Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas at Gwen's was wonderful.

Alice, Austin and I had a great time!

Santa was very good to Bailey and Zenna:

We played games...

ate food...

played video games and watched tv...

opened presents...

and bonded with the family!

On Monday, we visited the Arends in Olympia and had a blast. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Cards

I haven’t mailed out Christmas cards since December 2007. This year I was determined to update my address list, visit the card store down the street, and send out something that (a) updated my friends and family on my life in 2011 and (b) included all my old and new contact information. It took about three weeks to organize everything, but as of this week I’m finally putting stamps on envelops and sending the cards on their way.

For years I’ve sent out around 20-40 cards, but this year I doubled my address list to include new and old acquaintances through Facebook, conferences, and racquetball.  I bought four boxes of cards, one set with angelic renaissance paintings from the National Gallery, one set featuring cabin and forest drawings, one snowman set from Hallmark and one glittery old-fashioned set that was on sale. It’s so nice to have these cards crossed off my to-do list!

I had planned to create a one-page Christmas letter that updated everyone on my life; however, last week I received Curt & Megan’s Christmas card from New Zealand in which Curt’s paintings and the 2011 family updates were interspersed within an 8-page mini-book folded from one sheet of paper. I unfolded the sheet, studied how it was put it together, then I blatantly copied their idea. I think I’ll make these little booklets every year because they’re so cool. 8 pages from one sheet of paper…I love it! Maybe next year I'll print 16!  Thank you Curt & Megan for this great idea.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Back to "Normal"

I'm feeling like my old self again, minus the lingering pain in my lower back from that nasty spinal tap. My head is fine, no headaches, nothing unusual. I can't wait to get back on the racquetball court. A few of the morning players are playing left handed while Steve B. recovers from his wrist injury. Maybe we should start a left handed singles league in 2012. That might actually be a lot of fun.

While I wait for Sam to find a publisher for Julia Milan, I'm drafting the novelization of Botticelli Girl. I'm combining the structural efficiency of 24 with the narrative elements of Tom Perrotta's Election. I plan to stick close to the original storyline of my and Chris's screenplay. I may have to bang this one out quickly so that Sam can have a backup novel in case the unthinkable happens and he can't find a home for Julia. That totally boggles my mind.  The outrage only encourages me.

Alice and I will be tournament sponsors at the 2012 Stockton Pro/Am in April.  I cannot wait to see the world's finest racquetball player who ever lived (Kane Waselenchuk) compete against Rocky Carson, Ben Croft, and Stockton's own Jose Rojas. Last year, we saw the best female players battle it out in Stockton, and the championship match between Rhonda Rajsich and Paola Longora was one of the most memorable come-from-behind victories I've ever seen (Rhonda won in five games).

I'm reading a bunch of books right now, both hardcopy and ebooks on my ipad, Kindle and iphone. What I like most about ereaders is the ease of looking up words I don't know. It's an amazing time for readers and writers.

I'd love to see The Descendents this weekend, but I know Alice has wanted to see Tower Heist for weeks. Maybe we'll see both.

Two weeks from now we'll be in Seattle. It will be so good to see all my family and friends. I'm listening to

right now. After years of listening to this album, it only gets better, especially track 7's Skating.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

Subarachnoid hemorrhage...that's what I was diagnosed with last Tuesday evening, two days before Thanksgiving.  It all began Monday night after 10 while watching "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell."  I felt an intense headache hit me out of nowhere.  I stood up and actually shouted, "What the hell?  What is this?  What is going on?"  I couldn't believe what was happening.  I sipped some green tea but that did nothing, so I turned off the television and went to bed, leaving my dog Sandy on the couch to fend for herself.  The intensity of the headache was so strong that I had trouble sleeping.  The throbbing pain lasted all night.  I thought about calling someone but it was getting late and I had absolutely no energy to talk to anyone.  I hoped I was simply experiencing my first migraine, even though I've never had a migraine before.  All I knew was that I was having the headache of my life and didn't have a clue why.

The next morning I felt awful.  My headache had lost about half its intensity but was still very much there.  I remained in bed until 8:30 a.m., then took a shower and got ready for work.  I took Sandy to Rhonda's and was given a migraine pill, though Rhonda warned me it might not kick in for a while, since my headache had begun several hours ago.  At work, my coworkers told me to call my doctor.  Alice called and scolded me for not telling her what had happened sooner.  I called Dr. Lawrence and scheduled an appointment for mid-afternoon.  I worked only an hour, then headed back home and went to bed.  I slept soundly for two hours, then drove to my doctor's office ten minutes away. 

I saw Dr. Lawrence at 2:45.  He called the Emergency Room to see if they could check me over and run a few tests.  I arrived at the ER at 3:10 p.m. and stayed until a little past 1 a.m.  They gave me a CT Scan which showed nothing unusual.  They then administered a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) that showed blood in my spinal fluid, which apparently is an indicator that there may be bleeding in the brain.  They drew four vials of fluid and the blood wasn't dissipating.  That's when I was told I was going to the hospital. 

I hit Wikipedia hard on my iphone, studying up on brain issues like the nerd that I am until my phone battery hit the red zone.  Alice and Richard arrived soon afterward around 9ish.  A nurse hooked me up to antiseizure medication and other personnel made arrangements for my hospital stay.  I was told I would be transported via ambulance to Eden Hospital in Castro Valley because they had a top neurology center.  All I could think of was how disappointed and worried my family would be because I wasn't flying to Seattle for Thanksgiving.  It was surreal.

While we waited for the ambulance, Alice, Richard and I chatted for several hours in the tiny ER room.  They sat in chairs and I was on my back in a thin bed with wheels.  They were both so calm and kind, and I'll never forget how comforting it was talking and laughing with them.  After midnight, I was placed on a gurney and wheeled into an ambulance.  The medic riding in back with me had recently graduated from Mills College, so we talked about Julia Morgan and creative writing teachers.  Twenty minutes later I entered Eden Hospital's Emergency Room and was placed inside a waiting station next to an old drunk vet behind a curtain who sang nutty sailor songs while harassing his attending nurse ("Can you please keep still," the nurse insisted. "Don't touch me!  I can't give you anything if you keep wiggling like that!").  I bet that happens a lot.  Meanwhile, I closed my eyes and tried to sleep.  I spoke with two doctors before they wheeled me out of ER to room 1223 of the ICU wing.  An entire team of nurses moved me from the ER bed to my ICU bed.  That's when I was told I was being treated like a stroke victim.  They gave me a battery of mental and physical tests.  Everything was fine.  The guy in the ICU room next to me was yelling and screaming like a raging maniac, which apparently he was (a security guard stood near his door).  I felt tired but clear-headed and fully functional.  My headache was tolerable so long as I was lying on my back.  Once I was hooked up to machines I was left alone. It was impossible to imagine anything was seriously wrong with me.  Maybe I was in denial, but I also knew it was my destiny to live to be 100, so I figured everything would be fine.  Because of this, I wasn't worried at all.

I hadn't eaten in over 24 hours and was getting hungry, but couldn't eat anything until after the angiogram that was scheduled around 11 a.m.  I had another CT Scan early in the morning, which again came up negative for anything abnormal.  I slept for an hour or so until Alice arrived at 9:30 a.m.  I called Gwen and told her what was happening.  We were supposed to fly to Seattle out of San Francisco that afternoon at 4:30.  I couldn't believe we weren't spending Thanksgiving in Seattle. 

At 11 a.m., I was taken to a large room for my cerebral angiogram and walked through what would happen and the various scenarios that would occur if an aneurysm was found.  They gave me a sedative that kept me awake but had me drifting off into my own happy place, complete with the soundtrack of my choice, courtesy of Pandora.  I had requested something by Handel, but instead I got something by Rogers & Hammerstein.  Before I knew it the procedure was over and I was back in my ICU room.  Alice told me everything was fine.  No aneurysm, no surgery, nothing out of the ordinary.  Whatever it was that had affected me Monday night was not showing up on any image or x-ray.  I felt incredibly relieved and started texting and talking with my friends and chatting on my iPad with my family, who by this time were already at Gwen's.  I was still loopy from the procedure but didn't realize it until later.  The nurses monitored me throughout the afternoon and evening, and by 10:00 p.m. I was sound asleep for the rest of the night. 

The next day (Thanksgiving) I had an MRI, which also came up negative for anything abnormal.  Everything looked fine.  I was taken to a regular room with my own bathroom (nice!) for the rest of the afternoon, and discharged from the hospital (thanks to Alice and Dr. Kim!) later that evening at 7:45 p.m., just in time for pumpkin pie at the Youngs.  It was the best piece of pie I think I've ever had.  It felt so good to be alive and well with great friends and family.  I took a seat on Lisa's awesome art deco chair near the fireplace (which used to be Neil's chair) and assumed a reclining position with my eyes closed and my mouth wide open.  I was sound asleep for what felt like several hours.

The nurses at ICU (Danni, Israel, Daniel and Rebecca) and Max on the 5th floor took excellent care of me and were truly fantastic.  I stayed at Alice's over the weekend and Jill came out to visit from Reno for two days.  I was tired and sore from all the poking and prodding, but our sibling time together was wonderful.  We went to see the new Martin Scorsese film Hugo in 3D in Daly City with Alice and Austin, and it was wonderful.  Jill and Alice thought the movie was a bit longer than it needed to be, but Austin and I thought the film was pure magic.

Since we didn't make it for Thanksgiving, Alice, Austin, and I are going to Seattle for Christmas!  We plan to do everything we were going to do over Thanksgiving, plus we get to hang out with the gang, which will be so great!  My lower back is still very sore from the spinal tap and I still have a slight headache, but I hope to be good as new within another week or so.  I had to forfeit my semi-final singles match to Tyrone the other night, and that was perhaps the most painful part of this past week.  No racquetball for a while...ugh!

Dr. Lawrence and I went over everything Monday afternoon in his office.  It's hard to know for sure exactly what had happened to me because nothing serious was discovered in the CT Scan, MRI or angiogram.  Whatever happened may have cleared itself, or I may have had my first migraine ever, followed by a spinal tap that included blood from a punctured blood vessel.  Whatever happened, it's very bizarre and hopefully a one-time thing.  I'd like to think my 18 years of playing racquetball saved my life.  My body had some crazy event happen Monday night, but because my blood pressure and heart rate are so low and my inner workings are naturally pretty efficient, my body simply cleared out whatever the distraction was.  This event has certainly changed me, but one thing it hasn't changed is my steadfast belief that I will be on this planet playing games, listening to Handel and Vivaldi and Beethoven (and Rogers & Hammerstein), writing, reading, watching movies, hanging out with my wonderful family, friends and coworkers, terrorizing my opps on the racquetball courts, and laughing with my sweet Alice until I live to be 100.  If this is my midlife wakeup call, I'd say I've taken the message to heart!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Alice and I watched Harold and Maude yesterday afternoon.  She foudn the film bizarre, though she did laugh a few times, especially at the priest's comments on Harold's impending marriage.  Without the context of 70s America, I can understand why the film might seem creepy.  Alice couldn't quite get over Harold and Maude together.  I hadn't seen the film in a couple of decades, but it still feels relevant and holds up.  The music, the irony, the insanity, all ring true.  Bud Cort and Ruth Gordan are perfect.  I'd forgotten how good Vivian Pickles is.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Halloween 2011: Troll 3 - Head Shop

 Our Eerie St. Halloween 2011 performance was a huge hit again this year.  This year's theme was Head Shop:  Troll 3:  Here's Richard Young's recap:

"As I packed up yesterday I kept remembering all of the different things that everybody contributed and how much of a team project this is! All the little details matter so much.

Brandon outdid himself on the art work and set the horror comic scene for the whole event. He got the idea, dug thru the source artwork and two days later had completed the piece!

Neil made a special last minute make-up run for the real good stuff and brought extra, very valuable heads that were the final touch on the set. Not to mention the fact that he came to Oakland just for Halloween!

Rodney was called in for make-up duty and skull painting duty at the 11th hour and then got down to his usual wonderful ghastly guide duties! Teacher by day, ghoul by night (I think he was getting revenge...)

Rick and Michael were incredible leading men plus Rick brought killer chicken and Michael set us up with Zachary's pizza on rehearsal night. It just would not be the same without those two working off each other. In fact all the acting was really good this year. Are we becoming a real theater company?!?! (Rick, how did those handcuffs work out...?)

Rosanna took time from her very busy school schedule to come and be our gratuitous "sexy nurse" and give us our horror movie CRED. I was worried we would not get her on stage and then she turns up and steals the show. Violation! Rosanna also brought Daniel, who took great photos and video and generally made us all happy. What a great guy!

Headless Ray with the golden cello was just too cool and Robbin did a great job on the bloody stump costume! Ray was on call and answering medical questions while he was building his set. That's dedication! Ray also came thru with the killer projector so that we could project the art work. (In keeping with all my other tech failures in October, my ancient projector worked on Sunday and died on Monday.)

Trey and his buddies - Jared, Nathan, Nate, and Grace - were beautiful as heads and monsters and they did it under difficult, hot, uncomfortable circumstances. Heads off to the boys and girls of Oakland tech! I'm hoping this is the start of many more productions - at least until they all head off to college. Trey also did killer work decorating the troll. (Unwrapping and packing all the fabric, I found out just how heavy that thing was! His thighs were sore on Tuesday!)
Jared was crazy funny as the helicopter victim. It's easy to underestimate how good an effect will be when you are on stage but when I watched a snippet of video of Jared doing the arms behind his back it was truly crazy looking and very effective! Sometimes the simplest gimmicks are the best!
Margaret even made a debut on stage as one of the heads. (I think she liked it! Perhaps she'll be back for more now that she's had a little taste of Erie street fame!)"

Richard's recap was fantastic!  What a great night!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I'm speaking at Elmhurst Middle School next Thursday and created a bookmark for them.  Should be a fun visit.  I love sixth graders!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Nerd

 I'm still learning the various ways to read and synch my readers.  Just downloaded Samuel Johnson's Notes on Shakespeare on ibooks using the pdf attached to my email, then realized I could download a Google app to do the same thing.  I love technology!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lia Jia Asian Kitchen on Lakeshore Ave & Mandana

Last Sunday, Michael Bauer of the Chronicle gave my favorite neighborhood restaurant Lin Jia a glowing review!  I'm so happy for Marcia.  Alice and I stopped by after my racquetball tournament and ordered the dumpling soup, walnut prawns and mongolian beef.  So delicious!  Marcia's restaurant deserves all the praise she's received.  It's delicious food and a comfortable, relaxing place to eat a nice meal.  One of the dishes mentioned in the review is the Lin Jia chicken that needs to be ordered a day in advance.  I need to try this dish sometime.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Alice and I watched all seven episodes of Downton Abbey over the weekend.  Everything about this production is wonderful.  The pacing, the lines, the acting are all superb.  I've added this series to my TV influences tab.  I'd like my series to hook the reader as well as this series hooked me.  I loved every moment of it and can't wait to watch season 2.
Had a wonderful birthday yesterday.  Took the day off and spent all day with Alice.  We went to Arizmendi for my sweet Sallie, Peet's for Golden Dragon Oolong tea, Chinatown in Oakland for dim sum, afterwhich Alice bought me a hot water container just like hers for tea.  We then went to AMC and saw "Moneyball," which had been on my list the past few weeks.

I enjoyed this lowkey film very much.  In many ways it reminded me of All the President's Men.  The emotional range was fairly neutral, except perhaps for the tossing of a gatoraid container.  Alice and I enjoyed it.  After the film, we picked up Austin in San Francisco and went to Barney's for dinner.  Then we went home and watched Gosford Park on Netflix.  A very relaxing, enjoyable birthday indeed!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Quick Weekend

For a lowkey weekend, Alice and I ended up doing quite a bit.  I played in a morning doubles tournament Saturday at San Ramon and ate too many slices of pizza afterward.  That evening, the morning racquetball crew got together with our better halves at Steve B.'s and tore it up all evening long with some truly wonderful conversation and delicious food at Dona Tomas.  What a great group of guys.  Steve has an actual Defender machine in his garage circa 1980.  The sound effects alone make me want one.  He also has a foosball table, so we played two games before calling it a night.

Now onto the week ahead and revisions to our Deja Bride script Chris and I wrote before Julia Milan.  After that, we'll finish up the Julia Milan adaptation, then revisit Retro Therapy.  Lots to keep me busy while waiting for first round submissions.

On Jeni Craswell's Facebook wall, this hit my funny bone:


Friday, September 30, 2011

Pinball Madness

Last Sunday, I spent the day with Sophie Young, who is blessed (and cursed) with the same insatiable pinball gene as I. We hit the Pacfic Pinbal Exposition hard, arriving at 10:15 and playing until 5:15, with a one-hour lunch break at Barney's for some burgers, thin fries and a delicious chocolate shake. The 5th Annual Pinball Expo had over 400 pinball machines, including the usual favorites (Paragon, Twilight Zone, Earthshaker, Diamond Jack, Pinball Pool, CSI, the Simpsons, the Addams Family, and Captain Fantastic) plus two new Tron machines. My wrists were sore through Wednesday. I was wiped out by 5, but Sophie could have gone until 8. I see a pinball machine in my future!
Sophie is the future of pinball.  This kid's got wicked skills!

One of my favorite machines of all time is Paragon, a wickedly difficult game with the Beast Liar in the left-hand corner. I played this game with Neal, Steve, and Dan Friday nights at the Wazzu Cub. Those were the days. Unfortunately, this particular machine had upper left flipper issues, so the game was a bit flawed.