The Early December Update

I started dog walking again today, after a week or so of abstaining. Everything below the waist is kaput.

But let me backtrack a bit.

Two weeks ago I went on vacation to Vegas and San Diego with Karen. It’s one of two vacation excursions we make every year. We picked Vegas because of the San Diego Wine and Food festival, which we had the pleasure of going to two years ago.

Vegas being in reasonable proximity to SD. I can’t spell it out any more, you’re either with me or against me.

So, Vegas was fun. I didn’t lose much.

San Diego promised to be even more fun. I met up with a friend who moved out there years ago. Had dinner, a lovely time. The next morning I went out for breakfast and, while attempting to read Reddit, was overcome by a pain so great in my lower back, I could hardly move. There was no precursor. Just pain.

Leaving breakfast, I knew this was the type of situation to ruin the following day’s festivities. Which would suck.

So, I did what any man afraid of ruining his girl’s time would do. I got a massage.

The woman who gave me the massage commented on how fucked up my lower back felt. Not good. She then proceeded to wreck the rest of my back, finding knots I simply did not know were possible. They were UNDER BONES… or at least that’s how it seemed. That’s how bad my back is.

So I get up, I feel good, I take a long hot shower and go to sleep. The following morning, I put on some Icy Hot, cause, you know, placebos work, and went to the wine and food festival.

Now, Karen had asked me to bring my gopro on the trip because “I would need it.” I’ll get to that in another post, but suffice it to say, I got to drive an excavator in Vegas, and it was awesome.

Being a videographer, I felt ashamed that I did not think to bring my 7d to SD. But, I did have my gopro, and so I filmed the following:

https://vimeo.com/80568835

That was, roughly, two hours or so of footage. While giving my body a break from both the wine and the food, I was climbing up a small hill to get to some shade, when what can only be described as the worst possible pain hit my back. I almost fell to the ground, and I think my body would have allowed me to do so had my body not realized that that would have killed me.

Somehow, we completed the circuit of the festival, even though I was in bad shape. We walked back to the hotel (like a goddamn mile…) and I sacked out because of the pain, food coma, and the pain.

When I came to, I had to go to the bathroom, like you do. So, you know, I tried to get up and head to the bathroom.

My body had other plans.

What I originally mistook earlier as the most painful experience I’ve had in a long time paled in comparison when I tried to get up off the bed. I had to sit back down, the pain was so bad. In fact, it almost seemed like a joke because the pain subsided quickly.

Perhaps I imagined that, I said to myself.

Sure. Agony. Imagining that is possible, I suppose. If this were the Crusades.

So, I tried it again.

My friends, if there was a vice grip feeling that was surrounded by the pain one feels in hell, that comes close to the feeling that I was experiencing. But I did it. I got to my feet, wanting to die.

My thought process was, Stay Up. Fight through it, it’ll loosen up in a bit.

A bit became five minutes, and I honestly thought that even a doctor would say ‘yeah, you’re pretty much fucked. We can cut you off just below the ribs, you’ll live a reasonable life as a thing that sits in a corner and just observes.’

Grabbing on to things that were as tall as I am or taller, like a door or a high backed chair, I was able to get to the bathroom, where one final indignity awaited. I could not lift the toilet seat.

I won’t go into specifics about what happened next, but I won’t ever be able to look at myself the same way again.

That night, because of the pain, I had some serious nightmares. Now, nightmares don’t usually bother me, but couple a nightmare with an anxiety disorder, and the inability to MOVE… well, I ended up waking up twice in the middle of the night, and, subsequently, waking up Karen to get me water or a cliff bar or whatever.

Both times, the pain was as consistent as it had been the first time I got up from bed.

So, the next morning, our flight in four hours, I tell Karen that I might have to go to the hospital. Bad timing and all… but I was alarmed, to say the least. I got up to walk around the room a bit and eat some breakfast… and then something miraculous happens.

I stay standing for an hour. I sit for a bit, get back up… and the pain isn’t that bad. Much improved over my attempts to get from laying down to standing… and I feel as though I’ve made a breakthrough, but I’m not sure if this is just a temporary feeling.

“Are you going to make it?” she asked.

I’m calculating odds in my head. 12 hours to get home. Enormous pain. Dying between SD and NYC. A chiropractor on the plane… or perhaps a witch doctor. OD’ing on Tylenol.

The thought of alcohol on the flight tipped the scale.

“Absolutely.”

I grab my bags and I think, there’s no way I’m getting to the lobby.

At the lobby I think, there’s no way I’m getting into a cab in one piece.

In the cab I think, there’s no way I’m getting out of this cab with my dignity.

And so on.

By the time I sat down in my seat, I could not believe that I had made it. The flight itself was uneventful. As was getting home. By the time we got into the apartment, I went into scavenger mode to find anti-inflammatories and pain medication from the last time this flared up (not even remotely as bad, I should mention). I finally found it, put the kibosh on a week of dog walking (yeah, you were wondering when I’d get back to that), saw a doctor, and now feel much better.

Today was rough, but I sullied through.

On Monday, I went to the Made in New York Production Assistant Training Program Orientation, or MiNYPATPO for short…

The orientation details what the PA training program will involve. It’s a 5 week program (on top of a 5 week program for me to get a drivers license) with two years of job placement assistance. Not a bad gig. There were 50 people at the orientation. In all, they accept 10% of applicants.

Now, I had originally wanted to try for the January spot, but after the back pain incident, and I have a couple of weeks, maybe two months of physical therapy ahead of me… it’s not looking good. But that’s ok. The program is not going anywhere.

The thing that I DID want to talk about, though, that happened that same day, was this.

Down the block from the MiNYPATPO facility was a deli. At that deli I ordered a falafel sandwich which, in the end, tasted fine, but fell apart easily. I asked the guy at the counter if they sold decaf coffee. He said YES, very enthusiastically. Great.

He goes to get the coffee.

I follow him down the counter and what I saw really defied… well, I don’t want to call it logic or reason… let’s just say it defied good customer service and business sense.

The man was filling up a small cup a third of the way with hot water, and then filling the rest of the cup with regular coffee.

Now, I have seen some shit. I’ve been around. But this…

He hands it to me proudly, and goes to help another customer as I wait for my sandwich.

I’m staring at the cup of coffee and I’m having another internal battle. Do I just take it? I don’t want to be rude. Do I toss it into his face? I don’t want to go to jail.

I’m reminded of a story my father told me in his younger and more vulnerable years. He was in a counter-only diner in a Sears (think back to the 70s) and ordered a well done cheeseburger. My dad hated anything but well done meat.

It came back on a tray, white paper plate, cheeseburger, bun, pickle. But the burger was medium rare. So my dad says to the guy he says “I’m sorry but I can’t eat the burger like this, I’d really like to have it well done.”

The cook takes the tray and places the plate, the burger, the bun and the pickle under the broiler. Waits a few minutes and then hands it back to my father, everything burnt to a crisp. “That better?” the cook asked.

So my dad grabbed a metal napkin holder and smashed him upside the head.

Now, I don’t want to do that. The guy’s like five and a half feet. I’m wearing these steel toed boots that put me over 6’5″… so I call him over.

“Yeah?”

“Did you do what I think you did?”

“What?”

“Is this decaf coffee or just coffee and water?”

And the most amazing thing happened.

I saw this guy calculating odds in his head. Seriously. It took just a second, but he said “It’s coffee and water.”

“I don’t want this.”

“NO PROBLEM!”

He dumped the coffee, made the sign of the cross, and got my sandwich.

Sigh.

On the plus side, it’s always nice to harken back to a story my father told me.

Over the last week or so, I decided to listen to my own advice. I started writing a feature film script that Julie and I can shoot in the same vein as 5AM. Not about clones, but a fun movie that won’t cost a fortune to make… a fortune, relatively speaking, that I simply don’t have.

I’ve been going nuts trying to figure out how to get a project made in the future that would not cost $50k, and the entire prospect was eluding me. With good reason. I don’t want to half ass something, and I certainly don’t want to waste anyone’s time. But this project… we can do it for much cheaper than I originally anticipated.

So, fingers crossed, we’ll see if we can make it work. Hopefully it’ll be just the thing to use as a stepping stone for a project that I can include all of my friends on. If the last year has shown me anything, it’s that I was very lucky to meet a group of fantastically talented actors whom I would love to continue working with.

That’s my update for now. Thanks for reading!

John