Love in the Time of Corona: Let’s Make a Movie

The swamps are disappearing through a cottony haze out the window of this Boeing 737-700 as I wing my way toward Austin on my way home to Los Angeles. Austin is one of my favorite towns and I’ve been there many times. I wish I had the time to spend the night but I’ve got to be to work in Hollywood on Monday and besides, I can’t wait to see my man. It’s odd that I should say I wish I could stay in Austin because I just chose (after much meditation) not to make my annual pilgrimage to Lampasas, an hour north of Austin, for the Lone Star Sundance. The Sundance is usually in June but because of the pandemic it was postponed until August this year. As August arrived and infection rate in Texas began again to sore, I assumed the Ceremony would be postponed again or perhaps pick up again next year but the decision was made to move forward with it.  I had been very publicly vocal about the people who were railing against the government and scientist’s urgings not to gather, the keep six feet from one another when we have to go to the grocer or the pharmacist. They said the blood of Jesus would protect them. These are the same people who apparently need an AR to go to Krispy-Kreme. Seems to me if Jesus will protect you from COVID-19, he should be able to protect you from the Black and Brown people while your fat ass gets a donut. I’m not fat-shaming. I got a fat ass myself. I like it like that. Beside the point. I’d said in frustration, “You don’t need to pack fifty of you in a little church building! If God can find you at church, God can find you at home! Have Zoom or Facebook Live church until it safe again to gather!” My most passionate reason is that my beloved niece Anna Kate has been a nurse for less than a year. My cousin, with whom I am very close, more like a sister, is an Emergency Department physician. As infection rates and death rates increase in the general population, they climb among healthcare workers; it’s a direct correlation. My brother was a young widower, my niece was in the car with her mother when she was killed. If something happened his daughter, it would kill my brother, it likely would level us all. The thought that someone felt that their need to sit their ass on a pew next to someone who believed as they do is greater than the worth of my niece’s life infuriated me so how could I be so vocal about how they shouldn’t pile a whole bunch of them in a little wooden box and then crawl into an Inipi (sweat lodge)? That would be hypocritical. Let me reaffirm at this point that I am sharing with you my thoughts and feelings, and my decision not to dance this year and not anyone else’s, not decisions made by the Elders and the Chiefs. Other people’s spiritual paths are none of my business. My path is mine and made for my footsteps alone. 

I’m on a long layover in Austin. Four hours. It’s okay. Actually, being imprisoned at an airport one of the few places I can entice myself to write. Pray for me. Pray that sitting down to do the actual activity of writing might become easy for me. I love the product. I want to love the process. Pray that anything that stands in the way of that be removed from my consciousness. 
I got me some good Salt Lick barbecue. When I got to the counter the bar was full (with the 6’ obligatory space in between.) There were some places to sit pretty nearby so I went to the “to-go” window at the end of the bar to place my order: two-meat special with briscut and pulled pork with coleslaw, potato salad, and pork-n-beans. “We have Pepsi products,” the bartender informs me. “I live in New Orleans,” I respond. He grins. “Bloody Mary?” “Beers better with barbecue.” I say. A good looking blue-eyed man at the bar flashes me a wide grin. “Who dat!” “Who dat!” I return the regional greeting of my adopted homeland, The Swamps of Louisiana.  He yells back over, “I’m up in BR but I’m more of a Saints fan than LSU.” “I’d have to agree with you on that one, brother. Bama grad here.” “Awe hell!” and we both laugh. By now the woman who was sitting at the nearest “6’” big blue dot left to catch her flight. “Pull up some socially distanced stool there, man!” he says and so I do. The bartender delivers my barbecue and Tater FaceTimes me at the same time. I introduce him to my new coon-ass friend, Blane and they exchange friendly howdies. I told Tater I’d eat my barbecue and call him back and Blane hears me tell Tater I love him when we say goodbye and it’s not lost on me that that wasn’t always the norm. Blane’s a boudin eatin’ Louisiana white boy and there was a day when it would have made a difference that the person I love on the other end of the line was a man and not a woman and to his credit he didn’t miss a beat. That’s all we ever wanted; nothing better, just to be treated equally. Blane and I start to talk and I learn they’ve been out here in Austin filming for a YouTube channel called BBG Guys. They were interviewing local barbecuers in Texas if I understood him correctly. I’m going to have to check it out when I land in LA. So he does camera operations and media operations and even showed off his impressive weapon to me sitting right there at the bar. He had one of those big, long, furry microphones that blocks wind distortion, windmuffs they’re called, “dead cat” is also industry slang.  
“Baton Rogue, huh?” I say before shoving a forkful of pulled pork in my barbecue receptacle. “Wr wrrr uph de yesserdrm.” “What’s that cousin?” he asked with a chuckle at my gluttony and horrible manners. I chew the bite, wash it down with some morning draft, and wipe my mouth. “I say, I was up there in Baton Rogue just yesterday. Buddy o’ mine lives out on Hoo Sho Too Road and I was dropping off my Tundra to him. He’s already done a lot of work on it including replacing the engine. He’s ‘pimpin’’ my ride for me. I’m gonna have the red neckist truck on the roads of Louisiana!”  “And that’s saying something!” he joins in my enthuseams. Trucks are on the short list that can usually get Southern men excited. We go back to talking shop and eventually figure out the people we’ve both known or worked with. He knows John Schneider (“Bo Duke” of “Dukes of Hazzard” fame). I told him I’d Art Directed one of John’s films and he shared how John had been a help to him when we was just starting out to be a filmmaker. I said, “In fact, the feller I went to visit in BR yesterday, I met on the set of that movie, James Sheldon. We’ve been friends ever since. The day I met James I told him about the play I’d written about my time in Iraq; he’s an Iraq vet too; and about the documentary Showtime made about the play. He looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘You ought to write a short film and let me be in it’ and I loved his forthrightness so much I did. I’ve written a short script and James will play the central character—” and then I went on to synopsize the short film, working title: Clown. I told him about my non-profit and about my dream to create apprenticeships inside the page-to-screen process for veterans. He thought that was a great idea and seemed really drawn to my story idea.   About that time, the man he’d been here filming, the Grill Master himself, Randy Watson walked up and Blane introduced us, told Randy a little bit about the project I had in mind. “Hey man, maybe you can shoot it. I’ll be a first time director for film but I’ve directed for stage and been directed on film many times.” “I have no doubt you could do it, man!” (This guy’s positivity is contagious.) “Plus,“ I add (huhu), “people are starving for a positive story right now. The making of this moving, a bunch of veterans who don’t necessarily agree politically getting together to make this film, that’s a positive. You wanna read it?” “Heck yeah, man.” Numbers and emails are exchanged and I learn that he’s a Boudreaux which makes a whole lot of sense; I’ve never met a Boudreaux who couldn’t talk your ear off into the night without you ever really mind it. Ours was a meeting of two great Southern talkers, one a redneck from Alabama, the other a coon-ass from the Swamps. I send him the script right then. I’ve known me long enough to know how I am and it’s best with stuff like that to do it right then before I’m off to chase the next butterfly or squirrel. “Maybe you could shoot it! We could make the template for how we’d do more shorts involving veterans, my scripts and others’. We could call the program ‘VetFlix’!” “Hey you better trademark that would today, man.” He admonishes me. (Which wouldn’t be a bad idea.) He promised to read the script tonight and I told him to take the time he needed. Before boarding, I walked them to their gate and was introduced to the third man in their crew. They’re coming to New Orleans when Matthew and I get backthere in about a week. They’ll come to the new house and we’ll conceive how we think we’re going to get this movie made and then we’ll start watching how it happens. But it will happen.

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. 

I’m on the next leg of the flight. I’ll stop in Las Vegas but won’t get off the plane. That will save me the $20 Las Vegas airport tax collected by the one-armed bandits. Then it’s on to Los Angeles where my baby awaits, my baby and an early Birthday present for me. One of the ways I tricked Tater into falling in love with me was through my writing. One of the first things he read of mine is a blog post entitled “Ode to a Stolen Motorcycle (check it out).” It’s about my relationship with my black Ducati Monster that I got when I got back from Iraq. It was stolen by meth heads in Walker County when I’d gone back there to look after Mom and Dad while they were dying. The thieves simply dumped my bike in the woods after they figured out Ducatis are useless without the key which has a computer chip in it. The bike won’t run without it so they raped it of all the carbon fiber and other aftermarkets they could rip off before tossing it into the woods like trash. The $3K the insurance gave me wasn’t close to the $10K it would have taken to fix it. I have never even seen crystal meth but yet it has taken so much from me. I hate that drug and I have absolutely no use for a thief. Tater was a dirt-biker as a teen and has loved motorcycles his whole life. This was a big early connecting point for us. Long story short, there’s a 2020 Black Ducati Monster sitting in the parking garage waiting for me to get home. I am grateful beyond measure. Mostly for Tater. 

Please keep our little movie idea—actually, check that, please keep our big movie idea in your thoughts and prayers. I really think we’re on to something great. 

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