Archive | January, 2012

Settling In

12 Jan

A smug-looking little Lo and her bunny feet

This is what I’ve learned: while it’s fine for me to live on a trash heap, all it takes is a little company to send me for the pledge and break out the doilies, so to speak. My new roommate is a short, furry two-year old named Lola and since she came on the scene a little over a week ago, I’ve finally settled into the new place.

A cat was on my list of things to get for the new place, but far from the top of the list. In fact, going to look at the cats at the Animal Rescue League of Boston seemed like a favor I was doing for my friend Brian, providing him the perfect excuse to get his own furry friend fix. I was totally up for seeing the kitties, but taking one home to feed it and clean up after it and try not to kill it when it scratches my furniture? Not something I was seriously entertaining.

We walked along the row of cages, their occupants either sleeping or actively lobbying for our attention. Even if you don’t like cats it would be hard not to find at least one or two potential love-matches among those guys. The one I was looking at was white and grey, shorthair, and less than a year old. His nose was scraped up like he had just been in a fight, which he could have been since he was listed as being a stray. He was skinny but spunky, doing his best to keep my attention.

Brian immediately zeroed in on a lounging tortoise shell shorthair who was just taking it all in. She was a beautiful cat and, from the information listed, her people had given her up due to recently developed allergies. (Whether this was true or they just didn’t want her now that she was no longer a kitten, who knows?)

If it had just been me, I don’t know that I would have given her – or any of the cats there – a second look. I was worn out. I had just finished a month-long battle with the banks for the condo I finally owned but seriously regretted whenever I let myself think about the money. The buyers remorse only deepened when I thought of all the things that I’d need to do to update the place. I was living out of boxes still, a month in at that point, with the same horrible pastel painted walls with copious nail holes, the carcass of an ugly shelving system halfway taken down (because I didn’t have the tools to completely yank it out), the stupid, terrible layout and slap-dash bathroom – enough potential to choke on. And I was choking on it. I didn’t need a cat, I needed a time machine to go back and stop myself before making this horrible, seemingly irrevocable mistake. If there was any consolation it was in the fact that I could go home alone, without anyone to answer to, to live my egregious little life in peace.

(Okay – as you can see, if I let myself think about it, it gets melodramatic real quick. Which is not to say I don’t feel melodramatically about the whole thing – I really am of two minds about it. Barring the occasional and anomalous burst satisfaction, I’m either okay (not great, but I can live with it) about it, or am completely, ridiculously regretting that I ever saw this place. I am hoping in the coming months to move the range up so that I am either mildly contented or simply rueful.)

But the cat. Brian kept pushing me to take another look at her. The ARL has the cat cages stacked two high on the outer walls of the adoption room while in the middle of the room there are maybe six or eight enclosures, about three by three feet, cinder block halfway up, chain link the rest of the way, where people can “visit” cats that they might want to adopt. I “visited” with the sleepy tortoise shell cat. I sat on a chair as the volunteer set the cat down on the ground and shut us both in the cage. The cat stretched her long legs and torso and set to exploring the corners of the enclosure, my coat, pant legs and shoes. She would butt her head into my palm if I didn’t pet her fast enough and once the feather toy was introduced the sleepy little one had fully woken up and I was in love.

It was kind of dramatic getting her home. With no car, we walked her from the shelter to CVS to buy litter and food and the pet store next door for the litter pan and food dishes, all with the little tortoise shell trooper in the dark in a cardboard carton on one of the coldest nights of the winter so far.

When we finally got home about twenty minutes later she settled in. She was comfortable wandering around the apartment and even with three of us there – me, Brian and Luis – she seemed fairly relaxed. By the end of the night I’d started to call her Brian’s feline good-will ambassador (Brian was brutalized by an alley cat as a child so needless to say he is more of a dog person).

I didn’t name her for a few nights, wanting to get to know her before calling her something that might not fit. She’s Lola now. Well, Dolores Haze. Me being the book nerd that I am, I couldn’t resist giving her a name from one of my favorite books.

Since she’s moved in I’ve gotten most of the boxes put away, if only to keep her out of them. If it is dark and a small space, she will stick her face in it (in fact, she almost bagged herself the other day – perhaps a sign that my tote is bigger than it needs to be). I’ve also cleared the odds and ends off the floor to keep it open for games of shoelace, in which I throw a shoelace across the room, she tears after it, picks it up and brings it back, dropping it at my feet with a “Raow!” for me to throw it again. I’ve also cleaned up all the sinks and counter tops because, before she got the hang of drinking out of her waterdish, she would use the 1) bathtub faucet or 2) the toilet or 3) the bathroom sink or 4) the kitchen sink (she finally got over that after about four days of me cutting her off from these sources while worrying she would dehydrate before she gave in).

Well, after these minimal improvements she’s feeling more and more at home, and so am I. There is still so much (so much!) to be done but until I can pony up for the first round of renovations, it is feeling – for the first time – liveable. So, pets really do relieve stress.

It's Lola - Miss Haze if you're nasty.

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Transformation. He’s a She.

9 Jan

Recently, I had a deadline to write two short films and direct/produce one of them.  So I wanted to pick something, short and transformative.  I started writing a voice over (VO) of my own personal experience from when I was a kid, part of my story.   After recording the VO a few times, playing with some vocal effects and subsequently shooting myself as the main character, I grappled with a few different ideas to give it some life.  I created both a deep man’s voice filter and a high-pitched voice box filter.  One version of the piece was to make it about a  woman who’s in a wheelchair and lost her voice box.  Her small nephew comes to visit her and she gives him some words of wisdom through a story of her childhood fantasy of being Jesus Christ.  Great idea.  So many things I could juxtapose poetically revealing other layers of the character.  But I had less than a week to shoot, no time, no actors (especially no child actors, specifically six-year old girls), no one to shoot it, edit it or score it… except for myself.  Oh yeah, and no wheelchair.  I could fake one of those mechanical larynx things with part of a microphone I own… but argh!

Then there was the idea of making an on-camera transformation.  Where the VO was just this girl getting ready in the morning and putting on makeup.  By the end, she’s transgender.  I knew I wanted to be able to direct that character.  I definitely didn’t want to shoot it and be the lead.  So I went to my office mate and writing buddy, Haley.  And she willingly obliged.  I bought props at Target.  Loaded my extremely heavy equipment and headed to Bay Village.  When I got there, I was a bit unsure of how this would play out.  If you asked Haley, I’m sure she’d attest to me being frazzled.  I didn’t bring enough quarters for the meter.  The meter ran out anyway at 5pm.  Yada yada.  But, with some diet coke and a few smokes later for Haley.  I found my rhythm.  I just cleared my head of doubt and trusted myself.  Some ideas I had, flashback cutaways from childhood and adding one of those glue-on hair mustaches at the end, weren’t coming together.   The mustache wasn’t right.  It wasn’t believable enough. But, as the day flew by those ideas quickly resolved and I was editing already on set.  Haley took awesome direction and really jumped in 100%.  I couldn’t have asked for more.  So I wanted to share some pictures because Haley, who played Josephine (Joe) in Transformation, really looks cool.  Check her out.

Joe gets ready in the morning.

Josephine makes a beard.

So what have I learned?  Sometimes, you’ve gotta just push through.  And that I’m thankful for having adventurous and supportive friends.