Archive for 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013, OR coming home again

NKOTB cruise 2013, OR coming home again
Posted by Jessica Jewett 23 Comments »

NKOTB cruise 2013Being on the NKOTB cruise this year was not supposed to be in the cards for me. I certainly didn’t have the money, but the bigger reason was that my health has really deteriorated since last fall.

Let me give you some back story first. A lot of people will read this blog who don’t know me and it’s important to understand why this cruise was a major turning point in my year. I have a congenital disability known as Arthrogryposis, which means I’m completely dependent on a wheelchair. This past December, January, and February, I was repeatedly knocked down by bronchitis, strep throat, and the severe strain of flu that was killing people. My immune system has been compromised for many years, so relatively simple illnesses like bronchitis or strep throat can turn fatal for me if I’m not careful. In January, my family had to call 911 and I was hospitalized because the pile of illnesses was suppressing my respiratory system. It took about six weeks to recover.

Being so ill for so long aggravated my anxiety disorder as well. The lack of control over my life and being completely dependent on other people for survival, as well as trauma from sexual, physical, and mental abuse at different times in my life have made me extremely prone to panic attacks for about fifteen or twenty years. Generally, I have a handle on it. The last six months have been extremely hard on me, though, and I relapsed into the worst of my depression and anxiety before I sought treatment. It was getting to the point around my birthday (February) where I was honestly questioning why I was alive at all, not that I told anyone.

One day this winter, my friend, Wendy, texted my other friend, Sissy, and me to tell us that we were all going on the cruise together. I was stunned and thought it was too much, but I also knew Wendy was not going to take no for an answer. To be truthful, I had a hard time finding motivation to even get excited about it because I was just so worn down by my health. There were times when I had to give myself pep talks like, “You haven’t seen Jon since 2011. If you don’t go, he will forget you. You don’t know when you’ll get another chance to see him. He always makes you feel better. Come on, get it together for him.” Get it together for Jon became my mantra in the six weeks before the cruise. Aside from my friends, he was my motivation.

NKOTB cruise 2013I got into Miami with Wendy the day before we were to board the ship, and Sissy arrived later that night. Getting in with time to spare gave me a chance to spend the day with my brother and his girlfriend, who also live in south Florida, since I hadn’t seen them in a few years. Being out and doing things in the hot Florida sun was a bit tough for me after spending months at home convalescing, but I pushed myself to do it because I knew it was for my own good. I needed to be around people who loved me. My brother took us out to lunch and dinner. He took me to Walmart to buy the things I needed. That’s how he is – he almost takes on a fatherly role with me sometimes because he doesn’t trust other people to properly take care of me.

The next day when we boarded the ship, we found that we were technically put into a wheelchair accessible cabin but the cabin was so badly designed that I couldn’t get anywhere. You open the door and you were faced with the bed and television only inches apart, so you couldn’t pull a wheelchair into the room enough to even close the door. Then the bathroom door wouldn’t open more than a few feet because it banged the end of the bed. So I couldn’t even get into my own bathroom. Wendy took charge and rearranged the cabin herself so I could at least get inside, but there wasn’t enough room for a third bed because of how badly the cabin was designed, and Sissy had to fold and unfold her bed on the floor whenever she wanted to sleep. Rose Tours was wonderful this year with disabled passengers and I have absolutely no complaints about them, but Carnival is progressively becoming worse and worse each time I cruise with them. Even the quality of Carnival’s food is on the decline. The ship smelled moldy, my mattress was slumped way down in the middle, and there were little bitty ants in my shower.

Luckily, NKOTB cruisers don’t spend a lot of time in their cabins! I was not willing to let a shoddy cabin ruin my cruise!

The first afternoon of the cruise was tough for me because crowds are one of my panic triggers. When you are as small as I am and you’ve had a leg broken before because of fangirls trampling you to get to Jordan Knight (true story), crowds will make you uneasy. Everybody usually mobs the buffet before the sail away party and we had to feed the pregnant lady (Sissy), so I ended up in a confined, crowded dining room. Something in my brain went, “You have no way out. There is no escape away from these strangers and this ship.” Boom. Instant panic attack at the lunch table. There’s very little logic with anxiety disorders and I knew I was going to struggle more this time than my last cruise in 2011, but I was still very disappointed in myself for not controlling it better.

NKOTB cruise 2013I figured out fairly quickly that being outside on the lido deck was easier for me to tolerate. I didn’t feel so confined and trapped as I did inside the ship, so my best times on this cruise were when I could be outside enjoying the guys, the weather, and the music. They put the disabled section next to the stage in a place where we would be guarded by security but we could still participate in everything the guys did with the cruisers. This setup was the best of all cruises. On the first cruise, disabled passengers had absolutely no safe place to go, so I’m giving Rose Tours a lot of love for listening to us about what we need to be safe and included.

My first encounters with the guys happened at the sail away party as we were leaving port. They came out on the upper deck like usual and then they came out on a stage built over the elevated pool. Donnie spotted me first and made a dash off the stage to hand out kisses, hugs, and pictures to everyone in the disabled section. For a man who has to make himself available to as many people as possible, he really does try to remember everyone and love them even when he’s exhausted. He deserves a lot of credit for that. Somebody got video when Donnie greeted me at this party. I think I come in about halfway through the clip. I’m a brunette with glasses and I’m wearing a turquoise and white striped halter top. You’ll see him stop in the row in front of me. What he did was pull down his sunglasses and wink at me before hugging another lady. Then when he got to me, he kissed me, asked how I was doing, cupped my face in his hands, etc. The lady filming it pulled her camera away before we were done but he told me he loves me, he misses me, etc. I do love this man very much.

NKOTB cruise 2013Sissy got this picture of us that floated around the internet before I even got home. I saw some people speaking of me in disbelief or even disdain because the angle makes it look like Donnie’s trying to kiss me on the mouth but I turned away, as if everyone is obligated to kiss him on the mouth if he wants it.

I would like to be clear that Donnie has never kissed me in an inappropriate manner. Donnie has excellent intuition and he knows which women want to flirt and which women do not. I’m personally very old-fashioned and I never kiss men with whom I’m not in a relationship – even the mighty Donnie Wahlberg. It took me two or three years of knowing Jon to even want to kiss him, not that he would, but it just takes me a while to get there with anyone. (Hint, hint, Jon.) My friends are well aware of my “Victorian sensibilities” as they call it, so it never occurs to them that outsiders might react weirdly about it.

Donnie has always treated me tenderly with respect like a true lady, and when we kiss, it’s on the cheek or the forehead. I’ve never had to ask him to respect my personal boundaries. He just knows on an intuitive level. So no, I didn’t reject the mighty Berg like the rumors say. I’ve never had to reject him because he makes me feel absolutely loved, secure, respected, and necessary. We kissed cheeks in this picture as you can see in the video too. No rejection. Just love.

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013Joe came through my section a little while after Donnie did. I have an interesting relationship with him even though we haven’t interacted quite as much as Jon or Donnie. He’s been trying to get my attention for years, although I don’t quite know why he’s so interested in me, and I feel bad because he’s called me out on paying more attention to Jon than him. A few years ago, Jon and I were talking and I didn’t realize Joe was standing right there waiting for an opening until he piped out, “Hey, I know you love Jon but can’t I at least say hi?!” He has said before that he tries to sing to me on stage too but I never seem to see him doing it. I always feel bad because missing Joe seems to be a repetitive thing I do without realizing it.

So this time, Joe was simply not going to be ignored. He worked hard to hold my attention, beginning here with the sail away party. We talked a little bit, kissed cheeks, had a cuddle, and as he was moving on to the next person, I said something like, “I don’t think Jon knows I’m cruising, so could you let him know?” He nodded and said he would but I couldn’t see all of his face. Sissy said it looked like I crushed his little heart by asking for Jon. In my defense, it was an impulse after I gave him lots of attention and he was on his way out. I didn’t mean to make his little face fall. I do love Joe!

Sigh. One day I will understand Joe’s needs and get better at meeting them. He wasn’t done with me yet though, as I found out at my concert a few nights later.

NKOTB cruise 2013

It wasn’t long after that when Jon hopped down from the stage to give hugs and pictures with the disabled section too. I thought he had seen me earlier because he looked right over me. I thought he was at least vaguely aware of my presence. Not so. He had no idea. The man has such serious tunnel vision that he was in the row in front of me – we’re talking like five feet away – when he looked up at me and realized I was there. I wish I had a picture of his reaction because it was hilarious. His jaw hit the deck and his eyes got huge, and then he hopped up and down like an excited toddler. The closest thing I have his his reaction to Sissy next to me, which was after he plowed over a bunch of fans to maul me with cuddles (I’m sorry to the people he plowed over but he tends to have a very one track mind when he wants something).

NKOTB cruise 2013

I really didn’t even have time to say hello because he came at me so fast. He mauled me with this full-on starfish hug like we hadn’t seen each other in years, and then I remembered it has been a long time. He mentally added up how long it had been since we last saw each other. He kept caressing my face, my arms, and cupping my cheeks in his hands while we were talking. Honestly, his eyes looked rather emotional and he didn’t say much at first. He was just touching me a lot like I can’t believe you’re here. Then he’d wander off to socialize with other fans and he’d bounce back to me to tell me about this or that fan. Honestly, I didn’t expect him to have such a big reaction. I thought he’d be like oh cool you’re here too, because, you know, who am I really? Nobody of importance. There was no denying how happy he was to see me though, and he was rather excited to see Sissy and interrogate her about her pregnancy.

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

This is probably one of the best moments of my life. The unexpected moments usually are. I will never forget his face when he saw me. I felt like I really did matter to him for the last five years that we’ve known each other. It’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle where NKOTB is concerned because everyone wants their attention. It has been such a long time since I saw them last that I didn’t really think they would care or remember me. They all seemed thrilled that I was there though, and given my problems this year, I really needed that healing experience of being loved without demands or expectations. I felt wanted in their lives that day. It gave me courage to keep pushing forward with my life because people really would miss me if I wasn’t here anymore.

That night was the game show. I have to say how respectful, again, Rose Tours employees are with making sure the disabled passengers are seated in good places. I had second row on the right side in the theater with Sissy and Wendy, which was amazing. We kind of made friends with the sign language interpreters and I’m pretty sure Donnie had a crush on the blonde one! Game show night is always one of my favorite nights because I laugh until my face wants to fall apart. Jon was a little inebriated, so his mouth just had no filter. Very few people can make me laugh as much as these guys do.

I think the next day was Half Moon Cay if I remember right. Sissy being pregnant and me being in not-so-great health, we decided to go to bed early rather than go to the retro red carpet party. My body just can’t tolerate partying all night long and then going to the beach all day the next day. I was in the blue group, so we were the first people with the silver group that had to catch the tender out to the beach that morning, so sleep was important.

This is what beach day looked like.

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

There were games on the beach hosted by NKOTB. I think they had fans run an obstacle course a few times and Donnie was out in the ocean with a microphone, which scared Joe a lot. He was convinced Donnie was going to either ruin the microphone or electrocute himself out there while he was schmoozing with fans. Then they played tug-of-war with fans. The only level part of the beach was right in front of me, so Victor (the bodyguard) sort of threw himself between Donnie and me because if his side lost, he was going to be flung directly into my lap. So this was my view for that game.

NKOTB cruise 2013

I love looking at the ocean even though getting me into it is a bit like trying to get a cat into a bathtub (I’m not above clawing people either). Beach day was tough for me because I had another panic attack. The choice for wheelchairs was to either sit on the pirate ship or under a tent on the beach, so I opted for the tent because the breeze was better there. I had a front row seat for the games led by the guys, and that was awesome, but I overheated. Sitting in a wheelchair is a bit like wearing a coat when it’s 90 degrees. It’s no cake walk. Sometimes panic attacks are not triggered by fear but biological reactions. When I overheated, I got dizzy, and I sort of freaked out because I thought something was really wrong. Blah, blah, blah, I had a panic attack that went on for a half hour and I guess the guys could tell something was going on because Sissy said Joe and Jon in particular were looking in the tent trying to figure out what was happening without being obvious.

I felt guilty. I didn’t want to be in the way or irritate other people around me on their beach day. I still feel guilty about how much care I need just to survive a day and I struggle with feeling my worth as a person with value to those in my life.

When I was feeling better, I saw that Donnie came trudging across the beach right at me and his face was rather grave. It kind of scared me because he looked worried and I’m not used to people being worried like that except my closest friends. He discreetly asked me how I was or if I was okay (I don’t remember the wording – panic attacks affect my memory) and I knew I had to tell the truth. I tried to make light of it and said I overheated and had a panic attack. His reaction was to immediately hold his cold drink to my face. He rubbed the drink up my cheek and across my forehead, and then I felt him smoothing back my hair. I thanked him but I still felt guilty for showing that I’m not as strong and healthy as everybody else. He told his security to go get Jon for me, which they obeyed right away, and I was grateful for that because I needed to get back to the ship and rest in silence.

Jon came along a few minutes later and he simply sat down next to me for a while without really talking. He was simply a calm presence there with me, which helped a lot, although I again tried to play off my panic attack as nothing. I know he was exhausted and I was grateful that I didn’t really need to try and be witty in conversation, although we did talk about the games and stuff that day.

There were pictures of Donnie and me, and Jon and me from beach day but I don’t have them yet. I’ll update the blog when I get them.

That night was pajama and movie night on the lido deck. After a long nap, Sissy, Wendy, and I went out there to watch everything. We were late for the cruise DVD but luckily we all got copies, so I can watch it later when I have time. The deck parties are pretty well documented by now. I don’t need to go into a lot of detail about them but I’ll post a few pictures from pajama night.

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

The day we docked at Nassau was easy. We decided not to go ashore because, really, if you’ve seen Nassau once, you’ve seen it all for every visit after the fact. Not having scheduled events for most of the day meant that we had freedom to roam the ship, go to the pool, etc. We went up to a certain deck to see Codie and Abbie at their cabins. They weren’t there but we ran into Jon’s and Jordan’s sisters instead, so we talked for a while. Jon was still sleeping and we had a giggle about him wanting to be up by a certain time but he probably wouldn’t make it (he was really exhausted).

At lunch in the buffet dining room later on, Jon happened to show up in the food line. I was eating at a table with Sissy and Wendy. He saw me across the room and his face lit up as he waved at me. I smiled back and returned to my food thinking he was just passing through. Not so! He dragged his security across the dining room and came over to talk to us for a few minutes.

I got to spend some wonderful relaxed time with my friends and they talked me into getting in the pool again. I’m afraid of water because I can’t swim but on the 2011 cruise, I did get in the pool. Donnie happened to walk by at that point and he was completely shocked to see me in the water, so he hung out for a little while. He told Jon all about it later, and that night he told me how proud he was that I did it. So this year, Jon pointed at the pool at the sail away party and asked if I was going swimming again. Getting in the pool on NKOTB cruises has become a bit of a tradition for me, I suppose.

This time, it was Abbie, Wendy, Codie, Sissy, and a new friend, Amy, who were all there and promised nothing bad would happen. Amy just happened to be at the pool and I don’t think I knew her before, but she volunteered to help out. Presto – a new friend. Why? NKOTB fans do actually help each other despite the craziness sometimes. As it turns out, Amy lives in Savannah and I live in Atlanta, so we will see each other again at the Atlanta show.

Check it out, y’all. As Codie said, we were mermaids for the afternoon.

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

NKOTB cruise 2013

That night was my group’s concert (group B). I think I was probably more excited about the concert than anything else because there was a good shot I’d get to hear Jon sing one or both of his solos. Singing solo is incredibly difficult for him though, as we all know, and I hoped that he would see a calm familiar face like mine in the crowd and feel safer about doing it. Everybody’s anxiety is different, but I tend to do better if the people around me are calm and supportive. Sometimes I wonder if people going nuts the minute he opens his mouth makes it harder for him, so I made an effort not to yell until after he did his parts.

Jon’s solos were early in the show. I could tell when he was going to have to sing because he has very physical reactions to his anxiety. He pushed his way through it like a champ though and he sounded wonderful. I suspect he sounded better than he thinks of himself. We made eye contact during his solos from what I could tell (he was on the other side of the stage so I’m not 100% sure) but I sang with him and tried to nod at him as if to say, “You’re doing great. Keep going.” I want to be of help to him because I have some idea of what he goes through. As much as he pushes me by example to work through my anxieties, I try to return the favor for him, although I’m not sure that I’m any inspiration to him. I’m just some woman in Atlanta. I care about him a lot though. In my heart, I like to believe I can help him push through it and sing, because he really does have a beautiful voice. He carried off We Own Tonight beautifully and although Survive You clearly scared him more, he got most of it out, if not all of it, and we gave him a standing ovation. He also belted out step five. I never heard him sing so much and I was never so proud of him.

NKOTB cruise 2013

Remember when I said earlier that Joe wasn’t going to be ignored anymore?


So we’re having a good time at the show and everybody is singing along, dancing, etc. They get to Single and toward the bridge, I think, I see Joe moving toward me on the stage. Inside, I was thinking, “Oh Lord, here we go…” and before I know it, he’s standing in front of me on stage singing his part to me. I thought it was nice. I mean, what lady doesn’t want to be serenaded? Suddenly, Joe leaped off the stage and bounced off the couch right in front of me. Wendy yelled, “Oh shit!” because she was sure the ship was going to lurch and Joe was going to fall on me or pregnant Sissy. He leaned over the couch, got right in my face, and sang to me while caressing my cheek. I remember smiling but I think I was in shock because I was aware of a spotlight on us and I knew the whole theater was looking at me. I made a conscious effort to keep Joe’s eyes because if I became too aware of being stared at, I would have frozen.

In another instant, he gazelle leaped over Wendy and went a few rows back to serenade another lady. I gave Jon a guilty smile as soon as Joe was gone because I realized Jon watched the whole thing like a hawk. His reaction? He looked at me with a little smirk and wagged his finger at me like, “No you didn’t just mess with another man!” I wish that was caught on video because we busted out laughing, but most of Joe singing to me is in this video.

Yeah. I think Joe is pretty awesome. Something has changed in him since the last time we saw each other. He used to be full of bravado and comedy, but he seems much more attentive, compassionate, and gentle now. Don’t get me wrong – the bravado and comedy is still there – but I feel something shifted in his energy since we last saw each other. I don’t know Joe very well, so I don’t want to speculate about why he has changed, but he’s behaving toward me with much of the tenderness Donnie gives me and I like it. Joe almost never walked by me on the ship without stopping for a cuddle or touching me somehow with a sweet smile.

I don’t know who did it, but after the show was over, we were waiting for the theater to clear out and somebody appeared with the set list that was taped to the stage floor behind the guys. I think that’s where it was anyway. The person gave it to me! So now I have the set list that was used for the shows on the cruise. I think I ought to frame it or something! I thought it was bad luck or just not done to give away set lists, so I was pretty shocked that I ended up with it.

NKOTB cruise 2013

The last day was the photo op, which I don’t have yet. As soon as I came in the room, Joe looked at Jon and said something like, “And that’s the one I serenaded last night.” Does Joe not know my name?! So I wore my hair down for the first time the entire cruise and Donnie had a fixation with it (my hair is very long). After the photos, security was trying to kick us out but Jon wanted a kiss and Donnie’s hands were in my hair. I thought it was Jordan at first until I heard Donnie cooing about how soft and beautiful it was. It was either obey security and leave with Donnie’s hands in my hair or wait until he was done. I’m sure the pictures look funny because we were all exhausted and laughing too.

All in all, my cruise experience was amazing. I think it was my best yet, even though I didn’t have the correct pain pills (I forgot them) and even though my anxiety was a struggle this time. I did my best to be friendly and cheerful for everyone. It’s hard for me sometimes though and I have been accused of being cold and aloof more than once. I never intend to come across that way.

Miami is a clusterfuck of evil though. Wendy and I waited five hours for a wheelchair taxi to the airport and we missed both of our flights. Even the hotel people were yelling at the city about the horrible service. Luckily, Southwest is a fantastic airline that bumped us to the next flight and we eventually got home. Miami’s transportation system is the worst in the country though. I’ve been to a lot of places and I’ve never had so many headaches as I do in that city. If you don’t rent a car, you might as well throw yourself at their mercy. And don’t get me started on how people drive there!

I’m so grateful to Wendy and Sissy in particular for looking after me and giving me the opportunity to see everybody again. I’m grateful for beautiful friends like Abbie, Codie, Amy, etc., for accepting me as I am and including me in their lives.

Being grateful to NKOTB is an understatement. Every time I’m with them, they give me more love than I could ever realistically expect. Jon, Donnie, and Joe in particular go out of their way to make me feel wanted and a necessary part of their own experiences as human beings and performers. I will never forget the things they’ve done for me. This cruise was very much a healing experience for me and it helped me remember that I do have value as a person and there are people who want me to stay here. My life is difficult on a good day but people like them give me things to look forward to and encouragement to keep going no matter how many times my body tries to fail me. These experiences of coming together and celebrating life are important to people like me who tend to get lost and struggle.

I’m beyond grateful to be able to say that I know NKOTB enough that they’ve gotten to know me over the years and look forward to seeing me too. I honestly do love them as human beings. Jon in particular is a bright spot in my life. I just hope they know how much they’ve helped people like me over the years.

See y’all at the Atlanta show.

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Tragedy and social media

Posted by Jessica Jewett 3 Comments »

Yesterday, we all reacted with horror and shock as the bombs exploded near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. It was the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. Even now, I’m staring at the blinking cursor trying to find the words to express how I feel. The truth is there are no words that can describe the myriad of emotions one goes through when one’s own country is attacked, whether by domestic terrorists or international terrorists.

My purpose with this blog is not to speculate about why or how the bombings were carried out, though. This is about how disturbingly desensitized we as a society have become when people are killed in such public ways. It was horrible for me to scroll through my news feed on Facebook yesterday, looking for updates on my friends who were still missing, and instead seeing photos of mutilated, mangled flesh and bone ripped from human bodies. People posted these things over and over again with captions like, “OMG!” and, “What happened at the marathon today!” I’m used to people posting horrible things on Facebook for the shock factor, so I looked away and went to Tumblr instead. Tumblr is the most mindless place of entertainment, or so I thought, but I couldn’t scroll more than five or six posts without seeing more horrifying photos of the same variety. At least on Twitter you can’t see an image without deliberately clicking a link on the tweet. But the same things were happening over there too.

My initial response was outrage on behalf of the people actually trying to survive and overcome in Boston yesterday evening. Many of the posts were like directing attention to what the bombing did to bodies in a sensationalized kind of way. I posted on all of my social media outlets the following: “Please stop reposting pictures of mutilated bombing victims. It does nothing but incite hysteria and violate the privacy of the victims in their horrifying struggle to survive. Let the authorities sort out who did this. As citizens, focus on the missing and the wounded in helpful ways instead of sensationalized ways. Pray for them, give blood, etc. Don’t gossip. It’s not helping anything at all.” Truthfully, I don’t quite know why I take stands the way I do. It’s not like I change the minds of the people doing these things, but I still feel a responsibility to voice the other side.

I went to bed last night and, lying in the silent darkness, felt the jitters all too familiar in my life set in right away. All night, I had nightmares about scrolling through my computer and seeing nothing but a specific man and what was left of his mangled legs. His ashen, shell-shocked face is burned into my mind because of all the people passing around the photo on social media. I’m still a mess, and, in checking in with other people like me, they are messes as well because of the inability to go on any social media without being forced to look at the carnage.

It can be argued that people have the right to post whatever they choose on social media. That’s true. Everyone has First Amendment rights. It can also be argued by some that people need to see the reality of what happened to understand it and, according to some, understand why revenge is necessary. I disagree with those ideas, though.

We, as a society, have become incredibly desensitized to the horror of these things. This generation lost its innocence the morning of September 11, 2001, as we all watched human beings on live television jump from 70, 80, and 90 stories high to their deaths on Manhattan streets below rather than suffer slower deaths in the fires. Since then, the media coverage of such catastrophes has become so uncensored that people didn’t think twice yesterday about posting photos of people with limbs blown apart in the Boston Marathon bombings. The loss of innocence in society is reflected in the media coverage and a lack of thought for replaying blood and gore over and over again.

While it is the responsibility of news outlets to accurately report these events, I don’t feel that people in general are being responsible about the spread of these types of photos. Twitter is a place where you have to deliberately make a choice to view any image. However, Facebook and Tumblr are places where you see everything people post whether you want to or not just by scrolling through the feeds. So the argument of, “If you don’t like it, don’t look at it,” isn’t even an option on the table. I actually saw the man with his legs ripped off on one Facebook post with the caption, “Don’t look if you’re squeamish!” That’s probably the person’s way of trying to feel better about that, but the thing is, the eye will go to large images first and small words second. There is no option not to look. So people like me either have to completely stay offline until it dies down, or suffer through the repercussions. When you’re trying to look after people you care about, staying offline simply isn’t a choice.

What do I mean by people like me? I mean people with anxiety disorders, people with post traumatic stress disorder, and so forth. An estimated 7.8% of Americans will experience PTSD in their lifetimes, not to mention the millions of others who have anxiety disorders, which means chances are you’re posting those photos where your friends with those problems will have no choice but to see them. You may think you’re educating people about “what really happened”, or you’re just facing the enemy head on, but what you’re really doing is contributing to triggering the symptoms of what people suffer with PTSD and similar disorders. Aside from those types of people, you simply don’t know what children are out there. True, it’s nobody’s responsibility to censor things for children except they’re parents, but we’re not talking about swearing, tepid violence, or sex. We’re talking about innocent people blown to shreds on the street. This is different. Children can be forbidden to use media, but we all know they sneak around the rules. We all did it. You’re exposing children to unspeakable things that they shouldn’t be seeing by freely posting such graphic, bloody photos in the name of your own agendas.

I understand the different reasons for doing it. However, I have to strongly urge that people consider that not everybody can handle it. There are ways to share these things, if you insist on doing it, so that people will have the option of not seeing it. Put it in your blogs. Put it on Image Shack or Photobucket. There are responsible ways to share those things and make your statements while still being respectful of other people.

I’m still feeling the repercussions of what I’ve seen in the last 48 hours. Not only do I feel violated that the bombings happened at all, but I feel doubly violated by not being given a choice about what I’ve seen as a result of it. The nightmares last night have scarred me the way my old PTSD nightmares used to scar me, and I feel like I’ve ricocheted right back to the days when I felt the worst of my symptoms. I haven’t been able to focus today. I’ve been periodically shaking. A myriad of other symptoms are still struggling to be contained. It’s going to take me time to recover from what I’ve seen and to regain my ability to log onto social media without fear. At least I could turn off television coverage under my own control. I have no control over the pictures you all post but I hope I’ve made you think about the way you go about it a little more. No, I don’t want to explain where my PTSD problems originated. That’s not the point. If you’ve been around here long enough, you can piece it together. I’ve had it under control for several years, but again, the last 48 hours have me feeling like I’ve ricocheted backwards. I know I’m not the only one because I’ve asked others like me how the photos circulating on social media are affecting them.

Just think before you post. Think about who might be affected by it even if it is “your page” and “your right”. Have some compassion for those who don’t have stronger coping skills like you do.

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That time my mother was a movie star

That time my mother was a movie star
Posted by Jessica Jewett 1 Comment »

Lori GrahamThe summer of 1992 was brutally hot in St. Louis. I was 10-years-old and my mother was quite close to the age that I am now (that’s an odd thought!). We had a pretty decent life, much more secure than it is now, but that was part of the economic boom in the 90s, I think. Everybody was a lot better off after the recession in the 80s. She had her portraits made a year or two after the fact, which is what you’re seeing on the left.

My mother had a best friend through her job at Southwestern Bell. Remember when it was Southwestern Bell? Her friend heard about a Steven Soderbergh movie called King of the Hill that was going to be filmed in the old part of the city and she really wanted to go and audition, but she was nervous. So my mother agreed to go and be moral support, although it really didn’t interest her. Friends just do that kind of thing for one another.

I don’t know much about how they were cast other than they needed extras to play tuberculosis patients in a sanitarium. My mother’s friend was terribly excited and hoping they put her close to one of the principal actors so she could get some camera time. In the end, my mother who really didn’t care about the movie, was eyeballed by the casting people. She noticed they were talking among themselves and looking at her. Before she knew it, she was cast as a tuberculosis patient and told that she would be placed quite close to the principal actress. Her friend, however, was too dark and too modern looking (the movie was Depression-era), so she was put much further away at the other end of the hospital. My mother was the one they wanted and she never intended to actually be an extra.

That night, my mother told me about how she was going to be in a movie and I was very excited. Being only 10, I thought my mother was going to be a real movie star. She was pretty enough, so it wasn’t that far-fetched in my childish mind. There were always comments about how she resembled Helen Hunt or Meryl Streep from strangers and friends alike in the same way that my grandmother was compared with Greta Garbo in her day. I loved movies then but I didn’t quite reach a magical place of wanting to be part of movies until The Last of the Mohicans came out that fall. It probably started then and blew up when The Last of the Mohicans came out, then Gettysburg, and The Age of Innocence in the next two years. My mother had a bit of magical fairy dust on her just by being part of a movie though.

I don’t remember if the shooting day was one or two days now. I just know that it was the longest day I had ever spent away from home and it might have been two days that my memory is blending together now. I was dropped off at a babysitter’s house before dawn and not picked up until well after dark. I remember it was murderously hot and I spent the day at the Queeny Park pool. Missouri summers are as hot as summers in the Deep South, except the humidity is much higher because St. Louis is wedged in the nook where the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers meet. Everyone in the movie is sweating when you watch it. That’s not stage sweat. That’s real sweat.

While I was swimming at Queeny Park, my mother was in the old part of the city making her big screen debut. They chose a location for the tuberculosis sanitarium that was part of the Catholic church in the area. The building used to house nuns, and then when there was a tuberculosis problem in the city, they turned it into a sanitarium – so the movie people used it for their sanitarium too. My mother was herded with all of the other extras through makeup and wardrobe until somebody realized that she was supposed to be positioned next to the principal actress in the scene. Then she had to go and get better makeup, hair, and wardrobe fitting before she was taken to the set. To make her look like she was wasting away from tuberculosis, they put baby oil in her hair and braided it down her back. Then they powdered her face and hands to make her look sickly and pale, along with dark makeup under her eyes. She was given a real housecoat from the 1930s, which was greenish and long to the floor. They used the baggy housecoat to hide her healthy figure and trick the camera into thinking she was skeletal.

After Soderbergh was happy with how the extras looked, they were taken to the set. In those days, people could only visit their sick family members by standing in the courtyard of this U-shaped building and shouting up to their loved ones along the balconies. In the scene my mother shot, the boy in the movie – the main character – arrived to visit his mother who had been sick with tuberculosis for most of his life. She was on the second floor on the left-hand wing of the U-shaped building from the boy’s point of view in the courtyard. My mother was placed right next to her, on her right (left if from the boy’s point of view). She said it was about a bed-length away. My mother got her own “family” since she was so close to the principal actress and they were directed to pretend to communicate by mouthing words so their voices wouldn’t interrupt the emotional scene between the mother and son. She described long breaks between shooting takes because the lighting people were unhappy and trying to change things. The scene itself wasn’t very long but it took something like eleven hours to shoot. It was hot. They were all wearing scratchy old 1930s clothes. They were slathered in oil and heavy makeup used for film.

My mother was exhausted by the time it was over and had witnessed lots of squabbling about whether it should be a wide shot on the whole wing or a close shot on the mother’s face. So after everything and then being a bed-length away from the actress, there was a good chance she wouldn’t make the cut in the scene anyway. Of course, as an adult, I know now that it’s pretty typical of films to cut, re-cut, edit, redo, etc.

You can watch the scene in this video. It starts at the 7:35 mark, roughly.

Now that it’s not the murderously hot summer of 1992 anymore and she’s not slathered in oil and makeup, she is rather happy that she was in a movie. She didn’t make the cut because Soderbergh and his editing people decided to use the close shots on the principal actress rather than the wide shots. It was the experience that sticks out in her mind now. She was very excited when Netflix picked up the movie so we could watch it again.

You know what’s really awesome too? These people were in the movie. Adrien Brody wasn’t a big star yet. Elizabeth McGovern wasn’t the Countess of Grantham yet. Lauren Hill wasn’t crazy yet. I love Adrien Brody! For the rest of my life, I can say my mother once worked on a Steven Soderbergh film that had Adrian Brody in it.

Adrien Brody

Elizabeth McGovern

Lauren Hill

I watched the movie last night on Netflix. I hadn’t seen it since we all watched it when it was released. Even though my mother didn’t make the cut because they used the close shot, I know she was there and my interest in movies gives me something to talk about with her. I told her that if I ever win an Oscar or something, I will have to mention that my mother was once an extra in a Steven Soderbergh movie. There is still a 10-year-old girl in me who thinks my mother was pretty and bright enough to be a real movie star.


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