Friday, November 02, 2007

KAFKA GETS HIS EYES CHECKED



I’m not a lawyer, not by any stretch, and my knowledge of the Canadian legal system is on par with my interest in the rules of ice hockey – which is to say utterly non-existent - but I feel fairly certain that had I acted on my feelings toward the Snippy Optometrist I encountered this week, I would likely as not be writing to you, dear reader, from deep within a dungeon somewhere beneath the surface of British Columbia.

We are in the “Prep” period of “Ice Blues” and “On The Other Hand, Death”,




- two more of our “here!” private eye movies starring Chad Allen.



(go to www.heretv.com to order!!)

For those of you outside the motion picture business, “prep” is a film term meaning “let’s shove the director into a little van and drive him all over hell’s half acre and force him to make small talk with local hicks in order to convince them to let him take over their homes and lives long enough to shoot a movie in their town.” This process general requires LOOKING at the locations in question, which obviously requires very good eyesight and, having been yanked out of my zen-like desert retreat with only a week’s notice after my last movie wrapped, I didn’t have time to attend to something as simple as a trip downtown to pick up some new contact lenses.

(By the way I know some of my fair readers have seen my picture in the various media outlets or perhaps have watched some interview with me on Entertainment Tonight, and I would like to set the record straight here and now: NO my contact lenses are NOT tinted, and how DARE you even consider it; the dazzling blue of my eyes is just another of nature’s little gifts to me, and every morning as I prepare myself for the onslaught of human mundanity I gaze in the mirror and thank her for them. )



And so I was forced to take a few hours off from interviewing prospective thespians for my upcoming feature films - a process known as “the audition”, generally involving me in a stuffy room watching a parade of unemployed waiters act out the same scene one after another for hours and hours until I can’t even remember my own name – and make my way down to Ye Olde Eyeglasse Emporium, nestled deep in the heart of the Vancouver Gay Neighborhood; always trying to help the community, that’s me.

In my most polite tones, I asked the reed thin young man behind the counter to order for me a supply of my weekly usage contact lenses, as I’ve done in at least half a dozen countries around the world over the years. But instead of simply doing AS HE WAS TOLD, the Snippy Optometrist glanced over his own obviously discounted eyewear at the document I’d given him – a valid prescription from my very own opthalmologist in Palm Springs -



- a place which knows a thing or two about failing eyesight I might add – and said “I can’t take this”. He handed it back to me, pursing his lips as if daring me to rise to the challenge.

And of course, like a fool, I did.

“What do you mean you can’t?” I asked. “It’s a prescription, if you don’t have them in stock can you order them?”

“We don’t accept prescriptions from the U.S.,” he replied. “We have laws and rules here in the Canadian Health Care system.”



“But,” I said, trying very hard not to reach across the counter and test the strength of his larynx with my hands, “I’ve done it before. Lots of times. All over the world. In South Africa, for heaven’s sake! It’s just a prescription for contact lenses-“

“I’m sorry, sir,” he sniffed with pride. “We legislate health care in Canada. Isn’t it a good thing we legislate health care in Canada?”

Frankly, at that moment, I felt legislating a national Retroactive Abortion Service would be a better use of government funds. Was he suggesting that my doctor, a man I trust with my extremely valuable body, was just some unregulated moron who hung a sign on his door and starting poking people in the eyes?

But Canadians love their free health care, substituting their ability to get a free bandage on demand for any kind of national identity or patriotic pride, and I’ve learned over the years not to even attempt an argument along the lines of “well, if the wealthy could pay for their own, there would be more left over for the poor…”



Instead, I decided to throw in the towel immediately and just go along with the poor, deluded nincompoop. I’ve dealt with his type before, and they tend to take out their frustrations from years of being teased by schoolyard bullies for lisping and throwing baseballs “like a girl” on anybody who dares challenge their power Behind The Shop Counter.

“So what do I have to do?” I muttered, trying to act the part of a beaten man, hoping to get a bit of mercy out of this Ichabod Crane in eyewear.

“Make an appointment with the optician,” he said, gesturing to the woman suddenly standing beside him.

“Okay,” I said, “how about now?”

He looked at her. She smiled, shook her head.

“I could see you tomorrow at 1 pm,” she said.

“So you’re busy now,” I wondered, looking around at the utterly empty store.

“Yes,” she nodded. “Tomorrow at one.”

The two of them stood there, smiling at me in that vaguely sinister way that all Children of the Damned have when they know there is no escape for their victim.



I agreed to their terms, and watched silently as the Snippy Optometrist wrote my name down next to “1 pm” in the otherwise completely BLANK appointment book.

“See you tomorrow,” he said, and I managed to make it out the door before cursing all eyeglass selling homosexuals wearing striped sweaters to an eternity inside Wal-Mart.

THE NEXT DAY

I returned. At one pm. Sharp. There was nobody in the store, or at least that’s how it appeared, until the back door opened at the slick stench of cheap fast food smeared on wax paper drifted out to me. The Optician emerged from this haze, wiping her paws on a paper towel, and looked at me blankly until I said:

“1 o clock, here I am!”

It took a full twenty seconds before a dim light seemed to go off in her head and she said “oh yes. The American.”

Before I could tell her that, in fact, I was a Canadian who merely had the good sense to move south out of the cold, she gestured for me to sit down at her “examination desk”. She pulled out a pen and paper and held her hand out:

“Do you have your prescription with you?”

At first I thought she was joking.

“No,” I said. “The young man here said you didn’t accept U.S. prescriptions.”

Just then the Snippy Optometrist came out of the back room, French fry grease smudging his upper lip, and gave me a tight smile.

“Well,” she said, “If you don’t have a prescription you will have to see the doctor.”

“But,” I said, feeling the room begin to spin, “he said you wouldn’t-“

“If you have a prescription, we can just get it filled for you,” she said, getting up from the desk.

The Snippy Optometrist didn’t say a word. I stood up, keeping my smile frozen in place, and headed for the door.

“I’ll be right back,” I said. “Unless you get too busy to see me?”

EIGHTEEN MINUTES LATER

After a fast trip to the hotel to pick up my prescription, I returned to find the store filled with customers.

Nobody buying anything, mind you, just trying on eyewear: a heavyset woman who insisted on squeezing her melon-sized head into tiny “granny glasses”; a crying nine year old who didn’t want to wear “any stupid things” and an elderly man who shouted at the mirror with each new pair of spectacles “Nope. Not them. Not the ones.”

The Optician and Snippy Optometrist both saw me, but neither acknowledged my existence. I decided to play the waiting game myself, and just lurked around the shop, smiling over the shoulders of people looking at themselves in the mirror, until finally the Optician met my gaze.

“I have my prescription,” I said, waving the paper as if I were a five year old with a new crayon drawing for the fridge. She took it from me, looked it over, and – with the ease of a hangman flipping the switch on the gallows – shook her head.

“I’m going to have to test your eyes.”

“Why,” I sputtered? “I thought you said the prescription was-“

“It’s a U.S. prescription. I can’t just take it, I have to check your eyes to make sure they’re the same shape as they were when you got the prescription.”

“But…” I pleaded, “the prescription is only two months old! How much could my eyes have changed in two months?”

“Not much,” said the Optician. “Probably not at all. But we don’t know for sure.”

Snippy Optometrist nodded, and smiled.

“Isn’t it good that we legislate health care here in Canada?”



I am wearing my glasses today. It makes me look smart, like a Director.



At least, that’s what I’m telling myself as I’m sitting here, not in a some jail cell somewhere in Vancouver, charged with
Assault With Eyewear, but rather in the First Class Lounge of Alaska Airlines in San Francisco -



- (delayed again, I might add) on the way home for the weekend to go to my own Opthalmalogist – the savage, uneducated Witch Doctor that he is – and get my own damned contact lenses.

Monday, October 29, 2007

WAR IS HELL

For a little while there, it looked as if things were getting back to normal at home.



With the editing of Bridal Fever going as smoothly as I’d predicted – I mean, honestly, it’s a romantic comedy with attractive leads and a very funny script, how hard could it have possibly been? --



-- I was able to get the hell out of Toronto several days earlier than planned, much to the palpable relief of my boyfriend and, it can reasonably be assumed, most of the population of Toronto. I’m sure they were as tired of listening to me gripe about the overpriced restaurants, the lousy customer service and the dour citizenry as I was having to experience them.



A highlight of my stay had to have been a meal at the Hottest New Five Star Hotel Resto In Town where I actually dined on an 18 dollar bowl of pasta which consisted of 9 – I counted them! – strands of spaghetti in a pesto that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Nursing Home Cafeteria. The Celebrity Chef who runs the joint is clearly a shameless, self promoting griddle whore, but one certainly can't fault the man's nerve.

With the miracle of modern technology whisking me through US immigration in the blink of an eye – literally, given the retinal identification system in which I’m enrolled at the airport (which I HIGHLY recommend by the way; it’s the best 80 bucks you will ever spend on travel!) -



-- making me feel VERY James Bond as I zoom past the track pants-wearing hoi polloi lumbering along with their overstuffed ‘carry on’ bags and whining infants, any of whom could possibly be terrorists intent on nothing less than the complete and utter destruction of Our Sacred Way Of Life – I was safely belted into my first class seat and two drinks along on my journey before the ink was dry on my boarding pass.

Needless to say, the Best Laid Plans etc., and my connecting flight was late, which caused me to miss my NEXT connecting flight and so forth, thereby allowing me the dubious pleasure of enjoying the roasted macadamia nuts of First Class Lounges in Chicago, Dallas and Las Vegas before finally touching down in Palm Springs only 7 and a half hours later than planned. God bless Alaska Airlines.



At least the plane didn’t end up smeared against the side of some snowy mountain, stranding us like a team of Uruguayan soccer players and forcing us to resort to cannibalism.



However, given the girth of several of my flight mates, I’m sure some of us would’ve survived well into next spring.

After wading through two months worth of quite useless postal correspondence – I was raised to believe that a gentleman doesn’t discuss his finances in public, so I’m not exactly sure why these direct mail idiots think I’m just dying to talk about refinancing my mortgage with them “at my earliest convenience” – I turned my attention toward a few of my more pressing social engagements, including an exquisite evening of cater waiters al fresco, nestled amongst the ancient canyons of our local Native Indian Tribe Inc., called “Dinner In The Canyons”.

Presented as a fundraiser for a local aboriginal museum, the Boyfriend and I arrived to the event fashionably late, dressed in relatively casual Hugo Boss suits, and promptly elicited a comment from one distaff attendee that “ties are not allowed”. But before I could volley back a critique of her own ensemble – apparently selected from the Frederick’s of Hollywood’s “Cross Dressing Cowboy Prostitute” line –



-- the bartender poured me a bucket of Jack Daniels on ice, immediately defusing what could have been a rather nasty fashion confrontation. After a brief chat with our good friend The Mayor of Palm Springs--



-- we took our seats at a table with half a dozen of the Boyfriend’s business associates and the small talk progressed without incident. That is, until one of our more inebriated tablemates began inquiring as to what my fee would be to direct the low budget action movie she and her husband, an acclaimed television documentarian, were planning to produce. This, as you may have guessed, is just NOT DONE.

I attempted some light, silly retort along the lines of “oh, I’m far too handsome to talk about money”, but still she persevered much to the discomfort of everyone at the table. Why on earth this otherwise delightful woman should think I would make idle chit chat about my professional fees while wolfing down a bowl of mass produced pasta in the middle of a pile of rocks is beyond me, but she continued to pry well into the dessert course until her utterly mortified husband took her firmly by the back of the neck and whispered what must have been a rather stern command into her ear. This seemed to mollify her and I was able to finish my dinner unmolested, much to the relief of my Boyfriend whom, I am sure, was terrified that at any moment the ticking time bomb which is my tongue was about to go off.

After a brief speech, wherein several members of a local Casino Owning Tribal Family – sort of “The Sopranos” with jade jewelry – announced their gracious gift of One Million Dollars to the aforementioned Museum, we were treated to a performance by a dazzling troupe of young interpretive dancers known as Moving Earth.



Those of you who are familiar with my complete disdain for live theater – excluding strippers--



-- and puppets –



-- must be wondering by now exactly what it was about these nimble entertainers that I found so remarkable. Suffice it to say that their footwork and rhythmic gyrations were so enrapturing that it wasn't until the third number of their repertoire that I noticed these muscular, well-oiled young men were practically bursting out of their loincloths.



Perhaps, I thought, the budget of the show didn’t allow for enough fabric to properly costume these poor boys and I rather magnimoniously (I thought) announced to those within earshot that if in fact these handsome, nearly naked lads were members of the Museum Staff, I too would donate a Million Dollars on the spot.

It was at that moment that The Boyfriend decided it was time to call it an evening and, and after a brief visit to our favorite Palm Springs nightspot, Melvyn’s at the Ingleside Inn --



-- we returned home and I was finally able to get down to the real business at hand which was, of course, finding out what the heck had happened to Panton.

Faithful readers will recall when last we saw my skittish Ecuadorian houseboy, he was heading to points south in order to report to his homeland for two years of compulsory military service.



Well, it turns out the entire situation was a False Alarm; Panton, it seems, is ineligible for army service in his native land as he has what is colloquially referred to as an Achilles Perineum. Discretion prevents me from going into detail, but suffice it to say this particular affliction, triggered by sudden shock or noise, would be rather awkward at the best of times, let alone on a battlefield where it would be a long and quite soggy march to the nearest clean rest room.

And so, Panton has returned home. Or, more to the point HAD, until Monday morning when the perfect stillness of the desert sunrise was shattered by the sudden rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire in the backyard. Startled from my sleep, I heard a girlish shriek and several indecipherable words in some Latin dialect shouted in terror from down the hall and before I could reassure him that everything was all right, the front door slammed open and Panton was once again "no en casa".

As I stood there looking out through the back patio doors, to where the construction crew I’d hired was decimating the pool with jack hammers –



-- each thrust sounding like an mortar attack, especially to the ears of a twenty year old houseboy with the misfortune to be raised in a war torn banana republic – I realized that sooner or later, I was going to have to do something about Panton.

But for now, that will have to wait as I'm currently in Vancouver, preparing to shoot yet another film – actually TWO, this time, back to back installments of my wildly successful Donald Strachey Mystery Series -



-- starring the wonderful Chad Allen.

Meanwhile the pool resurfacing, the cause of Panton’s worry, is already finished and we don’t expect him back for at least another week.



In fact, last we heard, he was still running and had recently been spotted in Indio, trying to buy ammunition and a flak jacket.



Macarthur was right. War IS hell.

But so is finding good help.