprecise at best. Hit and miss guesses based on the best information available at any given moment is the only way to figure out what’s wrong with someone.

Once a doctor and patient weigh the information and with a high probability have figured out what’s happening, the same process is followed for treatment. Patients who aren’t proactive and involved in their health care and rely on docs to make decisions make a huge mistake.

I’ve learned that a person really needs to be a strong advocate for themselves because doctors, nurses and everyone else in the health care environment could give a rat’s ass what’s happening with each individual patient. The squeaky wheel gets the bed pan was my mantra.

I’m still going through ‘dialing in’ process for my treatment. I don’t think I’ll ever be back to where I was before June, 1, 2013 – but who knows?

I’d say the “armchair patients”  who haven’t been in the healthcare system lately and think that modern medicine choices are black and white need to get sick to experience it themselves.

So far, so good on that front.

The things I notice these days, are public places that aren’t universally accessible. I stayed at a bed and breakfast as a break from hotels the other day.

It’s in a historic building and there were two concrete steps to get up to the yard, then four concrete steps to get to the porch. Once inside I had to navigate six stairs to one landing then four more stairs to the second landing.

It bugs me when I see cars without a handicap plate or tag parked in a handicap spot.

Whaddya gonna do?

Truckin, Im a goin/ home. whoa whoa baby, back where I belong …

There’s been a big flurry of people trying to get signed up for Obamacare, including a bunch of young people to counter balance us oldsters.

I think the news and fake news people forget that who we’re talking about here is 15 percent of the labor force who are schmucks like me who are self-employed or otherwise don’t have another source for insurance as a benefit, compared to the 85 percent of the workforce covered by employer benefit plans, Medicaid, Medicare or another program like Romneycare in Massachusetts.

It will be interesting to find out the final enrollment numbers are after the March deadline passes. There are a lot of data to crunch so I’m not holding my breath as to when they will be known.

Back to reality.

When I started driving again, it was a big mistake. I had trouble pushing in the brake. It was also tough getting in and out since the van is fairly high off the ground.

I got my handicapped parking permit.

They can be good indefinitely or for three years. Mine is for three years. The best guess is that I will be better before then, but you never know.

I also have the option of a handicapped license plate. After talking to a guy in the county clerk’s office, he advised me against it since they can get stolen and I’m not quite ready to give up my old plate number.

I didn’t see the day that I would ever need one. I took the weekend to check out the handicapped parking scene as part of my occupational therapy which was to make a movie.

I organized a shoot for a short called “Caught Up in the Moment” which I wrote based on a short story by a facebook pal, who lives up in the Twin Cities area in Minnesota.

The movie is called “Caught Up” the other was too long.

It was cast in a couple days, the locations were set up a few days after that and the crew was skeleton. I checked out the handicapped parking situation at the Dangerous Theater where we shot. Turns out the theater is in a warehouse district and there was scads of parking.

The theater is owned and operated by Winnie – the actor I cast as Jane in the short movie. Her character is a chain smoker, and the space worked perfectly for that character quirk.

Movie? Did I say we’re making a movie?

Whenever I talk about movies, it always entails some script analysis.

So bear with me.

There’s a big difference between screenplays and just about any other written form. Novels have the advantage of giving the reader insight into what’s happening in a character’s mind and generating hundreds of gray pages.

I’d say most writers – probably myself included – don’t want their words changed, but I’ve become okay with it, if the story stays in tact.

Screenplays have to portray words and thoughts through visuals and action. One mistake to avoid is writing characters who talk too much which, more times than not, entails rewriting and truncating the original words and likely adding different words – especially when using other source materials.

I don’t think writers like that so much. William Faulkner said something like, writers have to learn how to kill their darlings. Novel writers, pretty much, have as many pages as they want to get across their story. Good screenwriters kill their darlings, bad screenwriters keep them all in their work and cluttering up the story.

Screenwriters have, in the case of this short film contest, around 10 pages and for a feature around 90 pages. When I have too many darling lines or scenes, I don’t kill them, I put them aside for other projects. This is based on one page equaling a minute of movie.

Had I wanted long dialogue, I would have written a stage play. Oh and another big diff, novels are set in the past, screenplays in the present.

In the case of the “Caught Up” project, the 10 pages of source material I had is an excerpt from a much longer work. I didn’t have much context for the characters.

Mark seemed to be religious and I left that, but there needed to be a little more, so I used his character also for exposition. Since the movie had to be set in Wyoming, he became a University of Wyoming professor in the Space Sciences Department, and also an avid UW sports fan, of which there are many in Laramie.

Jane was pretty much a chain smoking writer with a love – hate relationship with Mark. She’s left in tact.

I cast Winnie (Jane) and Brainard (Mark) because they have a natural rapport – turns out they have worked together before. In a character-driven story like this, I’d rather have nature rapport than trying to get two people to develop it.

Enough Robert McKee screenwriting gibberish.

As mentioned previously, my Eurovan has been in and out of the shop for the past few months with major and mInor repairs. I gave it a work out by driving the Eurovan to Denver, which gave me a little more confidence in the vehicle.

Anyway, the Dangerous Theater is in Denver, as mentioned before, is owned and operated by Winnie. Turns out Brainard is actually a rocket scientist.

The movie was entered in the Wyoming Short Film Contest. The main rule is the story has to be shot in Wyoming. I’ve had three films finish as the runner up and five in the top 10, so I think I have the formula down. The grand prize is winner take all $25,000.00 for the next film made in Wyoming.

The day started at 6am for me and I had a production assistant, Ian, to help me load out all the gear. I used to be able to schlep everything, but now now. I probably should have had a strong back or two help me all along.

The shoot went smoothly from 9am to 2pm on Sunday. My style is run and gun and we finished an hour early. We’ll see how the edit goes.

Needless to say, I was tired when I returned to Boulder.

I’m still on oxygen from time-to-time, mostly when I exert myself too much or exercise. If I exercised more I probably wouldn’t exert myself so much through daily life.

I took Ian for a meal on the Pearl Street Mall and there were no handicapped parking spaces near Illegal Pete’s and the Parking garage was closer.

We had a pretty good talk. He’s just back from Argentina where he taught English and has an interest in film and video production and is trying out lots of different roles. He also may find a new place in the world to teach English – he’s an English / humanities major.

We also talked about college majors that do no good when out in the labor market. My degrees are in biology and political science. No wonder Ian and I connected, we’re academic square pegs trying to fit into a job pool of round holes.

Trader Joe’s.

I did make it over to Trader Joe’s in Boulder today for the first time. A new one here that opened up at the 29th Street Mall. I’ve previously been to one in Acton, MA and NYC just down the block from my friend Tom.

They’re not very big, but mostly carry their own brand of food.  Trader Joe’s marketing effort is a push and pull between being a healthy food store and a run of the mill store. I think they are mostly known for their preprepared dry and frozen foods, which by definition aren’t that healthy because of all the preservatives that are required and are over packaged.

Since being down and out, I’ve been having groceries delivered from King Soopers for the past couple months. I’ve become more aware of grocery prices.

I must say that Trader Joe’s prices for some items are less than the other places – but maybe it’s for stuff that a guy really doesn’t need to be eating like potato chips, but I mostly buy staples.

A gallon of milk at Trader Joe’s was $3.29, which is comparable to other places.

I did find bargains on rye bread, oranges, frozen fruit and a few other things. That’s saying something since Boulder has a huge number of food stores: 3-Safeway; 2-King Soopers; 2-Sprouts; 1-Alfalfa’s; 3-Wholefoods (one closed); 1-Walmart Marketplace (now closed); 1-Target; 2-Lucky’s Markets.

One thing I did notice when I got home.

I decided to have a pan-Asian breakfast: instant Thai rice noodle soup and kimchi. Trader Joe’s sourced the noodles from a company in Thailand, but not exactly the most enviro-friendly food.

There was the cardboard cover, then the cellophane wrapper around the bowl, then the plastic bowl with the styrofoam covering.

Inside the bowl were the food stuffs including two cellophane bags of oil and other veggies and a foil bag with the spices. The soup cost 99cents and I’m pretty sure it will cost more than 99cents to sort through all the packaging that ended up in the regular garbage. I was able to recycle the cardboard cover and the bowl.

I had kimchi already fermenting in the fridge.

Oh, I did finally get to use the handicap parking permit at Trader Joe’s.

If anyone needs a passenger driving anywhere, I’m your guy.

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