Chapter 60: “Summer of Blood”
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To navigate parenthood is tantamount to a guy on a high wire, balancing only upon the small area in which disaster is preventable while any other step can drastically alter your life. My parents knew how to walk that line during my treatment (and for the most part during our younger years). See, as a child, the influence of adults is the word of God. Sure some denounce God’s name and go against his will. Likewise, it’s a fine line between helping shape a child’s passions and squashing them without realization. It’s a certain path on which we must venture to be our best selves.
When my brother and I were in foster care, we were encouraged to join the weekly Karate class in Fort Kent. Our foster mother, Lori, got us the proper wear (a Karate gi and a white belt) and we attended diligently every class.
The process was physically demanding, but I was a fan of the exercise and assuredly the discipline was helping Travis and me in the long run. I’d venture a guess that we were pushed to attend in an effort to channel our anger towards each other or to cope with the divorce of (and subsequent removal from) our parents, but I was willing to partake in the activity because I saw the potential within.
The Karate instructor was insistent that we did not share what we learned during our group sessions because it was part of the Karate code– or something to that effect. It was likely to quell the dissemination of free lessons from unlicensed teachers (read: us kids). I took that oath to heart and vowed never to disclose a Karate move to anyone out of respect for the Martial Arts and my instructor.
During the following Christmas holiday, I had noticed that my energy levels were up and my excitement for the Martial Arts had grown exponentially. A recent “move” that was shown to us– actually one we performed on a regular basis as part of the warm-up routine – was a flip onto our feet from a kneeling position.
I had attempted this every class from the beginning and for a time was unable to complete it, but by the holiday I found that I was finally able to accomplish the agile maneuver. I was blown away at my newfound agility and had wanted to show my immediate family that we were progressing– nay, that we were actually adhering to a form of discipline.
So in front of the family, I hopped onto my feet to an encouraging applause. The celebration was – to me – a sign that I had support and was finally on the path to a healthy lifestyle.
Well, that was, until word got out that I had “performed” a “Karate move” to others. Soon after, I was banned from the Dojo and my brother quit at the same time (it was all or nothing it seemed). The prospects of a healthy way of life and potentially losing all of my excess fat went out the door with my crushed heart.
So yeah, I couldn’t help but feel upset at the Instructor, because who knows what I would be doing at this moment in time? I could have been traveling to a competition right about now! Maybe my body would have prevented cancer from ever metastasizing! We’ll never know.
I was glad that no one had discouraged me from my other, loftier and seemingly unattainable goal of making movies, otherwise, my life could have taken yet another turn. Hell, I didn’t even need someone encouraging me to make films, only adults to leave me to my own devices.
And in this case, these devices were literal ones: video cameras and props.
There were several benefits of living with my Mom at the old family house. One, I was pretty much free to do what I wanted; Two, The area was quiet and close to plenty of foliage; and Three, I could go into said woods and film whatever my heart desired.
In junior year, I decided that I wanted to make movies, but up until this day, aside from the “Drug Raid” video, I hadn’t made a single one. Sure, I had filmed scores of random clips documenting my past year and a few recreations of sketches from Saturday Night Live and In Living Color (the Butabi brothers from the “A Night at the Roxbury” and the “Background Guy” respectively) but nothing that had any substance in the world of filmmaking.
My friends and I discovered this open field behind my Mom’s house in the “Cuss You Sohns” (roughly translated to “Back Woods”) and I knew that my time was now. I decided we should do something constructive for a change.
There were these few periods of unparalleled productivity with our videos at the rented house where we would film multiple classic clips that felt like distant events and it seemed as though we were about due for another. During the weekend, we banged out three short films. We assembled our material and made our own squibs out of Press N Seal and string, complete with our own corn syrup-based fake blood.
Our friend, Brent, helmed the camera for the first shoot Saturday afternoon. In this short, I play a man lost in the woods, desperately trying to find my home as a man hunts me down. See the original “edit” below.
Yikes, this is bad.
Next, I took over camera duties and we shot a short film where Shawn and Travis switch places (and clothes) in the dark woods in Maine. There was a cool bush that looked like a portal so we decided to use it for this idea. Below, is another original “edit.”
And finally, on Sunday, we shot our bloodiest short film yet. Shawn and I switched off shooting this one. I played Jason Voorhees (clearly jealous of Trav’s Halloween adventures as the slasher supreme) and we shot a small horror scene featuring Travis and Jason’s deaths. I couldn’t find the original edit, so here’s a new cut of the short I just made:
So, in hindsight, these shorts weren’t that great. We didn’t write any script or prepare any shots, but we went out and had an amazing time. We took some “crew” photos and went home to wash off the sugary blood.
I went into the bathroom to wash my face. I assumed that the gray shirt was stained forever as I fingered the newly made hole we cut for the stick. I peeled my clothes off and got in the shower. My eyes caught the genuine grin in the shower’s mirror and it was then that I truly knew this was the correct path for me. I needed to make films and I wasn’t going to let anyone stand in my way. Little did I know, that the man staring back at me was ready to prove me wrong.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.