Afraid To Ask For Help

Photo on 1-11-15 at 11.51 AM #2

This morning, I received a stunning collection of photographs from a friend of mine, an Oscar winner, in LA. (His Oscar was not for photography by the way; it just happens to be another passion of his.) As I finished my response email, it occurred to me that it contained a few things (some you already know) that I would like to share with you, my faithful blog readers, so I have decided to post the email in its entirety as today’s blog. That will also allow me to dive into the screenplay and use the hour and a half I usually spend on the blog toward that effort. Here’s my email to my friend:

Thank you so much for sending your latest series of photographs! What a wonderful way to start a Sunday morning here in frosty Alabama. For all the incredible things you’ve accomplished in this life, you may go down in history as the photographer who truly captured the heart of a city. 

This past year in Alabama has been very difficult. My three weeks in Los Angels were a welcome respite and also a glimpse into what used to be my life. I’ll go back to New York on February 10, without money or a job, to find a place to live. It’s a scary prospect but looking at your photos reminds me of where my true gold lies. 

I don’t know if I even told you that I had been living in Alabama since last February. My father was dying and it became apparent that if he was to be able to die in his own home, I would need to come here and take care of him. I’ve hung around in the wake of his death to help my mother but now it is time to go. I’d actually considered moving back to LA instead but, for some reason I cannot explain other than to say “I’m called to be there,” New York is the place– at least for now. 

Being back in the world of my youth as been a challenge, mostly because so many traumatic things happened to me down here. I know that it will inform my writing, my having spent this year in the Deep South, but that has not made it much easier. As you well know, artists (and perhaps especially artists who seek to make a living in the entertainment industry) get paid in chunks and—

—oh by the way, I’m not asking you for anything. I’m sharing with a friend. (My poor/working-class upbringing is rearing its head and making me worry you think I might be asking you for money) — 

— as you know, artists get paid in chunks and my last grant ran out months ago. Because I’ve been able to live in the house that we own and eat the groceries my mom buys (how embarrassing), I’ve been able to survive on the $820 disability check I get from the VA. (The IRS and creditors take a huge chunk before I even see it.) I know that even though it may be tough when I first get back to New York, I will soon find another paycheck to do what I love and be able to sustain myself.  The biggest challenges in finding a place to live there are that I lack move-in money, I have two dogs and a cat I can’t live without, no provable income other than my disability check, and I have shitty credit. Other than that it should be a breeze. 

I’m a certified EMT so I thought I’d look into getting at least part-time work as a set medic. There’s a lot of shooting (er, films that is) that goes on in New York. (bad Bed-Stuy reference) I had even thought about trying to get a massage certification again but to tell you the truth, the ways in which that slipped into “other things” when I did it before in LA was very damaging to my spirit and to my self-esteem. Maybe I’ll just let massage be a thing of my past. 

I have an LLC set up still from when we were producing my play. I also have a 501(c) 3 that I started to help vets (link below, website under revision). I have three completed play scripts (a Jazz-Funk musical, a non-musical for 6 actors, and a solo show for a single Asian actor—male or female). I’m also almost finished with a screenplay which I intend to have done by the time I leave for Sundance this Saturday (the trip is a gift from my cousin who lives there). My dream is to produce (in cooperation with others of course) these scripts and to allow The Mehadi Foundation (my non-profit) to provide paid internships for veterans in every position in that process. My longterm goal with that is that within a couple of years, when I start to produce something, I will have a large pool of post-911 veterans from which to hire. My own personal experience has shown me how very much gainful employment in a position that feels important to me has immeasurable impact on how I live in relationship to my military experience to include my time at war. No matter what one may feel about war (and about the Iraq War in particular), when veterans come home from being told they are “defending the free world” to jobs that feel like they suck the soul out of them, it’s a recipe for disaster. We especially are not looking for handouts. Even though the military culture is built on principles of teamwork, there is an emphases on self-reliance that sticks with us so that if the individual veteran finds him or herself in a position of not being able to sustain him or herself, it feels like a kick to the gut when (in many cases) they are already feeling “down.” Talk about kicking a man when his down! That’s why (ironically) a lot of efforts to help veterans end up making them feel disempowered. In addition to simply doing something good for these people who have put themselves is that their military experience has also prepared them (in ways I won’t go into here) to operate very well inside the entertainment industry. They are masters at mission accomplishment, often having skills of efficiency that can save any production time and money.

Wow, I really didn’t intend to write an epistle. I simply set out to tell you how much I was impacted by your art! Please keep opening up your heart and your shutter to the beautiful world around you. We are all better for your doing so. 



PS. As I finished this email, I thought back to the part where I felt compelled to say I’m not asking you for anything. Upon some further reflection, I think that saying that was actually my “working-class/poor” programming at play and that this has been a major downfall for me in the past. I don’t know how in the world I expect to accomplish my goals with regard to my art, the production company, and the foundation if I am unwilling to ask for help so– by all means, if you can think of any ways how you can support my efforts or connect me with others who might be interested in what I am up to, please feel free. I can send copies of the scripts to you or anyone else you think should read them and I am happy to talk to anyone about the work of my foundation and our efforts to help vets. 

See y’all tomorrow.

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