Why the hand? (Rock Bottom)

The difference between a drunk and an addict is that a drunk will steal from you and lie about it, but an addict will steal from you and help you look for it.

If you have seen my short film “The Rose,” then you will understand the significance of the rose tattoo and why I chose to be inked in recognition of 25 years in recovery. But why on the hand? That is a long story, but it has to do with Step 1 of the recovery process, a broken hand, a plastic surgeon and a self-started lie that even I came to believe.

It began 26 years ago. I was a systems analyst, spending most mornings doing tedious tasks such as typing code while saving the afternoons for debugging and developing program logic. I was a few coffees and cigarettes into typing code when I noticed that the keys my brain was instructing my fingers to type were not the letters being displayed on the screen. Not only that, my hand was quite swollen. Initially, I didn’t think much about it. By this time in my drinking career, I was a daily drinker and often woke with sore bones, bruises, or abrasions from falls, slips, and stumbles. However, by mid-morning, my hand was completely swollen, black and blue, and I was having trouble moving my fingers. I headed to the hospital emergency room.

The emergency doctor assumed I had broken a single finger and ordered an x-ray. When the x-ray came back, the doctor requested additional x-rays. It was obvious that one finger was broken, but the direction of the other fingers in the initial x-ray suggested problems further up the hand. By this time, I was starting to put the pieces together from the night before. I remembered falling in the bathroom, landing on my outstretched hand, bending all four fingers backwards. I snapped them back in place but was having problems moving my fingers, so I wrapped my hand around a beer bottle and rolled the bottle on the floor to reset my fingers. What can I say, it seemed like a good idea at the time!

It turns out my hand was broken in four places, but the doctors at the hospital were reluctant to reset my hand in fear they would do worse damage. They had never seen a hand so mangled. Instead, they reached out to a local plastic surgeon who agreed to see me. They sent me, along with and my x-rays, to the surgeon’s office.

The plastic surgeon had recently reattached a young boy’s hand that had been severed in a farming accident. I was in good hands, but by this time mine was too swollen to work with, so it was placed in a temporary cast. Within a few days, extra swelling resulted in compartment syndrome, purple fingers, a numb hand and a looser cast. A few weeks later, I was in surgery to have my hand re-broken and reset. I was told that my hand would never be fully functional.

The broken hand was not my rock bottom. It was only the start of it. Addiction is a cruel disease, diabolical and without mercy. The problem really started when I first returned to work in a huge cast covering the top of my left hand to the elbow. I was stumped when asked by a colleague what happened. I didn’t want to admit that I was a falling down drunk, so I made up a story about falling off my bicycle. That story worked until someone asked where did I fall, so I gave them a street name. With each inquiry, the story became more embellished and ended up as a horrific tale of being driven off of Trites Road into a ditch by a bunch of kids pranking in a car. The story became so well known that people would stop me to hear it. I was quite the orator.

A few months later my wife was driving me home from work. As she was turning towards Trites Road, I asked her not to go that way. She asked why, and I told her that I didn’t like driving that way because it reminded me of when I was forced off the road and broke my hand. The look in her eyes said it all. I had come to believe my lie, and I could not bear to look into her eyes. The moment I realized that my entire life was a lie – that was my rock bottom.

Tattoos are ornamental, designed to be seen from the viewer perspective and physically inked as a mirrored reflection. My tattoo is not ornamental but serves as a constant reminder that addiction is a deadly, devious, evil, disease. But a rose is like a glass half-full. Some complain that a rose bush has thorns, while others rejoice that thorn bushes have roses.

Life is a rose.

Dr. StrangeJob

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The Rose – Watch it here

Forty years ago, he tried to kill himself. Today, he’s going back to change his mind.

THE ROSE tells the heartfelt story of a tormented man who, after years of drug and alcohol abuse, puts a loaded gun to his head. His only desire is to have the courage to pull the trigger… again.

If you could go back and change your life, would you?

The Rose is a cautionary tale on accountability and the future ramifications of current actions. The film was written/produced by Dan Yakimchuk and directed by Kenn Crawford.

The Rose tells the story of a man travelling back 40 years in time to meet his younger self during a pivotal moment in his life. The film has a positive message but deals with youth suicide, addiction, redemption and recovery.

Yes, that’s Dr. StrangeJob in the video.

Dr. StrangeJob

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Alias Rose – A Pseudonym for Dr. S

I have not been myself lately, in fact, I have been a bit preoccupied with another project. Unfortunately, my trusted readers may not know what project I am referring to because I wrote it under a pseudonym. That’s right, I decided to write a serious piece and was concerned that my Dr StrangeJob followers would not understand, so I used a pseudonym. Hey, if Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, J.K. Rowling and even Benjamin Franklyn can adopt secret pseudonyms, then why can’t Dr StrangeJob? Fortunately, I had another name to fall back on, but since the whole idea of a pseudonym is to write under an anonymous name I cannot tell you what my pseudonym is because then it would no longer be a pseudonym.

It might be more apt to say that Dr StrangeJob used an alias. Although alias is a synonym for a pseudonym, there is a difference between the two. A pseudonym is most often used in the literary world when a well-known author wants to write under an assumed name. This is true in Dr StrangeJob’s case because he is known for satirical pieces and wanted to write a heartfelt story.  On the other hand, an alias is used to conceal one’s true name for legal reasons. This is also true for Dr StrangeJob because his pseudonym created the alias Dr StrangeJob as a way to remain anonymous and protect against libel.

I don’t know about you, but I am starting to get a little confused about who I am right now. Who is the alias of whom, Dr StrangeJob or the other guy? Unfortunately, if I told you the pseudonym, then you would know who I am. On the other hand, if you know the alias, then you would figure out the pseudonym. Either way, this means that I cannot tell you Dr StrangeJob’s alias or pseudonym. You will just have to take my word for it when I say that one of us is who we say we are and the other one isn’t.

This puts me in a real quandary because I wanted to tell you about the project that I was working on under the other name, but I can’t because that would blow my cover. Instead, I am going to tell you about a short film that I saw recently called The Rose. The film is best described by the director, Kenn Crawford, who BTW uses his real name.

“The Rose tells the heartfelt story of a tormented man who, after years of drug and alcohol abuse, puts a loaded gun to his head. His only desire is to have the courage to pull the trigger… again.

If you could go back and change your life, would you?”

Perhaps I should go back in time and reconsider the whole Dr StrangeJob alias/pseudonym thing, but in the meantime, if you are in the Glace Bay, Nova Scotia area on February 28, 2018 then you might want to catch the film. There is a discussion afterwards featuring the director and writer.

More detail on The Rose is available here. Check out the Facebook event here.

THE ROSE Miners Museum Poster (8.5 x 11)Dr StrangeJob

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The Rose – Post-Production

The Rose is in post-production. I am not sure what post-production means other than it has something to do with ADR, rendering, Foley, color correction, musical score, and special effects. As producer, I signed off on the director’s rough cut, knowing it was best to leave those pieces in the hands of experts who know what they’re doing. Besides, the rough-cut was so beyond my wildest expectations that I didn’t want to mess with the momentum.

Writing and acting in The Rose has been a real insight into the world of no-budget/low-budget film making. The role of the director is obviously key to the process, and Kenn Crawford’s initial involvement is best described in his aptly titled, A Glace Bay Filmmaker and a Sydney Satirist walk into a restaurant. I must confess, however, that from the moment I sent him the script, the plan was always to have him direct.

The production phase of The Rose was not without problems, but, ironically, the worst day of production turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to the film. The worst day was the first official day of filming. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong: scheduling issues, technical glitches, makeup malfunctions, and curious bystanders repeatedly walking into frame. In fact, if not for bad luck, we would have had no luck at all.

Then we ran out of time. We were filming a crucial outdoor scene at a local park. We had arrived on set later than planned, it was colder than forecast, and the wind turned into a gale. The high winds blew props around and muddled the audio. Midway through the scene a key player announced they had to leave within an hour. Not that it mattered at that point because we were running out of daylight anyway. It turns out, the first day of shooting was also the first day of daylight savings time. The day seemed a write-off.

This was where the rubber hit the road. We had two options: 1) use the remaining time to get as many shots as possible and hope we had enough film or 2) call it a day and reschedule. We knew we had lost the day’s audio and would require another session with the actors to record the dialogue. It was also mid-November, so we could not count on the weather cooperating for a rescheduled outdoor shoot. The director suggested that even if we continued, we might not have enough footage to complete the story or, even worse, we wouldn’t have a final product of which we would be proud.

This was the pivotal moment in the development of the final version of The Rose. As the producer, I may have had the final call on what option to take, but it was the director’s answer that informed the decision. We decided to reschedule the shoot and move the action indoors. As a result, we had to rework the script for an inside shoot. This required an extra scene for context and a retooling of the opening scene, both of which added additional breadth and depth to the main characters. The end result is something I am already proud of, and that is before all the fancy post-production.

Stay tuned for exciting news on the Cape Breton premiere of The Rose in January 2018.

Read pre-production notes here.

Dr. StrangeJob

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The Rose – Pre-Production

Sometime between The Dearth of Dr. StrangeJob and Dr. StrangeJob: Borin’ Again!, the good Doctor managed to write a short-film screenplay entitled The Rose. Currently, in pre-production, the film is a sci-fi/drama about a senior (Elder) traveling 40 years back in time to meet his younger self (Junior) during a pivotal moment in their life. The film will be directed by Kenn Crawford and produced by yours truly.

I wrote the screenplay with an eye to direct and did not have myself in mind for the role of Elder, but the character began to speak through me as he was being developed on the page. Truth be told, the character of Junior also hit pretty close to home. Growing up in an alcoholic home prone to violence can drive a young man to extremes. Life can be daunting for an adolescent that is alone, lost, bullied, and experimenting with things they should not be experimenting with.

Elder and Junior are one in the same, but the struggles of Junior are similar to what many Cape Breton adolescents deal with on a daily basis. The Rose is both a “message” film and a cautionary tale on accountability for future consequences of current actions.

After completing the script, I became less concerned with directing and more interested in playing the role of Elder. I did not want to act and first-time direct, so I sent the script to Kenn Crawford for advice. I had worked with Kenn on a few of his projects and knew that he only directed his own stories, so I felt comfortable asking him for advice. As the old saying goes, he had no skin in the game.

The initial story was structured more as a play than as a script for film. However, it takes a filmmaker’s eye to translate what is on paper to what can be accurately portrayed on celluloid. After a few lengthy discussions, some suggested script changes, and a sincere offer to help, I asked Kenn to direct. Well, maybe I should say coerced, but I think we both realised that The Rose was a story worth telling and worth telling well. As a result, The Rose will be the first film directed by Kenn Crawford that he has not written.

To date, the most challenging pre-production exercise was finding a realistic prop revolver. Sadly, it appears easier to obtain a real gun with real ammunition than it is to find an authentic looking prop. That in itself, is a cautionary tale of the world we currently live.

Filming is planned for November.

More to come …

Dr. StrangeJob

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