CO-HABIT WEB SERIE PROJECT

It’s been almost a year since I released my web series Baby Time! What have I been doing all that time? Mostly I wrote a bunch, including a new sitcom spec for BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, a couple of re-writes of the outline for my feature film POLKA, a new draft of a TV pilot BLACKOUT (written with 3 other talented writers), and… New Project Announcement!

… a new web series based on my #CrainStreet tweets.

The #CrainStreet tweets are just snippets of moments I have to endure when visiting my parents.

It’s called Co-Habit. Probably. It was Cohabitation. Then it was Co-Habituate, which is my personal favorite, because it mixes the idea of cohabitation with the complications that come when two people agree to live together and therefore build habits together. But, I fear that the title is hard to say and thus complicates spreading the word about it.

CO-HABIT A comedy about the absurdity of cohabitation. Karen and Craig endure boredom, mindless habits, and domestic bliss. Commentary provided by their observant dog Dainty.

Dainty_BR_Front dullmoment
Dainty_BR_Front dullmoment

So, now I’m assembling my directing notes. Here’s a summary of my thematic analysis:

The series will take a satirical look at the intimacy of living with someone, focusing on the following themes and ideas:

  • annoying and mindless habits and patterns
  • numbness that develops over time due to these patterns
  • regressive behavior (acting out like a child) with our partners

Conclusion: Ultimately, I believe that part of the reason we gravitate towards the patterns and the numbness is to keep ourselves safe from regression and the unpredictable traumatic conflicts that we risk when we engage emotionally.

So, in other words, I’ll have plenty to mock.

Here’s an example of the kind of mindless exchange I endure when I visit my parents, and so I have expanded on it in the series:

CRAIG I still can’t believe that the fridge repair guy called first.

KAREN I know. It was about 1:30. I remember because I had just talked to my sister. The phone rang. And it was him. Next thing I know, he’s ringing the doorbell.

CRAIG Fast huh.

KAREN Yep. He called. Next thing I know, he’s ringing the doorbell.

CRAIG He must have called from his car.

KAREN I bet. Unless his office is nearby.

CRAIG I think he has an office nearby. He could’ve called and gotten over her quickly.

KAREN It was real quick. He called. Then he rang the doorbell. It couldn’t have been more than a minute or two later.

THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH

1344713366975_2498279 Can’t get enough family “together” time over the holidays? Try taking a vacation with your family. Maybe go to Disney World. Although, I can only assume you went to Disney World the week after Christmas like us, since it seemed like every family that ever existed was there.

My family of origin has never taken a Christmas Vacation. We thought it would be perfect to go right after Christmas, because we would have the dogs with us in Chicago, and there would be plenty of people in the area to care for the dogs. However, Sensation’s newest issues with Leukemia, plus the fact that he was due for a seizure made choosing a pet sitter complicated. In the end, we didn’t feel right putting that sort of pressure and responsibility on certain friends and family members, and the others, well, the others we just plain didn’t trust. We’ll let you decide in what category you think you belong.

So, we placed our dogs under the care of the Morton Grove Animal Hospital. We were very hesitant to board them because of a nightmare experience when we went with my family to Hawaii in 2008. The boarding facility we always used had new owners, and from what I can tell, they had no instincts for working with special needs dogs. I won’t go into all the details, but at one point, they were convinced that my sleeping dog was dead. Clearly, they didn’t realize that Sensation is immortal. Ultimately, we made the right choice this time, as they came back chipper and smelling clean, free of any signs of trauma. So, either the staff did a great job, or they brainwashed the dogs to think they had a great experience.

If you’ve never gone on a vacation with your family, then I can tell you right now the instant benefits of such an adventure: - You all know each other really well. So, you can really get under each others’ skin when necessary. Also, when it’s not necessary. - At the same time, you really don’t know each other at all any more. So, it’s a friendly surprise when you discover everyone wants to do something different. It’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy some soothing regression. - Every moment is an opportunity to see the humanity of your family members - especially, how everyone must eventually go to the bathroom. Just not at the same time. If you can wait until five minutes after the last person went before announcing your need to stop, then you can memorize all the bathroom locations of all Disney parks. I’ll be writing a travel book. - You are your own crowd, so you have the bonus challenge of moving your crowd through the larger crowd. A real character-builder.

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The most important aspect of the trip was giving my parents the experience of spending time with their family again, just like when we were kids. Togetherness. It never gets old. And by never, I mean day 5. But, it’s an acceptable side effect of enmeshment. If you can take your family for who they are, and not expect them to change to fit your needs – well then frankly, I don’t think you’re a family. Seriously, it’s the dynamic of regression that I look forward to enjoying every trip home.

But, if I take a healthy view on the vacation, then success is available with the right perspective. For example, if I expected this trip to be a romantic getaway with my wife, then it would’ve been a total failure. If I expected this trip to be a non-stop adventure of spills and thrills that you might expect from a world-class theme park, then it similarly would’ve been a total failure. And finally, if I expected this trip to be a quiet, relaxing escape into luxurious decompression from the hustle and bustle of a crazy work schedule, then yes, you guessed it – it would’ve been an epic failure. Except for that 2 hours at the spa. That was sublime. However, the 2-hour (5 mile) shuttle ride back from the spa successfully decompressed the decompression. I’m not complaining. I’m just saying that if I had taken the trip with any of these expectations, then I would be complaining. But, I’m not.

It never was supposed to be any of those kinds of vacations. This trip was always intended to be a mix of family together time. And in those respects, it was a total success. I’m thankful that I get along with my family, and that we can make each other laugh – even if it’s at the expense of one another. This is the kind of life my parents had always dreamed about when they grew up diving under the bed to avoid the physical punishment acceptable at the time, or slaving over a stove instead of having fun with friends. They improved on the family dynamics they faced growing up. For example, they never got to go on a vacation as an adult with their parents, unless you count that wedding in Wisconsin (which by the way included some mad crazy polka dancing, so I guess it wasn’t that bad).

Of course, we all had our low moments on the trip – like the fight over whether my brother should go back to ride the Pirates of the Caribbean after hours on his own, or when I chose to make a joke to my sister-in-law instead of helping her off the ground, which led to a fall and infected finger. Believe me, I am sorry for this lack of judgment, but sometimes comedy wins over good judgment. Actually, comedy always wins over good judgment.

On the other hand, everyone had at least one moment of getting what they wanted. My moment was the rock n roll roller coaster. That ride does not screw around. It starts fast and never slows down until the very end. Add some music in the headrest, and it’s a no-brainer win-win. I’m not a huge Aerosmith fan, but it works in darkness at 50 mph. I also enjoyed the ice cream. Bonus.

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And my mom got what she wanted – one final trip with the family to Disney World. A trip that won’t ever happen again. In fact, that was her mantra for the last few days: “this is the last time – this is it – we’ll never do this again, you know – enjoy it, because this is the last time.” What’s that about?

SENSATIONAL

My dog Sensation came with a warning label. “Caution: Not Your Typical Companion Dog” All our chow friends cautioned us from adopting him. He has some special needs, and they knew it would be a lot more work than we could imagine. Specifically, Sensation is epileptic. We didn’t care. Maybe we could get special license plates. Now, I know what you’re thinking – what are “chow friends?” For several years, we were loyal members of the Golden State Chow Chow Club. We attended dog shows, organized our own dog shows, and even showed our dog Goldie in the Veteran category, which I don’t recommend. Goldie is not a fan of being shown. She just wants to enjoy her quiet life ever since she retired from the ring.

So, all our chow club friends knew Sensation well. In fact, Jackie and I had our eye on him ever since we met him as a puppy. My wife boasts that he could walk on two legs like a human. This description is a bet deceptive. He didn’t walk around on two legs in an open yard, carrying a beverage in one paw, and greeting guests with the other. Instead, he would jump up and use the fence to keep him up at our height for extended periods of time, excited to suck our scent through his nostrils with a vengeance. So, when we heard his owner had passed away (sadly by her own choosing), we jumped on our collective two legs to pick him up and bring him home.

Despite his gorgeous muzzle, and his disarmingly gentle personality, he has challenged me over the years. Seizures come every several weeks without fail, and they require a lot of attention. After a 14-hour workday, a 2 am seizure can tip me over the edge of insanity. I realize it’s horrible, but I have fantasized in those moments about letting him run into traffic. Then I sit myself down and give myself a sobering pep talk, until my smoker neighbor taps me on the shoulder to point out that I’m self-conversing out loud.

Honestly, the insanity doesn’t come very often any more, as I’ve eased into the unpredictability of his brain schedule. He is my master on those nights. Who am I kidding – he’s always been my master. But, the more I can surrender, the quicker cluster-week seems to end. It’s a good lesson in letting go (but not the leash!) His seizures don’t really bother me any more. I admire his determination. The odds were against him, but he has managed to live long beyond what might be expected for a dog with his condition. He just refuses to die.

Now that we seem to have his seizure schedule down to a controlled pattern, he enjoys a blissful existence 6 weeks in between every cluster of seizures. It’s difficult to imagine that anything else could befall him with his to live a long life. And yet, our vet discovered some lumps a few weeks ago, and immediately concluded it was lymphoma.

They conducted many tests, but the tests mostly resulted in guessing because the lumps turned out to be filled with fluid, not a cancerous tumor. Just to be safe, we met with an oncologist, who confirmed it was indeed cancer. Then, he ran his own tests, again surprised to find the lumps filled with fluid. The biopsy came back INCONCLUSIVE. At this point, I was starting to wonder why everyone is so convinced he must have cancer, especially when nobody could explain the liquid. So, the oncologist sent off a sample to a special lab. The lab finally confirmed last Friday that he does have cancer. But, it’s the GOOD kind of cancer.

The cells are indolent, which means the cancer grows very slow. And the chemotherapy has a proven track record with dogs for a high survival rate. Once the cancer is treated, it doesn’t grow back for years. So, Sensation (now 12) will most likely live the rest of his life before cancer becomes an issue again.

So, the treatment has begun. I give him the medicine that will save his life every 48 hours. As with all chemotherapy, it’s poison. Yay! I really enjoy giving my dog poison. I must wear gloves so that I don’t get any poison on myself. But, I guess having my dog ingest it should be no problem, though. I quickly get over the contradiction because the science is solid. So far - so good. He hasn’t had any negative reactions to the drug, and he still has an appetite.

Once again, the dog that was guaranteed to live a short difficult life has defied his odds. I personally think it’s his positive outlook on life.