Thursday, August 19, 2004

On Monday, I had an interesting time at work. The writers asked me to help them with piecing together "beats" for a future episode. Beats are plot points in a story that must be written. As an example, say the beat reads, "Anne sits down to check email, gets a 'you're fired' e-mail message from Donald Trump." As a writer, you have to decide exactly how that beat will play out in the form of a scene, all while staying in theme and character, and moving the story along to the next beat. That comes out in dialogue and action.

Such as, Anne comes home, pets her cats, ignores the bills in the mail and sets them on the glass table with all the other ignored bills, strips out of her work jeans and puts on her home jeans, and then checks email. She reads the email from Donald Trump, that simply says, "You're fired." She responds, "Fine, you pucker-faced bitch with a bad combover, your hair is fired. By the way, I never worked for you, so you can't fire me anyway. And another thing, ten years ago, when you went to that night club in New York City with that bimbo and checked your coat with me, I snooped through your pockets. Yeah, I did, Donald. How do you like that?" Now, this was merely just an emotional response from Anne, who was reacting to being fired from a job she never held in the first place, and never thought The Donald would read it.

This fits in perfectly with the next beat, where Donald creates a new show to find the best hair stylist from the initial eighteen who were selected for his new show, "You're Fried!" After all, The Donald has been coifed with a fried hair combover for long enough. And that beat is written that The Donald, disjointed and sulking over having just been fired as CEO of his own casinos, does open Anne's reply email as a distraction from his own woes. He reads it, having no idea who this Anne is because he thought he sent the email to Anne Heche. Anne Heche doesn't work for The Donald either, but she thinks she is an alien from another planet, and that's a fine reason to fire anyone if he ever heard of one. However, the wrong Anne's words are taken to heart, and as he looks at his freshly sucked lemon face and bad combover, hatches the idea of "You're Fried." After which, he unconsciously checks his pockets.

And the beat goes on, literally until you've told your entire story. This is particularly done in episodics where there are multiple characters, each having their own "beat." Themes also have beats, if the episode has multiple story lines. Such as, investigation beats, if there is an ongoing one, or political beats, if politicians are involved. All are designed to map out the story so no one gets forgotten during the process.

So, on Monday, I was asked to help them map out the beats for the episode, and it was very very interesting. The writer for that episode is a famous author, and I worked with him and a producer from 10:00am to 4:00pm. An incredible learning experience that I was honored to be a part of. To see the thinking process and the discussions, and be a part of those was very motivating. I wrote the beats on cards as they were hashed out, and we tacked them up on a board and numbered them. I got to see this episode come together like a quilt and be a part of that creative process. And as you would patches in a quilt, we moved around the cards if the beats worked better earlier in the episode, or at night. It felt great, and the time flew by. It helps that these two are very good people with feet planted firmly on the ground, and the meeting was an all inclusive one where my participation and input were encouraged. It was a very gentle and welcoming experience that I felt very lucky to be a part of. The best part, was afterward they thanked me for helping them out.

But of course.

And, I thanked them for including me.

It's always eye opening to see that everyone has to go through a process where they feel like they are on shaky ground. Things aren't written perfectly in one draft, and no one has all the answers. Sure I know that intellectually, and most of us do, but seeing it in front of me is once again a reminder that the hurdles are there even at the top. Everyone has questions and moments where they feel it's time to ask for help. It was also nice to realize that I can still function confidently at that level, which includes not being afraid to ask how a process is done. This is a very important thing, because that confidence that I mentioned includes admitting something is new to me in company one may feel pressured to pretend they already know. Allowing myself to be coached so that I can give the more experienced parties the help that they requested and in that process, gain something myself.

And in doing so, in the end we all came out winners.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

A big thank you to all those who wrote such sweet messages about my little "incident." I appreciated all of them.

Oddly enough, a few weeks back, I was emailed by a man named Mark O'Brien who had the same thing happen to his son, though his son wasn't as lucky as I was. In this case, the thugs were holding a gun and used it. I wasn't aware of this during our first few email exchanges, and he kept in touch with me pointing me to entries on his own blog, called Seven Inches of Sense.

I then watched a documentary television show about New York City police, profiling a murder in New York City. I saw the victim, a handsome sandy-haired young man, and thought, "He looks like the type of guy that I would date." His face smiled up from his driver's license. The smile of someone who would never be able to do so again. A life cut short by complete losers who accosted him and a friend on the street and demanded what they didn't want to work for.

One shot was fired, killing Burke, Mark's son. It's a senseless crime that is still unsolved almost a year later. The man had pointed me to the website of the show after it aired, and I mentioned in a return email how sad it was watching the parents come into the city to identify their son. Their world completely shattered into a devastating reality. In his return email, he said, "yes, that was me."

I was at work when I got that response, and it shocked me. I had no idea I had been exchanging emails with the very person that I'd just watched on television and felt such empathy for. I wondered, why he had reached out to me? What could I possibly offer someone who had suffered such a loss? And then it became clear. I can spread the word. I can be one link closer to the police finding the killers. A chainlink of me and other bloggers who can shake the rafters and call attention to this crime and the subhumans who did it and are still walking the streets. Perhaps you brushed by them in the subway, or helped them at your retail job. Perhaps you are only a degree or two of separation from the people who did this or someone who knows something. Eventually, the net will close in if enough people are made aware. I've linked to Seven Inches of Sense, a blog created by friends and family to develop a readership and help spread the word about Burke's site.

So visit Seven Inches of Sense, and Burke's site, and help a grieving family.

As if this story can't get worse, I just clicked on their site to test the link, and read that Mark O'Brien, Burke's father and the man who had reached out to me was killed in a car accident yesterday. How completely and utterly tragic. Please keep their family in your prayers.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I had another surprise on my birthday, this one not at all pleasant.

After dinner and a movie with my mom, I drove home. I parked my car, popped the trunk, and took out a big box sent to me by a friend that I'd picked up at the post office earlier in the day. I put my left arm through my purse, a bag kitty litter in that same arm, and held my soda cup from the movies in my left hand. The box was big, but lightweight, so I could hold it with my right hand. It was awkward, but it worked.

As I made my way to my apartment, two people that I’d first seen in front of my mom’s house walked in front of me, a male and female. The male asked me the time, I said I didn't have a watch, and the female walked ahead, saying, "I'm not sure we are going the right way." I asked them where they wanted to go, and they said Dolphin Street, which I thought was strange. There isn't anything on Dolphin Street. I told them the way to go, and motioned with the hand that was holding the Coke, and the two began walking ahead of me. I continued behind them a few more steps when the male suddenly stopped short. That's when I knew I was in trouble. He spun on his heels, grabbed my left arm, brought up his right hand, which held a huge can of mace, and from a foot away, sprayed it directly in my face. I felt it hit my forehead and left side of my face and my right cheek. Then, they just stood there. And so did I.

For just a second.

My reaction wasn't what one would expect from just receiving a face blast of mace. I didn't drop a thing, not even my Coke. He had released my arm, so I turned a quarter away from them and said sarcastically, "Oh, thank you very much." Yes, that is what I said. Then, the male said to the female, as they watched me, "I think we're running low," meaning the mace. When I look back, I think he said that because of my calm reaction. I have no idea how I stayed so calm, but I did. I attribute it to being in shock. My uncle says he thinks it’s because I’m tough. I’ll let him think that. :)

And that’s when extraordinary luck came into play. Behind me, I heard someone open the inside door to their apartment building. I walked from my assailants and made my way toward the noise. The door was all wood, so the person behind it couldn't see what was going on nor did the bad people know anyone was there when they did what they did. I walked up the stoop, knocked on the huge wooden doors, and a college age kid answered with a phone to his ear. A beautiful sight.

I said to him, still holding all my things, "I've just been assaulted, call 911." I repeated it a couple times as he let it register. He looked at me, then told his friend, "I gotta go." From the corner of my eye, I saw the two vermin retreat into the darkness. After I had reached safety, is when my body let me feel the fierce burning effects of the mace. I squeezed my eyes shut, and from there, everything was a flurry of sounds, smells, touch, and senses.

I said to the guy, “I can’t believe they just did that,” crying and shaking, my hands to my face and my eyes squeezed shut. He took my box and set it down, then led me into the foyer where I crouched in the corner as he spoke to the 911 operator, telling them I needed medical assistance and relaying to them what he knew. He relayed their questions to me, and I’d tell him, then he’d tell the operator. I could tell he was struggling with their questions, and offered to talk to the operator. He put the phone in my hand, and I gave a description, and after we were finished, they told me to get comfortable and that police and paramedics were on the way. As I crouched in the corner, occasionally my savior would gently touch my arm, letting me know he was close by. It turns out that he was visiting a friend in his apartment building, and God bless him, just happened to be there at the right time. He was a MICA student, and spoke to me every now and then. He was so calm and mature and told me what was going on around me, such as when he saw the fire truck pull up.

I heard the hiss and bellow of the truck, and the squeak of the brakes. I heard male voices, then the student talking to the firemen. I then heard a male voice say, “Sweetie?” I can’t remember if I moved or not, and he said again, “Sweetie?” I raised my head, and he told me he was with the fire department, and asked me what happened. I told him, my voice quivering through tears, and he asked if he could lead me out onto the stoop. I nodded, stood up, and reached out, feeling his offered forearm. He guided me gently as I took baby steps, and I felt another hand gently wrap around my left arm for support. The skin on my face was on fire and the chemical, stinging smell of the mace penetrated my nose. As I crouched, I’d been careful to cover my mouth and nose to avoid it getting inside. He led me down a couple steps, then told me to sit down on the stoop, holding on to me the whole time as I did so. They discussed my condition among themselves, and said that they had some water they could pour on my face until the paramedics arrived to flush the mace out of my eyes. They handed me what they called four by fours, which felt like thick, square sheets of gauze in my hands. I used it to dab at my eyes and face, and thanked them, saying it was a shame that I couldn’t see them to know who was helping me. They said they were just around the corner, and to come see them anytime. When I said it was my birthday, they reacted in sympathy, but wished me a happy birthday. I said that it had been a great one until now, and that good part is what I would focus on. That got accolades from the firemen.

They tilted my head back, and dripped water on my face. It soaked the front of my shirt and pants, all the way down to my underwear. I couldn’t have cared less, as it felt so good to get some relief, though temporary. After the baptism, they asked me to try and open my eyes. I did, and it felt as if a hundred pins were being stuck in each eye. I reacted to the pain, and shut them as fast as I tried to open them. My face was still on fire, as was my scalp and ears.

Another voice came from my left, a man identifying himself as the police officer who was assigned to my case. I reached out my hand to feel for him, and he shook it. At the time, touch was really important to me, and I reached out to touch anyone who spoke to me. He asked me to describe what happened, and I did, with a description of both the assailants. I’d gotten a really good look at both of them, and somehow being blinded made it easier to recall details, as I wasn’t distracted by what was going on around me. And, with all the activity it must have been quite a scene. He asked me my address and date of birth, and when I told him, he said, “oh, man,” then wished me a happy one. The student who had opened his door to me said that he had to go, and I reached out for him and shook his hand, thanking him for everything.

At that time, I heard my neighbor’s voice to my left, and I called her by name. She asked if I was okay and I said yes, but that I’d been maced. I could hear her boyfriend’s voice as well, saying they saw the activity outside and then realized it was me. They asked if they could help, and I asked if they could take my things in the foyer inside our apartment building. They did, and returned just as the officer told me the paramedics were there. Someone took me by my right arm, and another person took me by my left and helped me stand. They gently led me to the ambulance, telling me how many steps that I had left and where the curb was. The paramedics were a male and female, and both helped me in and sat me down.

A funny part of the evening is when I overheard the officer explaining to the paramedics that I was maced as a result of an assault, and not by the police. I guess they have to make sure who they are dealing with, even if their patient is a woman in a sleeveless crepe flowery shirt and sandals. The woman paramedic told me she was going to flush my eyes out with distilled water, and explained that the mace was oil based and designed to cling to my eyelashes, which is why it hurt so bad when I opened them. Also, that mace reacts to heat, which is why they were using cool water. They had to pry my eyes open, flushing the left one first and then the right. They have to flush from the tear duct outward. It was extraordinarily uncomfortable, but eventually, it got clear and I could see again. My caretakers both looked barely out of their teens, but were professional and did a great job. The woman asked if I needed to go to the emergency room, and I said that I thought that I’d be okay from here. I saw how they’d rigged the water, in an IV bag, which they hung up and squirted from the tube into my eyes. She then explained to me how to wash the rest out of my hair and scalp at home, as to not get it into my face. I stepped out of the ambulance, with police report in hand, then my neighbors helped me carry my things up to my apartment door. After that, I got into my tub and laid on my back with my face underneath the faucet. It took a good half-hour to wash out, but when I got out, a few minutes later my right arm and hand started to burn. I gave it a blast, but there was still burning. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night. I think because my adrenaline had reached such levels and had gone into overdrive.

Now that I look back at it, it’s clear that the two intended to rob me and after they maced me, expected that I’d drop everything and writhe on the floor in pain as they made off with my goods. However, I didn’t. How the hell I didn’t, I don’t know, but it was almost as if a force field came over me in the seconds that I needed it. I’m thankful that they weren’t more violent and that the mace can wasn’t a gun.

Weirdly enough, I’d been jumpy that whole day, and kept having thoughts of dying on my birthday. Not that I would die, but the thought of wouldn’t it be weird if that happened, kind of thing. I’m glad I didn’t.

And the even stranger part is that I’m not even angry. Again, I think that comes from having “beaten them,” if that makes sense. Yes, they hurt me and put me in intense pain, but I didn’t become helpless at their actions, nor did I do what they were hoping for. The tides were not in their favor that night, and as a result, they got nothing but a dumbfounded look on both their faces as I sarcastically said, “Oh, thank you very much.”
Also, these two will eventually get caught, because it was obvious by his comment that they’d done this before. Normal people don’t have concerns that their mace can is “getting low.” Trust me, it wasn’t low.

Another positive thing was the wonderful response from everyone who came to my aid. From the MICA student who acted swiftly and didn’t panic, to the fire department, police, paramedics and neighbors. Everyone was so gentle, caring, and incredible. They all did themselves proud.

And because of that good outweighing the bad, I still had a happy birthday.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

My mom and coworkers just threw me a surprise birthday party at work. How cool is that? I had no idea, was feeling some birthday blahs, and needed that. What a bunch of sweeties.
Even David Simon, the creator of the show stopped his work to join in. I truly was surprised, and am still grinning.
I made it through another year.

Happy birthday to me.

A couple other things that happened on August 3rd.

1492 Columbus sets sail

From the Spanish port of Palos, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sets sail in command of three ships--the Santa Marýa, the Pinta, and the Niýa--on a journey to find a western sea route to China, India, and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia. (perhaps this is where I get my wandering, restless spirit)

1861 Last installment of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is published

The last entry of the serialized novel Great Expectations is published on this day in 1861. The book had been serialized in Dickens' literary circular, All the Year Round. The novel tells the story of young Pip, a poor orphan who comes to believe he will inherit a fortune.