Tuesday, September 27, 2005

No More Fun of Any Kind

You may notice some recent postings regarding "Illegal Aliens" have been removed. That's all I can say : (

**Update** Shhh... I've resurrected all the original posts I made while working on the film. Many months have passed and "Illegal Aliens" is soon to be released, so what the Hell
- AF Grant; June 19, 2006

Monday, September 26, 2005

Illegal Aliens Wrap Party

Anna, AF and ChynaLast night's wrap party for Illegal Aliens kicked off at 8:30pm and I finally crashed at 3:30am this morning. It was totally sick. The entire cast showed up. Chyna had a little bit of a shiner from the mud fight scene. We left our private party around 11pm (or maybe we were all asked to leave? Things were already a bit fuzzy) and invaded a downtown Rutland VT bar. There were some very shocked locals who found themselves partying with Anna Nicole Smith and Chyna. Lots of singing, dancing, and mayhem. Anna had shirts made for all the cast and crew - a very nice gesture. Larry the Lizard also passed out some of his swag. It was a bit strange for the wrap party to happen before shooting truly ended. I was responsible for making sure nobody from the movie died or ended up in jail. As far as I know, I succeeded. Tuesday will be the final day of shooting - actually it is an overnight shoot so I won't be part of it as I have to get back to the real world Wednesday morning. Damn!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Illegal Aliens: Day 12

Day 12 is in the books and finished in time to for Robbie, Dan and I to catch most of the 2nd half of the Patriots beating the Steelers. Next up - the wrap (pre-wrap) party in about twenty minutes.
I got to actually chat with Anna Nicole Smith for the first time today - ended up talking about all her luggage back home still packed with clothes all over her house and in storage and how she just keeps buying new clothes and luggage because nobody unpacks her stuff. She also mentioned some club seal (the insignia for a club, not an actual clubbed baby seal) that had traveled the world and had lots of photos taken of it with different celebrities and when it came to her she asked to keep it and then lost it. So she will never handle Larry The Lizard on her own again!

Today was the coldest day of the shoot, low 60's at best and was supposed to have all the girls being doused by a hose. So some new improv endings were done on the fly and the climactic mud wrestling battle between Chyna and Anna Nicole was held off until the very end of the day. It was hilarious. Poor Chyna had the flimsiest of clothing on and more skin was showing than planned at times but she never complained or even had a frown on her face. More to come once/if I survive the wrap party.
See ya.
OK - here's a couple photos from the big mud fight. Can't share any more until after the movie is released.
Larry watches Anna and Chyna battle Anna Nicole Smith and Chyna

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Shortest IA Day Ever

Larry, meet Anna Today was a sweet and easy 11 hour day. Shooting at the limestone quarry only gives us direct sunlight until around 4:30pm - which means since we are shooting there tomorrow as well we will actually be back in time to see some football. Fuck yeah!
Forgot to give an update on the grip truck yesterday. The mechanic came to the set around lunch and the truck started right up - of course. He poked around and found plenty of shit that was goofy with it, he replaced some wires and the distributor cap and called it a day. Today the truck got up to 60 without any issue, until today its top speed was 45. But on the way back to the studio today, the muffler dropped and I left a trail of sparks for a few miles.
This morning I was providing safety up on a catwalk with Anna Nicole Smith and she noticed Larry The Lizard for the first time. I handed him to her and finally got the photo I came here for. Then she held Larry to her nose like he was biting her so I had to talk them both down before blood got spilled and take Larry back.
Robbie, Key Coat Rack
This morning also featured the graduation of #1 Grip Intern Robbie to Key Coat Rack. Seeing Robbie hold and carry the coats of the girls almost brought a tear to my eye. I just wish Chuck was still here to have seen it. The day was so slow that the normal grip sing alongs grew to include most of the crew - this morning included a moving ode to Journey with "Don't Stop Believing" echoing throughout the quarry. In the afternoon there was a tremendous round of Grip Wars as Ian kept building chairs of sandbags surrounded by flags to block the blazing sun, while Aaron built reflecting rigs to blind Ian. Good times.
The afternoon's scenes featured some of the girls doing battle with a giant spider - or at least 3/4's of a giant spider. Holy Crap! A giant spider
My final acting scenes were cut from the schedule for good and the mud fight finale will be tomorrow, with the wrap party tomorrow night even thought there is another day of shooting on Tuesday. David is trying to figure out someplace for Larry to be in the final shot.
For now we dance and pound PBR's.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Illegal Aliens: Day 10

Larry watches Dennis and Chyna ham it up. The tenth day of shooting for Illegal Aliens is done. Most of the excitement today was behind the scenes as Provo our Gaffer went nuts again and chucked a C-stand across a parking lot after it fell apart in his hands. He had many more entertaining curse filled soliloquies through out the day as well.
I had fire extinguisher duty for a few scenes with a flaming wrecked truck. Those featured some hilarious improv between Dennis Lemoine and Chyna ending in passionate kisses, slaps and gunfire. The day ended with every extra pair of hands helping to rock a bus while Chyna "drove" and spewed forth with one liners that were cracking me up. The next two days we are shooting in a quarry - which means no power and no lights. That makes for very easy days (we hope) for Grip and Electric team. Today was a wrap for our Key Grip, Chuck Harding. He's made the past two weeks bearable for me, so thank God we have some easy setups while he's gone. I also have to be prepared to do some additional acting tomorrow as well. And the climactic mud wrestling battle is this weekend. Sick! Just three days of shooting left, and I'm only here for the next two.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

More Illegal Aliens

Anna Nicole and her little pink friendToday shooting was just at one location, but we had 10 pages of script to get through. We got it all done, but it took a 13 1/2 hour day to do it. No visible residue from the actress tiff that broke out yesterday. But the day ended with new problems. The grip truck (which carries all the lighting and electrical equipment) broke down on the way back to the studio. We were in the parking lot when it stalled once, then about 100 feet from its parking spot it died for good. Ended up just towing it to the location we are shooting tomorrow - it's just on other end of facility that Edgewood is in. But beyond tomorrow - we are boned.

This morning featured some hilarious stuff from Anna Nicole Smith that you will probably never see. She plays an alien who has taken human form and discovers a dildo. Anna definitely has some great comedy instincts and is willing to do anything. Anything! Some of today's takes could get an NC-17 rating. Realized today how much she reminds of Suzanne Sommer's character from Three's Company, Chrissy. Anna laughs at herself the very same way.

A Current Affair did visit the set today and Access Hollywood will be here this weekend. We were also visited by another local paper and a couple radio stations. Current Affair did an interview with Chyna, unfortunately I don't know when it might air.
Chyna on set of Illegal AliensSyntax - the hologram character who tells the Illegal Aliens what to do has yet to be cast, but Burt Reynolds is no longer being talked about. He now wants 1 Million per picture. New names circulating are Bob Newhart and Verne Troyer.

Some of the last stuff we shot today was Chyna going to town destroying the Syntax super computer set. She is great at destruction. Also saw some more dailies tonight, mostly from our day at the airport last week as well as my first work as a Goon corpse. Exhaustion is definitely kicking in - I was one of many actually sleeping on the set today. The night ended with a huge greasy banquet of Kentucky Fried Chicken for the whole crew.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

IA Day 8: Meow! Cat Fight

The Illegal Aliens make their first appearanceToday was a very easy shoot day. One location all day, a small Knights of Columbus bar. So only minimal equipment could even be used, and good thing since the one bummer was that the bar was on the second floor. I ended up as a Goon Extra and was in a scene with all three Illegal Aliens for the first time. I just had to keep straining my neck to check out their asses. Also was just inches away from the first on set cat fight between a couple actresses. It got pretty tense and ugly quite quickly. One actress was treating a crew member rather rudely (not for the first time) when another actress told her to stop yelling at people. Then it grew into a war of words between them with each wanting the last word even with the director standing in between them telling them both to act like professionals. Threats of being fired and dares to do so were exchanged by the girls. Fun stuff.
In the afternoon I was a different Goon, watching in horror as Chyna as the villain Rex kills my boss Big Tony. Even got some closeup action in that one. I'm not even sure if I'm the same Goon in all my scenes or not, but I'm gonna be all over this thing, and most of the time in the same red shirt (Damn, just like Star Trek. The Red Shirt guys always get killed!)
A Current Affair will be here tomorrow, but due to some past bad blood Anna Nicole Smith will not talk to them, so another syndicated show will show up later this weekend that she'll cooperate with. And Burt Reynolds' name has surfaced again for a small role as a hologram who helps the Illegal Aliens - those scenes will be shot later with whoever ends up in the role.
Once the day was wrapped after twelve hours, the crew got to stay at the K of C and have the director, David Giancola, play bartender for us.

Here is the script for the Vermont Ch. 3 feature last night - they don't post video clips, only scripts. Bizarre;

Rutland's Edgewood Studios has carved out a niche making special effects-driven movies that seem bigger than what you'd expect from their modest budgets. ((sound of movie clapper)) Adding a little extra muscle to their latest production -- former professional wrestler Joanie Laurer. Known to her fans as "Chyna."
((Joanie Laurer: 15:40: I will be happy when I get my Oscar or star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.)) In "Illegal Aliens" she plays a violent visitor from outer space bent on protecting her home planet. She tangles with Anna Nicole Smith. Sure makes pro wrestling seem normal. ((Joanie Laurer: 17:06: You can't take yourself too seriously.)) ((Jack Thurston: 26:41: We wanted to talk to the movie's co-star, Anna Nicole Smith. But her publicist said she just wasn't feeling well.))
((Dave Giancola: The thing about Anna Nicole Smith is that you can't tell when she's in character or just being herself.)) The sci-fi spoof is a departure for Edgewood -- best known for its disaster, action, and horror movies.
((Dave Giancola: 23:11: It's not so much a movie, but more or less a cinematic traffic accident. I mean, it's Chyna versus Anna Nicole Smith. How could you not watch? Jack Thurston: That's a good thing? A cinematic traffic accident? Dave Giancola: Yeah I think so.))
((Dave Giancola: 23:45: The film speaks on the deterioration of American culture, TV, and movies.)) "Illegal Aliens" continues shooting for the next week. Jack Thurston, Channel 3 News, in Rutland.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Illegal Aliens: Week Two, Day One

Can you spot Larry?Today was the seventh day of shooting and featured the debut cameo of Larry The Lizard, and I was once again called into action as a wiseguy. This time I was in a car with Chyna against a green screen and had to bring my "acting" up a notch and improv some shit to say. After working all morning, then throwing a shirt and coat on and getting under the lights - my dome was soaked with sweat. Think I'm doing some more bad acting tomorrow as well. And Larry will be showing up in more scenes too.
It was funny working with people who don't know my long history of threatening to quit all my jobs. I've never been asked how I'm doing, and how's everything going by so many people on the set before - word must have spread fast that I was ready to bail out. Everyone was showing me the love today. I went out on a location scout checking power for tomorrows location and even drove the grip truck back to the studio. The day off did wonders for everyone, we made our day again - in just over 12 hours (mostly because it was a day without any scenes with a certain blonde actress).
Channel 3 in Vermont visited the set today for a story for tonight's news. It featured director David Giancola's quote "This is a cinematic traffic accident that everyone will just have to watch." Local Channel 5 visits tomorrow and A Current Affair is coming on Thursday. We got to watch dailies tonight and they look great. Lenise is gorgeous in person and even better looking on film and Anna really looks great on camera too. While Chyna just has so much over the top campiness going on - this should be hilarious.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Illegal Aliens - Week One Done

Today is our off day after six days of shooting - and everybody needs it. Yesterday was well over 13 hours long and we were going for more but some camera problems forced us to wrap. I totally hit my wall last night - I'm finding out today many others did too. I was ready to just bail out and go home, but I've been talked in off the ledge. There was just a lot of chaos, hurry up and wait, and non-functioning gear to deal with last night.
Anna Nicole seems to show up each day with script suggestions, the surprising thing is that many are actually funny and have been used. Chyna continues to kick ass take after take. Her acting is the best surprise of the shoot - this could really be a break out role for her. We shot all day in a public parking garage, so we had our first crowds gather - all the actresses took time to sign autographs and take pictures with fans which was pretty cool. There was even an end of week party last night but I went to my room to check some NFL scores on my laptop and next thing I know it was 4:30am. I was still dressed and had a laptop on my chest. So I missed the party - which surely would have just meant passing out somewhere else.
If I last, I have a bigger acting role coming my way next weekend - a wiseguy with a couple paragraphs of dialogue.
Here is feature in today's Rutland Herald. Anna Nicole Smith's column in the National Enquirer had a small plug about this movie and a bit of a slam for someone who was supposed to be in it. Next week her column will feature more info and a photo. More press will be visiting next week, I'm now hearing two syndicated tv shows, and another day of shooting has been added to the end of the schedule, which I will have to miss to get home just in time to need a real vacation.
Tried to go to a movie today -- theater isn't open for matinees. Went for drive with Chuck - another investor/grip who has worked on lots of Edgewood films over the years. We found the Long Trail brewery, which of course was closed today for their annual gold outing. Did buy some Dr. Scholl's inserts - so now I'm gellin'.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Day 5 of IA Shoot

Larry Woos Anna Nicole SmithAnna Nicole had a very good morning. We got all the scenes of the three Illegal Aliens hanging at their place and Anna got through everything in just a couple takes. She also stayed on set for the first time when she wasn't on camera to keep giving her lines for the other actresses to play off of. She flubbed one line, saying her TrimSpa tag line instead - that was pretty funny. That tag line must be ingrained deep in her brain. She finally seems comfortable and relaxed with everyone. She was bouncing her tits and mooning the other girls to get them to break up. Good day to be a grip.
The afternoon went smooth too. The lead Illegal Alien (and potential next Wonder Woman) had her toughest lines so far - some insane alien star systems to rifle through - but finally pulled it all off. Work was also done on the electronic press kit and word came down that the dailies from day one look really good. The day ended after 13 hours with two bottles of Jack! Sick! Whiskey night. And the first shots of Larry have been had. First one handled with grace by Dave Provenzano (Provo) - the bitterest man on set. He is my personal Jesus for the shoot - he makes me forget how many times I swear I'll never do this again because he says it loudly many times a day in between bitching about the ancient shitty equipment. Provo rules. Provo Going Sick

Friday, September 16, 2005

Illegal Aliens - Day 4

Day four is in the can. Another fairly short day, just 12 hours. Today's location, the West Rutland Water Treatment Plant, was very cramped so the crew was mostly kept outside without much going on. I ended up in front of the camera in the afternoon. Dying once again on the silver screen, this time as an evil henchman. It was a bit strange, the first scene I was in I was already dead, laying across a desk with my sweaty, bloody head on a keyboard. Gladise recommended they put some blood in my ear. I'm still pulling kyro syrup and coffee grinds out of my ear - thanks Gladise. Bad weather is moving in for awhile up here so the rest of the schedule is being redone. Tomorrow we don't start till 7am and will just be shooting here at the studio. Sweet!
They are looking for bands for the soundtrack and possibly for a cameo. I'm trying to get Angry Johnny involved, might even include a music video with Anna Nicole.
Larry The Lizard was on set again today, here he is with Gladise Jimenez (She's the one who kills me). She said Larry was ugly. Needless to say, Larry does not appreciate that so he predicts this will be the peak of her career.
And tonight is Friday, think I'll go totally sick and stay up till 11pm. WooHoo!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

IA Shoot - Day Three

Yay! We finally made the day. That means getting all the scenes done that were scheduled for that day. We were back at the studio 12 hours after leaving this morning. That is our shortest day so far. We were about a full day behind after the first two days - not good.
Today was all on the tarmac of the Rutland Airport. I was on Electric duty for the morning. The morning of pouring rain. It showered off and on all day and we even had to abandon the set for awhile due to lightning. Great day to learn about running power. All the scenes were inside various airplanes - Anna Nicole smacked her head against the interior of the plane once and it looked like it hurt bad, but she soldiered on. That is two falls and one head slam so far for those of you scoring at home.
And the secret to sleeping through the night here at Edgewood Studios (surrounded by train tracks and with trains slamming into each other all night long) - is beer, Octoberfest to be exact. Slept straight through last night for first time.
Tonight some of us ate at AppleBee's. Anna Nicole and her entourage ate there when they first got to town last Saturday. Our waitress was still talking about it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Chyna Rocks!

Day two of the Illegal Aliens shoot is done and was much better than day one for this sorry Producer/Grip. We were at one interior location all day and had another crew member who really knows his job show up today. Much smoother, easier, shorter day - still 13 hours long.
Chyna & Larry The LizardChyna is blowing everyone away with how good she is. She just kicks ass take after take. She's got the longest dialgue and just rifles through it. She's the villain and is creating a sort of muscle bound Cruella DeVille out of it. Meanwhile the cue cards had to come out for others. This movie should be really funny, I've been having to hold back the laughs on set while we've been rolling. Also went out to eat and drink with some of the crew tonight - already feels like we've been working together for weeks or months not just days.
Some national television programs will be visiting the set this week too. Very cool.
And Larry made his debut on set today. Larry The Lizard and Chyna really hit it off.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Illegal Alliens: Day 1 Done

13 1/2 hours, countless bruises and one sunburn later, day one of shooting is in the books. I'm officially acting as Swing Man on the crew. Playing with Grip and Electric - a job I decided I didn't want 10 years ago when I first did it. Grip and Electric pretty much means you move shit around all day, a lot, sometimes for no reason. Today was nasty hot, not what I expected in Vermont in September, but then again being a grip isn't what I expected when I was told I was an Associate Producer either.

Anna Nicole Smith is thinner than I've ever seen her, you wouldn't even recognize her from far away. She's been fun, friendly and giggly and she has the absolute whitest teeth I've ever seen in my life. She fell down twice (always quickly bouncing back up), and popped out of her shirt countless times but always knew her lines. At the end of her day she went around saying thanks and goodbye to all the crew. Poor Lenise's shirt burst open every time she had to run too. I got to throw debris and hay from the aftermath of an explosion on the three leading ladies near the end of the day. A piece of wood hit Anna in the face, but I don't know if I can claim it as mine or not. Tomorrow will be Chynna's first day on set, another 6am crew call. I'm too old for this shit. Really. I might just be the oldest person on this crew.

Here is one photo from today. Lenise Soren looks on as Anna Nicole Smith and Gladise Jimenez escapes the exploding barn.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Illegal Aliens: So It Begins

I've been in Rutland Vermont since Friday getting ready for the feature film Illegal Aliens. Tomorrow is the first day of shooting, with a call time of a rapidly approaching 6am. Movie is starring Anna Nicole Smith, Joanie (Chyna) Laurer, Lenise Soren and Gladise Jimenez. Traci Bingham was involved but due to scheduling conflicts had to pull out just a couple days ago. I just got back from picking up Chyna (and her dog Bambi) at Albany Airport (2 hour + ride) and she is a blast. We really hit if off - traded all sorts of wrestling, Surreal Life, safari, and Larry The Lizard (yes, Larry was there for the ride) stories and even dined together at Burger King (Hey! It is a low budget movie). She showed up with just one bag - less than half the luggage I came up here with. She also mentioned wanting to pick up some tree sap - I told her she might be better off with maple syrup, but if she insists on any old tree sap, I'll find it for her. Anyway, I was surprised how much fun I had hanging with Chyna. I picked up Lenise Soren the day before - just a short 20 minute ride from Rutland Airport. She is gorgeous and very nice. She's just coming here from Cape Cod where she was doing a play that my mom had gone to. Small world. Haven't seen Anna yet, but will in the morning. Oh, and Saturday is the big mud wrestling scene - sweet!

Friday, September 09, 2005

All Aboard

Out popped Ozzy doing Crazy Train
Last night's NFL Kickoff for the 2005 season was a blast. Another Championship banner for the Patriots, tons of fireworks, Green Day and OZZY. Ozzy was the big surprise and just went off. He was so into it I think he thought Gillette Stadium was full of people there just for him. The Patriots normally run out the a giant inflatable helmet to Ozzy's classic "Crazy Train." Last night the helmet looked a bit different and popped open to unveil Ozzy and band (Zak Wylde went sick). He had the best faces and energy I've seen in years from him.
Oh yeah, and the Patriots beat the Raiders 30 -20, but didn't always look good doing it, so they've got plenty to work on. It was strange seeing someone else wearing Ted Johnson's longtime 52 and even stranger seeing Teddy Bruschi prowling the sidelines in street clothes, but it should be a another great year. The Unveiling
And don't try to go sick with Larry, Ozzy, Super Bowl Champs and take pictures at the same time - the results are an out of focus mess. Want proof?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Most wonderful Time of The Year

Wally The Green Monster and Larry The LizardLarry The Lizard took us to Fenway Park last Friday to see the Sox lose to the Orioles. But tomorrow night we'll all be at the NFL season opener where the 3x Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots will take on the Oakland Raiders. The Patriots have never lost with Larry in the audience and Larry's witnessed each of the first two Super Bowl banners get raised, so I have no fear of the final score.
Then Friday I'm headed up to Vermont to work on the feature film Illegal Aliens. Accompanied by Larry of course.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Do Something For Katrina Victims

American Red Cross, 1-800-HELP-NOW, www.redcross.org
Salvation Army, 1-800-SAL-ARMY, www.salvationarmyusa.org
The United Way, 1-800-272-4630, national.unitedway.org
Feed The Children, 1800-525-757, www.feedthechildren.org
Oxfam America, 1800-776-9326, www.oxfamamerica.org
FEMA, www.fema.gov
ASPCA Animal Relief
Katrina Housing, http://www.katrinahousing.org/

Alabama Emergency Management Agency: 1-205-280-2200
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency: 1-800-222-MEMA
Red Cross (next of kin): 1-866-GET-INFO
La. Office/Emergency Preparedness: 1-225-925-7400

Friday, September 02, 2005

Tedy Bruschi will Play in 2006

Bruschi plans to play next year
Cites post-stroke progress

By Jackie MacMullan, Globe Staff September 2, 2005

NORTH ATTLEBOROUGH -- Linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who suffered a stroke Feb. 15, revealed yesterday he intends to play football for the Patriots next season.
''I've talked with a lot of people and heard a lot of opinions," said Bruschi, in his first extensive comments since being taken by ambulance from his North Attleborough home to Massachusetts General Hospital last winter. ''Cardiologists, neurologists. And not one of them said, 'Tedy, you can't play again.'
''I'm definitely playing next year. That's my ace in the hole. It's a little hard to sit back and watch the guys [this season], but it's easier knowing I've got something to look forward to.
''My goal is to play football again, but it wouldn't have been my goal if my doctors weren't on board and my family wasn't on board. They are."
Bruschi emphatically denied that he will return at any point this season to the Patriots, who kick off the defense of their Super Bowl crown Thursday night against the Oakland Raiders at Gillette Stadium.
''I'm telling you right now that's not going to happen," he said. ''I need to do what's best for my family and myself.
''There's a difference between living life normally and being fine and getting ready for a professional football season. I need the year to get myself ready.
''I considered playing this year. We talked about it a lot. But this is something you don't rush. It's not a sprained ankle. This is my medical health, and although I'm feeling great right now, I've also been told by my doctors some time will help. It will help medically, but it will also help me deal with it mentally. I think I've healed faster physically than I have emotionally."
Speculation has been rampant regarding Bruschi and his football future since he suffered the mild stroke nearly seven months ago, just days after returning from the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. He confirmed yesterday the stroke was the result of a blood clot that doctors believe traveled through a small hole in his heart. He also confirmed he underwent a procedure in Boston in March to repair it. The origin of the clot, he said, has never been determined, nor has the cause of the clot.
''Maybe I was a little dehydrated, maybe it was the long flight back from Hawaii," Bruschi said. ''There's really no way of knowing."
Startling realizationBruschi said he prefers to keep the names of the physicians who attended to him private, but he was willing to describe a harrowing five days in which the high of his third Super Bowl victory and his first Pro Bowl appearance quickly evaporated as he and his wife, Heidi, dealt with a medical crisis that blindsided them.
Bruschi had been home a day and a half from Hawaii when he woke up around 4 a.m. experiencing numbness in both his left arm and his left leg.
''I woke up with sort of a pain in the back of my neck," he explained. ''I sat up in bed and the left side of my arm and my leg felt funny. There was some numbness, almost like a loss of control, so I got up and used the restroom."
As Bruschi tried to stand up, he lost his balance and had to grab hold of the side of the bed. Heidi woke up and asked what was wrong.
''I sort of limped to the restroom, then came back and we talked about it for a little bit," Bruschi said. ''I had a headache. I was uncomfortable, but we decided just to go back to sleep. You've got to remember, I've woken up with pain plenty of times before. Lots of times I've moaned and groaned and gotten out of bed, shaken off the pain, then gone back to sleep. We figured this was the same sort of thing."
Heidi let her husband rest until around 10, then went back into the bedroom to check on him.
''I woke up with the same numbness," Bruschi said. ''At that point I'm thinking, 'I wonder what's wrong? I've never felt this way before.' "
Heidi made two calls: one to Patriots head trainer Jim Whalen, and the other to her father, who is a physician's assistant. After hearing Bruschi's symptoms, each urged Heidi to drive him to Mass. General for an examination.
''But even then I was saying, 'I don't know if I need to go,' " Bruschi said. ''I was thinking it was something that could possibly pass. I didn't have a tremendous amount of pain."
It wasn't until his 5-year old son, Tedy Jr., scampered into the room that the linebacker realized the severity of his condition.
''TJ came in from my left," Bruschi said. ''I heard him, but I didn't see him. I didn't see him until he popped up on the right side of my field of vision and said, 'Good morning, Daddy.'
''That's when I got scared. I told Heidi, 'Call 911.' "
Heidi's composed phone conversation with the paramedics has been replayed coast to coast on numerous newscasts. But her calm demeanor masked the panic she was feeling as she described her husband's symptoms, including erroneously reporting the numbness was on his right side. ''It's the only mistake she's made during this whole deal," Bruschi cracked.
The next call was to a close friend who offered to come and watch their three boys, all under age 6.
''The baby, Dante, was only about 8 weeks old," Heidi said. ''I was still nursing him. I was wondering, 'Should I leave the baby here? Should I take him with us?' My friend finally said, 'I've got formula. Leave him here. Just go.' "
As their mother fought back tears, young TJ and Rex followed their father out to the ambulance and kissed him goodbye. Within minutes, the Bruschis were en route to Mass. General, with the paramedics already having identified him as a probable stroke victim.
Bruschi was whisked into the emergency room, where a CAT scan was administered.
''Within minutes of the CAT scan, the doctor came out, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, 'You've had a mild stroke,' " Bruschi recalled. ''I said, 'What?' I was in disbelief. It was a total shock to me."
Because Bruschi had delayed reporting his symptoms so long, he said, it was too late for the doctors to attempt to break up the clot.
''The thing that people don't understand is you have three hours once you think you are experiencing a stroke to do something about it," Bruschi said. ''If you can get to the hospital right away, you can get a clot-busting drug that could save your life.
''That's one of the reasons I'm talking about this publicly. I want people to realize if they have headaches or numbness, especially on one side, along with dizziness, loss of balance, or maybe even slurring of your words, you are having a stroke.
''Don't do what I did. Don't go back to sleep. Get to the hospital as quickly as possible."
If Bruschi had gone to the hospital when he first experienced the numbness, would his stroke have been less invasive?
''We started talking about it the other night," Heidi said. ''But then we stopped. What's the point? We can't change what happened."
In the first 12 hours after Bruschi was admitted to the hospital, football was the furthest thing from his mind. His vision and his ability to walk had been severely compromised. The amount of damage he had incurred was still undetermined.
''I could have died," Bruschi said. ''The doctors told me that. If the clot was a couple of millimeters in a different direction, I might not be sitting here talking to you now. But it wasn't my time."
Healing beginsBruschi spent three days at Mass. General. The first night, Whalen kept an around-the-clock vigil in his room. Bruschi awoke one morning to see Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his wife, Myra, by his bedside. Assistant trainer Dave Granito and vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli also visited.
He was released three days later with a horde of television cameras recording the moment. Bruschi smiled and waved, but appeared wan and unstable as Heidi led him to their car.
''I could still barely see and barely walk when I left the hospital," he said. ''I could walk better than what everyone saw [on television], but when that door opened and I saw everyone standing there, I grabbed Heidi and said, 'Make sure I don't fall.' "
Doctors monitored Bruschi closely over the next several weeks, making sure the clot dissipated and that there was no danger of an aneurysm. They waited until March to repair the hole in his heart because the procedure required putting him on a blood thinner, Coumadin, and they did not want to administer that until they were certain the clot had dissipated.
He began an intensive physical therapy program at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center, where his initial goal was modest: walk without stumbling. Bruschi navigated orange cones, threw and caught a ball while perched on a balancing beam, and tottered around a sheet of plastic.
It was a humbling experience for an elite athlete, but if it discouraged him, Heidi said, he rarely showed it. He simply kept to the task at hand.
''I know this guy better than anybody," Heidi said. ''I know he's driven and motivated and goal-driven. But this was the biggest shock of our lives. His career was taken from him, his ability to see his kids was taken from him, but he never felt sorry for himself. He just said, 'OK, what do we do next?' I was impressed by that. I'm still impressed by that."
There were days, however, when Bruschi simply was not sure whether his life would ever regain any sense of normalcy. His vision loss was the most troubling of all the symptoms, and there was no rehabilitation for that. Only time would tell if he would completely regain his sight.
''My test was looking at the digital clock we had in the bedroom," he said. ''We had it set high so Heidi could keep track of baby Dante's feedings.
''I'd look at that clock and if it was 12:29, I only saw 2:29. It worried me. But, over time, I started seeing the bottom of the 1. Then I started seeing the top of the 1. To the immediate left of the 1 on the clock, there is a little signal for the battery. Once I could see that, I knew I was OK."
It took six weeks for his eyesight to be fully restored. It took slightly longer for him to resume his decidedly unorthodox gait. As for the emotional fallout of his brush with mortality, that is an ongoing project. Bruschi said he's grateful the Patriots have allowed him to heal in peace.
''The Patriots haven't put any pressure on me," Bruschi said. ''[Coach] Bill [Belichick] has been extremely supportive. He's told me, 'Whatever you decide, Tedy, we're fine with it.'
''They've left the entire process up to us. Honestly, early on I thought I was done. I can't see, I can barely walk. So I'm listening to my body and it's telling me, 'Tedy, you can't do this.' But now time has passed, and my body is saying, 'Tedy, you've got a shot.' "
Raising awarenessThe Bruschis have fielded hundreds of interview requests over the past six months, but kept silent, in part, because his condition was improving and changing daily. They also wanted to make the most informed decision about his future.
''I know people wanted information, but this was an in-house issue," Heidi explained. ''This affects our family for the rest of our lives. This is where the decision needed to be made first.
''We needed to be thorough, but we also wanted to put him in the best position possible. Wouldn't it have been devastating for him to go out there and not be right?"
Bruschi, who has been placed on the team's physically-unable-to-perform list (an official NFL roster designation in which a player must sit out the first six weeks of the season), understands there are no guarantees he will return to his Pro Bowl form of 2004. He has not tested his body against full contact, although he works out daily and regularly attends the team meetings.
''I get excited when we see a game plan for Green Bay," he said. ''I'm anxious to see how we'll prepare for Oakland. I want to know what we're doing, how the linebackers will prepare for them. I talk to the guys. Chad [Brown] will ask me a question, and I'll gladly answer it. He's a good football player. Monty [Beisel], too. They're going to have great years and I'm going to have fun watching them."
That doesn't mean sitting out this season will be easy. The chance for New England to win three championships in a row will have to be done without their emotional defensive leader, and Bruschi knows it will get harder as the season progresses.
''I think about playing before I go to sleep," he admitted. ''I think about it a lot. But I tell my sons when they have a tough time calming down to take a deep breath. My time will come."
His experience has convinced him to join forces with the American Stroke Association to raise awareness about strokes and the need to address them immediately. He has pledged to form Tedy's Team, a group of runners who will train for marathons and solicit pledges, much like cyclists do in the successful cancer fund-raiser, the Pan-Mass Challenge.
''Strokes are the No. 1 disabler in America and the No. 3 killer," Bruschi said. ''I didn't know that before. I know it now."
Do not ask him to predict how this will affect his career. He has no idea. Nobody does.
''I know a lot can happen in a year," he said. ''A lot happened in a day and a half after the Pro Bowl. For years I've been preaching, 'One game a time.' That's how I'm living my life at the moment -- one day at a time."

© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Poor Bush

Do you think President Bush is still glad he got the job?
He's been the head cheese for the worst man-made disaster in US history with 9/11, and now the worst natural disaster with Hurricane Katrina. The days immediately after 9/11 seemed to bring out the best in him, but Katrina has turned such a huge area into an absolute nightmare - hard to imagine any politician making a difference. Whole gulf coast is quickly turning from third world refugee camp to war zone each night. Doubt anyone different being President right now would alter anything happening in these few days and weeks but was just wondering if George W. ever just wants to get cocked and scream "Enough!"