Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Boys in the Band All Play Hot Licks

I'm thinking about buying a drum set. That might not be great news for my roommates or neighbors, but my doctor agrees that it would be good therapy. The rhythm and coordination necessary to play the drums is great for synchronizing the hemispheres of the brain and generating neural connections. It is especially good for the frontal lobe. Playing drums lowers stress hormones and produces endorphins, which are great pain relievers. It is also similar to meditation in that it forces you to be here now.

I used to play the drums in another world. My grandfather was a jazz drummer and he always let me bang on his set whenever we went to visit. He also taught me everything I needed to know about polyrhythms, syncopation, rudiments and tuning the drum heads. As soon as I was tall enough to reach everything, he bought me my own set. He might have done it to annoy my parents, but whatever the motivation, it got me playing music beyond scales on the piano during vocal exercises. I played that drum set every day until it “accidentally” destroyed itself and had to be thrown away while I was out of the house. I played tenor drums in high school, but those belonged to the school, so they were never in any real danger.

I have not actually sat at a drum set in a long time, so it might take a while to get up to speed, but that might be perfect. My doctor does not want me to go full Neil Peart – as if that could ever happen. He would prefer something more mellow, like Ralph Cooper. The goal is to synchronize all the limbs, not to make as much noise as possible. My biggest concern is that my grandfather taught me to use traditional grip, but then I switched to matched grip when I played quads. I don't know which position, if either, will feel right anymore.

My second biggest concern is that the set might “accidentally” destroy itself when I am out of the apartment.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Get Smart

For Christmas, my roommate gave me a new phone. That would not normally be something I would even mention, but I have actively resisted “smart” phones. Lily has been trying to convert me to the newfangled technology for years. I always insisted that my 2009 Nokia did everything I needed a phone to do. I have never had any particular loyalty to Nokia, but it was a good phone. I dropped it more than a few times without complaint and it never had any problems with sudden Hong Kong rain showers. If I needed to use a computer, I had one at home. My phone could always get a signal to send and receive phone calls. Back in my day, that's what phones were for.

A few months ago, I was in a bit of a car accident. My passenger and I came out of it in a few pieces. Everything we had with us was lost, including my trusty cell phone. There is no way to know if it survived. It could be lying in the weeds somewhere or broken into a million pieces. Maybe it even found a new home with someone who picked it up and thought it was a Star Trek communicator.

Whatever the fate of the old phone, I needed a new one. As it turns out, no one around here sells 20 year old cell phones anymore. They have “retro” phones that look like old cell phones, but they have all the “smart” bells and whistles. I was open to not having any kind of phone at all. I used to live my life without being tethered 24/7. I'm sure I could do it again.

Lily went and got me a new phone anyway. It looks new, it feels new, and it does a million things that I will never use. The first thing I did with it was delete all the apps that wanted me to download/setup Facebook, WeChat, Twitter, Alibaba, Google+, Taobao, Instagram, Pinterest, Didi, Foursquare, WhatsApp, Linkedin and a million other things I'll never use. It has Skype, which I used to use a lot, but don't these new phones make that obsolete?

Now I can text like everyone else. My old phone could send text messages, but the numeric keyboard required redundant typing. “Good night” was 46666663066444444, and you had to wait for the letter to appear. If you typed too quickly, it would simply rotate through the options on that key – G, H, I, 4, G, H, I, 4. It could receive texts, but none of the smileys ever showed up.

Being able to hold text conversations does not impress me. I hate the way most people type like 5-year-olds when they text. I always read “ur” as “err”, and I really don't care wmam. Gaby Hoffmann's acronym crazy character in Sleepless in Seattle was supposed to be a joke, not a premonition.

The only thing I like about the new phone is the camera. I also lost my camera in the accident. It was a decent SLR, and I knew I would miss it more than the phone. The phone camera is not nearly as good, but it is convenient. I'll probably use the maps the next time I go somewhere new, but I certainly don't need them here.


Monday, January 8, 2018

The Great Wall of China
32. With a Little Friends For My Help

People always ask me if it is awkward to live with a couple. We have a three bedroom apartment and different work schedules, but it would be uncomfortable if we were not all friends. I would definitely be a third wheel with any other couple.

I generally prefer not to live alone. Technically, I had my own place when my previous boyfriend moved out, but Lily often stayed over and eventually moved in. I like having people around, and having brain surgery only reinforces that. Without Lily and Kevin, I don't know how I would have functioned, especially in those first few weeks.

When I got home from the hospital, I was supposed to avoid strenuous activity and take it easy. That might sound like a vacation, but things still need to get done. Laundry can't be ignored. Everyone has to eat and someone has to do the dishes. Apartments do not clean themselves. This isn't Japan.

BBB – before broken brain – I did most of the dishes in the house. I always did more cooking than anyone else, and I like to wash up as I go. When dinner is served, I want as few dirty dishes in the sink as possible. The fair trade was that Lily and Kevin mopped floors and dusted. I have not mopped a floor in years. We were all responsible for our own bathrooms and laundry, but no one ever objected if anyone added a few clothes to their load. Everyone pitched in whenever the clothes hanging out to dry were threatened by heavy wind or a typhoon.

ABB, they are doing everything – cooking, dishes, laundry, housecleaning, etc. Making meals for me has never been easier since nothing has any taste, but my laundry reached absurd levels. When you have pretty much any type of surgery, there is going to be some leakage in the beginning. The towels over my pillows had to be changed daily, as did the pillow cases and sheets for the first few days. By the second week, the pillow cases could stay a few days, but the towels were still changed daily to avoid any kind of infection. Loading and unloading a washing machine was too much for me, especially unloading a hot machine in the humidity, so Lily got to deal with all of that.

Lily was essentially my nurse. She still is, but I am more self-sufficient lately. I can cook a full meal, but not when the kitchen gets too hot. I also worry about using too much salt since I can no longer season to taste. The safest option is to use too little and everyone can add whatever they need at the table. After I dropped Kevin's favorite mug and watched it shatter in a thousand pieces, we all decided that I should take a break from dishes for a while. Since Kevin works all day, Lily gets to pick up the slack. Fortunately, I spent the first week in the hospital. Had I gone home immediately after the surgery, Lily would have been stuck bathing me, feeding me and dealing with my drug induced hallucinations. And she would have done it. She is a true friend.

Since Lily works nights, Kevin was my night nurse. He had the easier shift since I was mostly exhausted at the end of every day. His main job was making sure that nothing happened. The seizure issue was only a precaution. I never had any, but if you are going to have a seizure, you might want to have someone nearby.

Having friends is always important in life, but you really know who your friends are when the shit hits the fan. When you have your brain cut open, everyone around you reacts in their own way. When I was in the hospital and no one knew where I was, everyone was concerned. That's comforting to know. I think not having anyone care if you disappear would be the worst thing in the world.

When I got home, Lily and Kevin were with me every step of the way. Not only because we live together. They would have helped me out no matter what. Some friends came to visit and brought flowers and chocolate. That's kind of ironic since I can't smell or taste anything, but the effort is far more important than the result. And flowers look nice either way.

Some friends stayed away. Nobody loves you when you're down and out, but it is extremely important to keep in mind that not everyone deals with medical issues with a brave face. Some people did not want to see me bald and scarred. It was not that they did not care. They simply did not know how to react. Some people freeze in a crisis. Some people panic. That does not make them bad people. We all want to think that we would be the heroes who save the day in an emergency, but you never know until it happens. The fight or flight response is very strong. Sometimes flight is the best choice.

Most people try to say supportive things. “You'll get better in no time.” “The survival rate is whatever percent.” “Thoughts and prayers, etc.” They certainly mean well, and saying something amazingly profound is completely unnecessary. Some people say terrible things. “My uncle had that same surgery. He died.” “That's nothing. Once, I cut my finger opening a jar.” “You were supposed to take me to the airport.” Again, it is important to remember that everyone has their own way of dealing with things. Getting mad at someone who is injured is actually fairly normal, psychologically. It has something to do with an inability to communicate fear properly. Very few people would actually come out and say, “The way you look right now scares the hell out of me. I'm going to disappear for a while until you start to look normal.”

To date, I have lost a few friends. I have no idea if they are ever coming back, but if they do, I will welcome them with open arms. I can't blame them for not knowing how to react. I don't have the faintest idea how I would react if the situation were reversed. The people I was closest to before everything happened are still around. I don't know if I will ever be able to thank them enough.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Great Wall of China
31. Sixteen Weeks Later

I still get headaches pretty much every day, but they are mild and tolerable. More often than not, just thinking about something else distracts me enough to ignore it.

I ate a banana the other day. Immediately after I finished it, I started coughing. Fruit usually tells you when it is bad. Bananas go black. But if there is some problem other than spoiling, they might look normal while giving off a bad smell. I could not smell it. Naturally, I wondered if I had just eaten something dangerous or if the coughing was only a coincidence. I had Lily sniff out the bananas. She is used to it by now. She said they smelled like bananas and ate one. She then said it tasted like a banana.

Since neither of us dropped dead, I had another banana earlier today. Immediately after I finished it, I started coughing. The bananas taste and smell normal, according to Lily, but they make me cough, for some reason. It seems like a pretty mild issue, but if it continues, I should probably tell my doctor. Knowing him, that would only make him want to give me a banana test.

I cry more than I used to. My parents taught me how to suppress emotion was I was young, so it has always taken a lot to turn on the waterworks. Lately, I cry at the slightest provocation. I was watching one of the 10,000 Gordon Ramsay shows on the BBC channels we get and I started crying when he did something nice for someone. Music especially gets me going. Great music has always been powerful, but now I even cry when I hear Simply Red's “Holding Back the Years” or Paula Cole's “Hush, Hush, Hush”. For reasons I don't fully understand, crying gives me a headache. It supposedly has something to do with increased hormone levels and decreased blood flow in the brain.

Dark rooms have suddenly become a problem. Whenever I go into a dark room, I have to cover my eyes until I turn on a light. According to all my eye exams, my vision is the same as it ever was. Chinese people are always amazed that I do not wear glasses. But opening or closing my eyes in darkness drives me crazy now. I have to press my hand over my eyes and turn on the light quickly. I don't know if that is psychological or physiological. Obviously, I would rather walk around a lit room than a dark room, but the dark never used to bother me before.

There was some construction noise coming from one of the apartments downstairs. That is something you better get used to if you live in Hong Kong. There is always construction somewhere. It seems like new buildings rise and fall every week, and if you travel for at least ten minutes in any direction, you will find blocked streets and road crews digging up the pavement. This was the first construction noise I ever heard in our building.

It was not especially loud. I think it was the floor below us, but not the apartment directly below us. There was some distance. The volume was never the problem. In between the hammer banging and what sounded like slamming doors, they used a power drill. The sound of the drill freaked me out more than it should have. The hammering was a minor annoyance. The power drill forced me to retreat under headphones, which only gave me headaches from all the crying.

The construction sounds only lasted two days. They were not building the apartment. I assume there were some minor cosmetic alterations in between tenants. I worried that the power drill might come back, and worried even more that it bothered me at all, but it was only on location for one day. The hammers were the star of that show.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Hailey's Novel Diary – 1/3/18

What kind of movie could someone make from my book? The options are basically feature film, movie of the week or TV series. Everyone wants their book to be a feature, but those are the most expensive to make and studios only put out so many each year. Movies of the week are cheaper, faster and far less glamorous. I don't think you should ever write a book hoping it becomes a movie, but I doubt anyone writes while dreaming of a movie of the week. A TV series is better suited to epic sagas, especially in the fantasy or young adult genres. My single book is about adults in the present who never go to a supernatural war or encounter magical creatures. It takes place over a relatively short period of time and could never be stretched out over six TV seasons.

With the Weinstein connection, this book could easily be a movie of the week. That could get it out to the public before everyone forgets about him. My personal opinion is that a feature film would be a much better choice, but I assume that is everyone's opinion. Once you sell the film rights, other people make those decisions. They could make an Oscar winning feature that changes the course of humanity forever or a single episode of a Lifetime series that will be canceled next week. Nothing is up to me.

Once someone who is not me decides how to film it, they need to get a cast and crew. Who would direct it? I have no idea. The budget would determine the director, and sometimes the director would determine the budget. If the story is sold to A&E as an episode of one of their series, we can assume that Martin Scorsese will not be directing. Most of the main characters are women, so he would not be involved anyway. On the other hand, if the Coen brothers or PT Anderson got involved, it would automatically be a feature. Realistically, it would most likely be someone I have never heard of, no matter how it gets categorized.

If I could pick my ideal cast, it would be Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Paul Newman, Ingrid Bergman (or Grace Kelly – I'm flexible), Van Johnson, Henry Fonda, Paulette Goddard, Joan Bennett, Agnes Moorehead and Bette Davis, with Orson Welles or Broderick Crawford as the Weinstein character. I'm pretty sure none of them are available, but they could all play the parts beautifully. I would go see that movie no matter what it was about.

As far as actors who are alive and working today, I have no idea. None of the characters were written with any actors in mind – living or dead. One of the characters bases one of her performances on Katharine Hepburn, but I never thought in a million years that Katharine Hepburn would play that character. For obvious reasons. Most of the leads are in their 20s-30s. Today's younger actors do computer animated comic book movies that I have never seen. This is one of many instances where it's a good thing that I would not be in charge. Working professionals more qualified than I should make those decisions.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 12/30/17

The final draft is finished. I have read it through, cover to cover, and I think it might be the final draft. I have to let other people read it before I know. Sooner or later, you reach a point where more rewrites are too much and it is all editing. It would be easy to keep writing until the hundredth draft. But that would be a mistake.

The next step is getting it published. That could take weeks, months or even years. There is no time limit with publishers – unless you are on their deadline. Then it better be finished on time. When you wait for them, they can take as long as they want. We all wait for them and jump through their hoops because the alternative is rejection. I would rather have to wait until 2020 for this book to get out in the public than for no one to ever read it at all. Ideally, 2018 would be better. I almost made it in time for 2017, but I took too much time off. At least I started and finished in the same year.

Several things can happen at this point. The most likely is that they tell me to go back and fix this chapter or that character. If/when they have notes, they will be specific. I fully expect notes about the length and/or ending. If it's too long, I have no idea what to cut out. I will have to read it through again and figure out what can go. If they want a different ending, I will have to stand my ground. I love the ending. Maybe there is a better way to end it – I'm sure a great writer could think of several different options – but I want it to end as written.

A worse option is complete and utter rejection. “This is not what we're looking for at this time.” Shopping around is not something I feel like doing right now. But I have an ace in the hole. Hollywood is sniffing around for the film rights. The odds of a movie actually getting made are extremely high. I'm no bookie, but I would put it at 18,462 to 1, but movie adaptations almost guarantee sales. Publishers are willing to take that risk.

The downside to optioning the book is that someone is almost guaranteed to want me to change the ending. It is not a Hollywood ending. The bad guys are not always punished for their bad deeds. The good guys do not always get a satisfying resolution. My ending is more realistic than a summer blockbuster. The ending of Pretty Woman is absurd, but it was a huge hit. The ending of Barton Fink is perfect, but it bombed. Studios, the public, filmmakers and authors never all seem to want the same thing.

Sleigh Ride

Sleigh Ride
Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted by John Williams

Friday, December 29, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 12/29/17

How long does it take to walk from one place to another? This is where knowing the place you are writing about comes in handy.

This story takes place mostly in Los Angeles. I have been there, but I'm far from an expert. I've relied heavily on Google maps to tell me which neighborhoods are where and what streets go from here to there. I mention how Sunset Boulevard starts winding at Hamburger Hamlet and changes abruptly at the border between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, how it twists and turns like crazy near Will Rogers State Park and suddenly ends at PCH. One of the characters talks about Gil Turner's on Sunset and Doheny. I don't think I've ever been on Sunset Boulevard.

But when it comes to travel times, Google is useless. They have their maps with driving directions, but those are questionable. And some of their routes are ridiculous. Their estimated walking times for Hong Kong seem to ignore all traffic and construction. I'm sure their driving estimates are just as bad. If they don't take traffic into consideration, what's the point? A city like Hong Kong will always have traffic and construction.

One of the characters walks from Stoney Point to an apartment in Chatsworth. How long would that take? I don't know. I'm going to say 30 minutes. A running joke in this story is that it takes 30 minutes to drive to even the nearest places in Los Angeles, so I might as well make walking take 30 minutes as well.

45 minutes from the Peak Tram?
In 90% humidity?
Good luck with that.

Jingle Bells

Jingle Bells
Manhattan Transfer