Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Doing What I LOVE

I am very excited! I got "hired" to write a short (about 20 minutes) how-to informational script for a fella named Bill Adams. He's a guy with lots of ambition and ideas and we click really really well, which will make working together so much easier and a lot more fun. As he told me, "I wanna be friends with the people I work with. If we ain't havin' fun while we're workin' on this a-here project, then we're doin' somethin' wrong and it ain't worth it."

In chatting with him about the project, I told him that straight how-to is waaay boring. He agreed and showed me his attempt at a first draft at a script before he gave up. He obviously understands that, because his first draft starts off with a bang! It gets the blood and the curiosity going, so we stayed with that. But he didn't know where to go from there, because how to's can end up being so dull, especially if it's some guy with a pointer and a blackboard and he's telling folks how something works. Sooo, I went with my narrative filmmaking training and turned it into a story of sorts and explained how it would work. He loved my idea and said, "You're my writer!"

I took him to my place and showed him my old Oregon history collection and my Oregon Historical Quarterlies, my True West Magazines, and whatnot, and he said, "You really ARE my writer, girl! You know what's goin' on!"

I love listening to him talk. He's an old-timey treasure-hunting gold miner with lots of fun stories. We also seem to be very much in sync. Not five minutes after I finished emailing him my first draft, he called me. I asked him, "So you read the script?" And he replied, "What script?" He hadn't even read it yet! He had called me to tell me about some ideas he had about the project in general.

I'm feeling major fate/karma/destiny/kismet going on. Especially since Monday. Monday we went to a filmmaker's networking fete and chatted with lots of people. A couple of the guys we talked to immediately understood what we were doing, liked it, swapped old gold-panning stories and whatnot with Bill, and said, "I'm in." Now what is the likelihood that in all of this town, we would happen upon the two camera guys who like treasure hunting, gold-mining, adventuring and whatnot? I ask you. It's kismet!

But anyway, Bill went and read my first draft and said he loved it. Yay! We're switching the genders of one of the characters and I added in a teaser for the next movie* at his request, for the second draft. All in all, it's coming along great.

But the best part of all this? This is what I went to school for! To write! To create! To have fun and make a living at doing it. This is awesome!

*Yes, there is going to be a series of these short films, so there is potential for me to be doing this for a while. Squee!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Little Ray of Sunshine

“Did you ask Charlie?”
“Yep, he’s a no go,” Jeff replied. He dabbed a small wedge-shaped brush into the titanium white and phthalo blue acrylics, blended it and smeared it on a canvas propped on a large wooden easel.

“Well, who does that leave?” Marie asked. She stood over the paint-splattered utility sink in Jeff’s art studio with an empty purple vase. Marie placed the vase under the faucet, which triggered the sensor and the water turned on automatically.

“Nobody. We’ve gone through the list. Nobody else wants to donate. Maybe you should widen your criteria a little bit, Marie. I mean, you are being very, very picky.”
She glanced over at her husband. “Of course I am, Jeff! I want to make sure the baby is healthy and reasonably intelligent and doesn’t look like a Neanderthal. Gabe looks like Cro Magnon man, Ross has an IQ of 10 and Justin has that funny eye tic thing.” Marie picked up a bunch of fresh-picked sunflowers off the concrete work counter and arranged them in the vase. “Don’t tell me you think they would make acceptable sperm donors.”
“I suppose not.” Jeff painted a while in silence, thinking.
“So...okay. Who else do we know that we are close enough to that we could go up to them and say—‘do you mind masturbating and putting your cum in this turkey baster here? My wife wants you to knock her up.’” Jeff’s eyes sparkled in amusement. “Speaking of turkey basters, you would think they would have more high tech ways to insert it than that.”
“It isn’t a turkey baster.”
“Well, it sure as heck looks like one!” He waved the paintbrush at her to emphasize his point.
“Ugh. You make the whole process sound so sordid.”
“That doesn’t sound any more sordid than, ‘Mind if we get a sample of blood first? We want to run some tests. We want to make sure you don’t have any diseases.’”

“Yeah, well. We need to be careful. Just because I want a baby doesn’t mean I want diseased ejaculate. Thank God for that home testing kit.”
“A guy with cancer isn’t going to have diseased ejaculate, Marie.”
“I know that!”
“It seems strange to me that we can test for the presence of cancer, and just about every other disease under the sun and yet you still have to insert the ejaculate with a turkey baster.”
“Enough about the damn turkey baster!”
“See, even you think it looks like one!” Jeff ducked the sunflower Marie playfully tossed his way and laughed. He picked the flower off his palette and frowned. Goopy blue paint stuck to a few petals. “I know you want a baby, Marie, but I don’t know how much longer we can keep trying. This keeps up, we’ll be in the poorhouse. The tests, the fertility treatments—it’s all so expensive.”
“I know. Don’t remind me. I don’t want to think about it.” Marie fiddled with the vase. “Did you get a chance to talk to your brother?”
“Yeah. Mike says if we run out of options he’ll think about it.”
# # #
Jeff navigated his dinky snot-colored Prius through thick afternoon traffic and not for the first time wished that he had the money to update their mode of transport. Hybrids were out these days. Everybody was switching to water powered as the cheap wave of the future. But what little money they had long been spent. Their spacious four bedroom house. Gone. Jeff’s motorcycle. Gone. All things worth anything of value hocked long ago.
They needed the money. Marie’s continued insistence on expensive fertility treatments necessitated that. Jeff would have put a stop to it a long time ago, but his inability to make Marie pregnant—his infertility—made him feel like he owed it to her. He felt like less of a man unless he could get her what she wanted. She wanted a baby, so he was determined to get her one.

But the longer time passed and the more they tried and failed, the more and more depressed and desperate Marie got. Now with the money gone, Marie’s hopes had vanished. For the last month or two, all she did was mope around the house. Even if Marie had been willing to entertain the idea of adoption, they couldn’t now. Jeff was worried.
A school bus full of children stopped and put out the red stop sign. Jeff idled his Prius behind it. He wondered Marie herself was infertile, since the last couple of years of Marie’s expanded search for compatible donors and attempt after attempt at conception failed. Ordinarily, watching the happy children file out of the bus would have left him feeling empty.
But today is a different day. Devon told him the way.
# # #
Jeff unlocked the door to their tiny new apartment, and set some groceries on the table. Jeff noticed that Marie sat curled up on the sofa, a cup of chamomile tea sitting on the table next to her. The same position she was in when he left that morning.
“Marie. I think I found something that will work.”
She didn’t answer. He walked over to her and perched on the edge of the sofa next to her. He gently stroked her hair. “Honey. I think I found something that will work this time.”
Marie uncurled from her position and looked at him. She looked away. “Don’t get my hopes up, Jeff. I can’t bear that again. Mike was the last straw. How could he be infertile, too? He and Gail have three kids!”
“Mike and Gail are divorcing. I think you know why.”
Marie snorted. “It’s kind of funny in a really twisted way.”
“Well, at least you’re smiling. That’s the first time in over a month. Too bad it’s over my brother’s pain…”
Marie laughed. She stopped laughing abruptly. “I’m serious, Jeff. I can’t take any more disappointment.”
“I know. But I think you are going to want to hear this.”
Marie hesitated then nodded for him to continue.
“A buddy of mine know a guy who works for a clinic. It’s a fertility clinic, but it’s underground. No insurance, no credit. Cash only. They do things that aren’t exactly… legal. They inject women with high doses of Clomethine, with the expectation that if more than two eggs get fertilized they get to keep the rest. The other eggs are used for medical research.”
“What about the donors? Are they tested?”
“How much is this going to cost us?”
“Don’t worry about it. I sold a painting!”
“You did? Oh, that’s great, Jeff! Wonderful!”
“I made you an appointment. It’s for tomorrow.”
“You have to make appointments at an illegal clinic?”
“Well, no. But that is when I told the guy we would be there.”
Marie hesitated. “I don’t know, Jeff. This doesn’t seem right. I mean, if they are taking my eggs and doing terrible research on the babies….”
“Oh, no! It’s nothing like that! It’s...I think they do stem cell research. The embryos are never born or anything. Don’t feel a thing.”
“How do you know?”
“Look, Marie. This could be the chance you wanted. You do want it, don’t you? All we’ve ever wanted was a little ray of sunshine.”
Marie nodded slowly. “Yeah, I do.”
# # #
Marie and Jeff drove through the run-down neighborhood with growing apprehension. The clinic might be operating illegally, but Marie couldn’t imagine it being located in the midst of run-down graffiti-covered tenement buildings. She witnessed at least three drug transactions just in the last block. Junkies, vagrants and other undesirables sat on stoops and watched them noncommittally as they passed.
“There!” Jeff cried. “He said to park in the alley and come in through the outside basement entrance.”
“Jeff…I don’t like this. I’m scared.”
“Don’t be, honey. I’m here with you. We’ll be fine!”
The Prius barely had room to navigate through all the trash and debris in the alley. After parking, Marie allowed Jeff to escort her to the basement stairs. Marie noted the people across the street watching them. She felt like prey. Marie tried to shrug the feeling off. The pair descended the stairs and knocked on the door.
The door opened a crack. An immense bald man in a cheap suit and expensive bling could just barely be seen through it. “Yeah,” he said.
“Devon sent us,” Jeff said.
The door shut and they heard the chain being unclasped. The door reopened, and the fat man ushered them through. The room certainly didn’t look like a doctor’s office. It looked on the inside like it did on the outside. An old, run-down basement. There were tables and a few chests that looked like refrigerators or possibly freezers. A couple of burly men with funny plastic aprons lumbered in from another room. Marie noticed splattered brown stains on the walls. A copper smell hung in the air.
What was that? Suddenly Marie realized just what it was. Blood. She grabbed Jeff and spun around. The big man who let them in blocked their exit. Marie stiffened as she felt 30,000 volts of electricity hit her back. She was vaguely aware of she and Jeff falling on the concrete floor. Then it went black.
# # #
Marie didn’t remember how she got to the hospital. In fact, she completely blocked what had happened out of her mind. She didn’t want to remember. She just knew Jeff was dead and she was a widow. The police told her that they rescued her from a body farm—a chop shop for human beings. The body farm sold the parts on the black market for those who needed transplants.
The hospital staff treated her well, though. She had been given a thorough physical to determine if anything had been harvested from her and to see what damages she might have sustained.

All Marie could think about was going home. She wanted to take Jeff’s dirty laundry and lay down in it, so she could smell his scent one more time.
But her doctor insisted on talking to her about it. Said it was important. He pulled up a chair next to her.

“Mrs. Kelly, most everything looks good.” the doctor informed her. “You are healthy. Nothing was removed that we can determine. They must have been holding you these last few weeks until they needed something.”
“Can I go home now? Wait. You said ‘most everything.’ What didn’t look good?”
“There is no easy way to say this. There is evidence of repeated rapes, Mrs. Kelly. But, if you get some rest, don’t move around too much for a while, you should heal up nicely and I think you will still be able to have the baby just fine.”
Marie felt sick. Her stomach clenched and she gagged.
“I…I’m pregnant? It’s not possible. My husband is…was… infertile. That’s why we went there in the first place. We thought it was a fertility clinic.”
“Ah. Well, the ultrasound shows your approximate conception date pretty darn close to the date you told me you were kidnapped. I was hoping for your sake you were already pregnant. These things can be off by a day or two sometimes.”
Marie knew without a doubt it couldn’t be Jeff’s. They hadn’t made love for a couple of months. Her deepening depression robbed her of her desire. Then the images of her attackers came—an unbidden horror show meant only for her.
“Get it out of me! I don’t want it!!” She shrieked, “Not like this! Not! Like! This!”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Kelly. State law says the hospital can’t perform abortions legally unless it is medically necessary to save the life of the mother or unless the fetus is already expired.”
Wailing, Marie fled her bed and stumbled toward the door. She rushed toward the nurse’s station and snatched up a pair of bandage scissors. The nurses and hospital personnel rushed her and grabbed her arms to prevent her from hurting herself. Marie struggled and screamed.
# # #
Marie opened her eyes. They felt crusty with sleep. She didn’t know where she was, but she was tied to a bed in a nearly empty room. It was dark. She tried desperately to remember who she was and why she was here, wherever here was.

Things started coming back to her, slowly at first. Then a torrent. She screamed, but found she had screamed out long before. Nothing croaked out but a hoarse whisper of a noise.

There were no windows in this white room, but there was a skylight. Dawn came. She watched in horror as a little ray of sunshine broke through the darkness of her room and lit upon her swollen belly.


The heavens open;
rain eagerly falls to the earth.
So sweet and demure in puddles
and little culvert pipes.

The individual rivulets and streams
join together,
become a mob, and riot.
Cascading multitudes of droplets,
a cacophany
stronger than concrete.
Erosion of embankments,
trees falling down.

Splashing on out to sea,
the unruly mass
is no more.
Neptune swallows it up and
spits it back out in waves.

Moving Pains

Stress and strain, pulled muscles-
magma flows through my nerves.
Dropped boxes, cracked knuckles-
I'm a brown and purple Dalmation of bruises.
All night, last minute frenzied preparation-
a disco mirror ball of fatigue pulses through my head.
Caffeine and tiger balm are salvation.

Me, Myself & I

I’m really not myself today.

But, really, who am I?

Who is me today versus tomorrow?

If I’m not me, then what me am I?

Who will that me be tomorrow?

Is that me the real me?

Maybe the real me is you.

Maybe I am you and you are me.

What kind of me does that make me?

Will I ever be myself?

How will I know?

When faced with a mirror,

How does a chameleon recognize herself?

Boozle - A Poem

Her capricious face smiles,
dares me.

To boozle or not?
That is the question.

The “bebbo” ,
(toddler-speak for bellybutton),
winks at me.

It is too tempting.
My puckered lips descend.

Squeals of laughter,
Bright eyes flash, grin.
Her body wiggles.
She begs me to do it again.


The first film I ever wrote, directed and produced was Prognosis. Phiamma Elias and John Branch are the primary actors in this film, and they did a phenomenal job! Kristian Blackwell and Kathleen Cafiero also make appearances.
 Prognosis is a drama about an alcoholic named Bob, who has a drunk driving accident that leaves him a quadriplegic. This video picks up from his first day home from the hospital and the chilly reception he receives from his family. Watch the video--it's intense!


Prognosis from Holly Bernabe on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

When Willow Used to Be a Mermaid

Willow, back in 2007.  She still looks just as devious.  :)
I used to tell Willow when she was little that she was a mermaid because she was born underwater (I gave birth to her in our dining room in an aquadoula) and that she had an invisible tail. She was afraid of sharks but I told her that mermaids have nothing to worry about because if a shark gets too close, she can just bop him on the nose with her tail fin. 

Anyway, she became slightly obsessed with sharks. Any body of water, she had to know if there were sharks in it. The Willamette River gets fairly shallow in spots and we could be at one of those where we can see all the rocks and whatnot in the water, and yet she would ask me if there were sharks in the river. I would say, "Oh, sure." And she would ask me, "How big are they?" And I would say, "As big as Grampa's car." Which was completely impossible--one, it wasn't the ocean, and two, the river couldn't possibly have a giant-ass shark as big as a '67 Buick Skylark in it when the water only went up to my knees. And she would look around for the sharks and declare they better not come around her or she would whack them with her tail. It was hilarious. 

I did get my comeuppance, though. We were at a pool, and I was chasing her in the water and I had one elbow raised up out of the water to make my arm look like a fin and I was doing the dum-dum dum-dum Jaws theme music and she kicked me in the face. I asked her what she did that for, and she said that she was using her invisible tail to whack the shark in the nose. I couldn't get too mad. I admit it. I deserved that!

My Little Girl is Growing Up

Feb 18

Last night I was play-cuddling with Willow (play-cuddling=cuddling, tickling, boozles and wedgies and noogies and fun) and out of the blue she stops playing and says, "I'm gonna miss this." I say, "Miss what?" And she answers, "Play cuddling with you. When I get older and I don't do it anymore. I'll miss it."

Nearly broke my heart. I'm going to miss it, too. David was about 12 before he stopped holding my hand and doing other PDA's and play cuddling with me. Hopefully I still have a few more years left with Willow.

I think it is amazing, though, that she has the presence of mind to consider what things will be like when she gets older. She understands that some things change and that she won't always be doing the things she loves to do as a kid. She wants to grow up, but she also knows that there is a price to growing up. Makes me wanna cry...

Why Are Little Girls So GOOD at Guilt Trips?

Willow gave me a horribly guilty knife-in-the-heart moment earlier. I had been nagging her to get her room clean pretty much all night. Finally, a little after 9pm, she comes in and tells me it's after 9 so she needs to go to bed. I ask her if she had finally finished her room, and she said no. So I chew her out for dinking around yet again (this has been going on for a few days now), and I tell her she's grounded and that she should go to bed now. She gets this crushed look on her face.

Then she says, "You don't want to give me a kiss goodnight?" Insert knife in heart here. I melt, give her a hug and kiss and tell her I love her.

Then, she hands over this fuzzy red and pink thing to me. I look at it. It's a heart ornament made out of pipe cleaners. She says, "I made this for you." Now wiggle knife around, making sure to slice all four chambers of the heart.

I'm dying here...

Am I a Terrible Parent? Tales of the Tooth Fairy

You can see where a couple of the missing "moldars" are here.  :)
Jan 28
My daughter seems to be losing all her teeth at once. She lost two of her molars within two days of each other, and a third one was loose. The Tooth Fairy was late for the first tooth, so Willow put the tooth with the second one in a plastic zippy bag under her pillow. A few days later, the Tooth Fairy managed to catch up enough on her route to pick up the teeth and deposit some money in the bag.

As I’ve explained to Willow, the Tooth Fairy is an incredibly busy fairy, since there are sooo many kids in Portland who are all losing their teeth, probably at the same time as she is, so she just needs to be patient, the Tooth Fairy won’t forget her. So far, she never has. (I say she or he, but Willow insists the Tooth Fairy is a girl fairy, despite the fact that her grampa is a dental hygienist who insists the Tooth Fairy is a boy.)

Anyhow, Willow left a message for the Tooth Fairy when she left the two teeth. It read something like this: “Dear Tooth Fairy, My dad says that I should only eat soft food because I have another loose moldar and hard food could make it come out. Is he right?”  [She said "moldar."  Cute, innit?]  She didn’t believe her dad, so she had to appeal to the higher power.  Who better than the Tooth Fairy to know about  loose teeth?

So I, er, ahem, the Tooth Fairy left this for a response: “Dear Willow, Your daddy is probably right. Softer food will be less likely to make your tooth come out. Stay away from sticky chewy foods like taffy because they can pull your tooth out and you could swallow it.” Willow was ecstatic she received a response.

Cut to when she finally lost that moldar. The Tooth Fairy was characteristically late, because she was broke. Er, I mean, behind on her rounds. Anyhow, when the Tooth Fairy finally made it to Willow’s pillow, she couldn’t FIND the dang tooth because the room was such a mess. So the Tooth Fairy left the following note:

“Dear Willow. I stopped by to pick up your tooth, but I couldn’t find it because your room is so messy. I will try again another time. It is probably best you keep your room clean so that I can give you your reward for your tooth, when you can find it. Love, The Tooth Fairy.”

The tooth still hasn’t been found. Willow is, of course, disappointed.

Today, Willow had another tooth come out. I asked her tonight if she put the tooth under her pillow. She said yes. I asked her, “How late do you think the Tooth Fairy will be this time?”

Willow said, “Oh, about 20 days.” (!)

I said, “Well, remember what she said about your room being clean?”

Willow grimaced, and said, “Yeah. I’ll clean it tomorrow!”

I am soooo evil!