8/13/97 - Wednesday

An online journal. What's the point, why am I doing this? I'm not sure. It's an idea that keeps cropping up in the back of my mind and I've finally decided to "Cry havoc and loose the dogs of war" as it were. But where to start? At the beginning's always good, but I don't think you -- or I -- have the stomach to read 34 years worth of my life. So if you don't mind I'll just meander about until I find my way.

Who I am: I'm a 34-year old aspiring screenwriter, married, with a 17 month-old daughter. I live in Van Nuys, California, just around the corner from where I got my first parking ticket and just around the other corner from the DMV office where I got my drivers license. (Since Southern California is the car obsession capital of the world, I guess it's only appropriate that I use driving-related landmarks.) I've written one feature that was once graced with a six-month option for the princely sum of $10, and I'm now focusing on writing sitcoms. My sitcom specs got me an agent and a few meetings, but so far no job offers. I'm the King of Procrastination, not an enviable trait for a man who wants to work in a business that requires you to write under the gun every day. That's part of the reason for this exercise -- I'm hoping that writing this journal will help train me to put my ass in the chair and words on the screen on a daily basis.

So now, on to what may become a regular feature: What's on my mind today? Two things: my agent and a story I read in the newspaper yesterday.

First, my agent. He's not returning my calls. Not a good sign. Also not a good sign is the submission record his assistant faxed me last week which shows that he's only sent out two of my scripts in the last two months -- and he didn't really do either of those. The last submission was prompted by me: "X wants to see my Spin City," while the other was sent out by another agent at the agency. I signed with him in April and he started out going great guns for me: 8 submissions in April and 14 in May. Then one submission in June, none in July, and one so far in August. Of all those submissions I know of only five that got responses, and three of those were from people who responded because they know me. The other two responses led to meetings, neither of which led to a job. As for the rest of them, I have no idea if they responded or if he followed up on them; the submission record doesn't reflect that information -- and he's not calling me back. I'm worried, and watching my mail nervously for sign of a certified letter stating that he's dropping me. I'm not looking forward to looking for a new agent, although it might not be a bad idea considering this one's "performance" thus far.

Secondly, the news story. Fresno was reeling from a heat wave last week. It got up to 106 degrees and killed two babies. Actually, their mother killed them. On Wednesday she locked her two little girls -- 20 months and 6 months -- in the apartment, closed all the windows and turned off the air-conditioner, and took off to look for drugs. For four days. Police found the children Sunday night. The night-time temperature in the apartment was 96 degrees. The children had been dead for about two days.

The 6 month old was found face-up in her crib, which was butted up against a window with the blinds half open. The coroner said he didn't want to speculate on how hot that crib got the day when the temperature hit 106. I don't blame him -- to do so is too painful. The word someone used to describe the baby's condition? "Cooked." That's a horrific thing, but it's what happened to the 20 month old that I can't get my mind around. This child was found wedged halfway under a bed. Police speculate that she crawled under the bed to try to get someplace cool. I speculate that she did that...and got stuck. In my mind, this child was in agony: thirsty, hot, scared, lonely -- and then in terror when she crawled under that bed and found she couldn't move. Nobody should die like that, especially a child.

Think that's bad? There's more. Next to the crib they found a loaf of bread, the only food item that was left out in the clean, well-kept apartment. Police speculate that the older child pulled the bread down off the kitchen counter and was trying to feed her sister or herself...but couldn't figure out how to unwrap the plastic. Those children were alone, thirsty, hungry, miserable and scared for at least two days before they died. A security guard at the apartment complex reported that he heard children crying in the apartment. He didn't investigate. You can't really blame him for that because babies cry all the time. But if he had...

I read this in the paper yesterday morning. Last night, I couldn't get it out of my head. I lay in bed picturing what happened to the older child. I pictured her wandering around the apartment, panting in the heat, crying for her mother, scared because Mom wasn't coming to her cries or her sister's cries. I pictured her delirious with the heat and crawling under the bed, searching desperately for relief, and getting stuck. I pictured her crawling under MY bed -- right under me -- and getting stuck. I pictured my own little girl, Zoe, who is only 3 months younger that this little girl was, crawling under my bed and getting stuck. In all that heat. Alone. Scared. Dying. I couldn't sleep. No way.

I got up and went into Zoe's room. I stood there for a long time, watching her breathe and thinking about the little girls in Fresno. The air-conditioner was on, Zoe's bottle was beside her, her parents were home. I kissed her cheek, touched her hair, and went back to bed.

When I finally dropped off I didn't sleep well.