Well, as I promised earlier, I am back on my WordPress blog. I don’t have a review for your reading pleasure; I though I might be inspired to write about a movie, music album, book, Star Wars collectible, or even a computer game. But at this point in July, it’s hard for me to come up with fun topics; I’m still prone to grieving over my mother’s death – now half-a-decade in the past – and all the changes it caused.
Don’t get me wrong; some of the changes have been positive. With help from dear friends and high school classmates, I was able to thwart my half-sister’s plans to take control of my mother’s modest estate and put me in a home for the disabled, started a new life far away from my predatory relative and her entourage of allies and enablers, and I didn’t end up homeless, starving, and alone.
Heck, I’ve even been able to see several scripts I’ve written or co-written be made into short films over the past year, including my first attempt at topical comedy, Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss. As is the case with the other scripts I’ve worked on (A Simple Ad and Clown 345), I can’t claim all of the laurels, not even in the writing department – all of these short films have been collaborative efforts with Popcorn Sky Productions, a small New York City-based production company founded several years ago by my friend actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez and his wife Adria K. Woomer-Hernandez. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, has worked really hard to make these film shorts.
Anyway…right now it is mid-afternoon in my little corner of Florida. It’s yet another scorcher out there; the current temperature is 91˚F under mostly cloudy skies. With 58% humidity and an east-southeasterly breeze blowing at 7 mph (with gusts of 12 mph), the feels-like temperature is 101˚F in the open, 97˚F in the shade. I hardly ever venture out, but if I had any desire to go for daily constitutionals, I would not be doing so until way past sunset. But I do think about the postal workers, ground service delivery persons, and other working folks who have to endure the hot and humid hell that is Florida in July.
Adventures in Screenwriting
Today I started preparing mentally for my next script. I have a general idea what it’s going to be about, its themes, message, and even the genre – I want to deal with some of my inner demons – as it were – by creating a character-driven drama based on some of my recent experiences. I can’t say much beyond that right now because, well, I don’t really know specifics. Suffice it to say that it’s going to delve into such topics as grief, betrayal, greed, and toxic relationships laced with mental illness.
Right now I’m in the process of doing research and talking to my future collaborators about how to create a watchable drama; I’m not a William Goldman or a William Shakespeare, nor am I a Ben Hecht-type screenwriter. Some of the best lines and scenes in scripts I’ve written aren’t even my doing, although they are based on ideas and concepts I’ve put down on my first drafts. Plus if Project X does get off the ground, it’ll be the most ambitious project I’ve tackled in a while. Even at this embryonic stage, it does look complicated, and the first steps in getting a first draft screenplay written is research, research, research.
Will it be tough work? Yes.
Will it come to fruition? I don’t know yet.
In Other News
This afternoon I did a bit of gaming to distract myself for a bit. This time of year is my least favorite; the 19th is the anniversary of my mother’s death; the 20th is the anniversary of the viewing at the funeral home in Miami; the 21st – today – is the anniversary of Mom’s funeral Mass at Our Lady of the Divine Providence, the Catholic Church close to my old house. Thursday is the anniversary of Mom’s cremation and whatever observance followed. I skipped that, partly because I was tired and depressed already, but mostly because I could no longer stand to be around my older half-sister. I’d already had to deal with her drama, her anger, her mood swings, and her self-serving ways while Mom was ill for half-a-decade.
Knowing what her plans for Mom’s estate (and me) were, I just could no longer conceal my contempt and resentment, so when one of Vicky’s friends called me to remind me of Mom’s cremation, I told her I was not going. Period. End of story. Finis. The woman – her name was Susana, I believe – was not happy with my decision, but I stood my ground.
“Sorry, but I’ve already done the best I can under the circumstances. Please respect my decision and convey to my sister that I will not be there tomorrow. Good night.”
After July 21, 2015, I only saw my half-sister twice. Once, when she arrived at my townhouse – it wasn’t mine de jure, mind you, but it was mine de facto – with her cousin Andres, younger brother to Juan Manuel and Mauricio. They were there to take Mom’s complete china set, one that my dad (not hers) had given our mother as a present during one of their trips to Europe. It was from Limoge, and miraculously it had survived a fire that destroyed our house on SW 9 Street and 99th Place in 1965 and several moves, both in Miami and in Bogota, Colombia.
Vicky had always wanted that set of china, and Mom had promised it to her both verbally and in the infamous 2000 (or 2001) last will and testament that Vicky had pretty much paid an attorney to draw up.I seethed with resentment that Vicky was going to get the beautiful china that my mom only used for special occasions, but I had long ago accepted that it was her inheritance.
Knowing that she was unwelcome in the house she still believed would be half-hers, Vicky decided to remove as many things as possible in one trip. She had already taken family photos – of our great-grandparents, plus the ones with our mother and my father she had promised (falsely) to make copies of for me – and quite a few decorative items from the living and dining rooms. I’d already agreed to that; I didn’t need – or want – all of my mom’s personal things. I’d inherited the house and most of what remained of Mom’s financial assets, as well as her final credit card bill, which was huge because we had had to pay that year’s property tax with Mom’s Discover card.
I should have remained hovering near where Andres and Vicky were packing Mom’s china and other stuff, but I was too depressed and tired to do so. I went off to read a book or watch TV while my two unwanted guests put dishes, serving plates, gravy pots, and other pieces of the china in moving boxes they had brought over from Home Depot.
Little did I know that Andres and Vicky did not just take the Limoge set that Vicky had been granted; they also took my grandmother’s china set, which I had not known was in Mom’s china cabinet and that Vicky had said she was going to leave for me. They also took trash bags and threw whatever they thought was trash – including a still-new coffee cup with lid (the kind I needed whenever I wanted to be with my mom in her room and still be able to have a cup of hot coffee without spilling it) that a friend had given me as a present a month earlier, plus my measuring cups, some of my kitchen utensils…whatever Vicky and Andres thought was “old” or “ugly” – into them.
Of course, they said not a word about taking my abuela’s china or tossing things I needed into trash bags while I wasn’t looking. They just took the now-sealed moving boxes to Vicky’s car, knowing that I had not noticed how many boxes they had brought in, or how much “extra” stuff beyond what I’d agreed to let Vicky take was in them.
Vicky and Andres made a big show out of inviting me to eat pizza, but I declined. Mom, in the many conversations we had before and after her back surgery, had made me swear that I’d never get into a car with my half-sister after she – Mom – died. Never. Not even to go to the nearby Denny’s, which lies a third of a mile from my former home.
They both got into Vicky’s car and drove away, probably congratulating themselves on how easy it had been to take more things out of the house than they were supposed to. I hadn’t yet noticed the deal with their “kitchen cleaning” project; I found out about that 15 minutes later, when I went to make a pot of coffee in my Mr. Coffee machine…and couldn’t find either my new coffee cup’s lid or my measuring cups. I ran out to the front of the house, where my two thieving relatives had placed several black Glad trash bags with my stuff in them for the next day’s pickup. I retrieved them, of course, and had to put them through a complete wash-dry cycle in my dishwasher to make sure they were clean and sterilized.
That was the last time I saw and spoke to my nemesis in person at my old house. The next encounter we’d have occurred almost a year later, in the probate court division of the old Dade County Courthouse.
 In 2014, after one particularly heated argument between Vicky and Mom, after which my half-sister stormed out of the townhouse, Mom told me, “I’m not leaving my Limoge china to her. Please make a note of that and enclose it in the will.” I didn’t think that was possible at this late stage; Mom’s mental condition was deteriorating, and with no one else present to hear what she had said, I felt that I’d be skating on thin ice – legally speaking – If I amended the will myself without a notary public and two witnesses present. So I refused.
“Look, Mami. Vicky is going to go ballistic when she sees that you had a new will drawn up before your back operation in 2010. She already lost the house and whatever else she had been promised. It would be best to let her have her precious china set.”