I was just about to hit the spam button when I took a closer look at the e-mail subject line: “Location Scout for HBO.”

I opened the e-mail and saw that it was for real. Someone named Susan said HBO was looking for a farmhouse for a new pilot starring Tea Leoni and Hope Davis. Having read my Burb Appeal column, she said, she thought my 150-year-old farmhouse might be a good fit.

Remember the movie “Indecent Proposal” when Demi Moore sleeps with Robert Redford for $1 million? That’s how I felt. An HBO shoot for a week can net $20,000, plus relocation fees. I could pay down debt, plump up my daughter’s college fund, build a little writing studio on my property. Oh, the euphoria of such unexpected treasure!

Then my husband reminded me that I am the most territorial human on the planet.

“How in the world will you be all right with a film crew taking over the place?” he asked.

I took a deep breath and tried to imagine my husband, daughter and I, plus our five cats, relocating to an apartment for a week. It’s been nearly six years since we’ve lived in a confined space together. But, hey, for that amount of money, I figured we could cope.

“Who will take care of the chickens?” my husband continued.

Another good point.

“We’d have to make a provision to have access to the property during the shoot,” I replied.

There was actually something appealing about having our house used for a television series. After all, the house has been an inspiring character in my own drama these last several years — and the muse for this column. My house has always been more than a house. It has defined and shaped me, just as I rescued and redefined it from ending up in a construction heap. I constantly feel swept up in its long history and excited about being the author of its new chapter.

I e-mailed the scout to come the next day.

I had a restless night, tossing and turning over the thought of an army of camera people, lighting, actors and caterers commandeering my lair. Would they use our refrigerator, our bathrooms, our furniture? What if a klieg light caught fire and burned down the house? What if they wanted to paint the walls? (Come to think of it, the walls could use a paint job.)

The following morning dawned, a beautiful spring day. I puttered around the house fluffing pillows, straightening pictures and opening the windows to let the light stream through.

Around 11 a.m., the house looked picture-perfect, thanks especially to the 200 newly opened tulips lining our driveway. But in a Dorothy-We’re-Not-In-Kansas-Anymore moment, the sky turned black, trees bowed, torrential rains turned the soil to mud. Even the tulips closed and hung their heads like pallbearers at a funeral procession. Susan the scout texted me to say she’d pulled over on Route 59 because of a tornado warning.

This must be an omen, I thought.

About 90 minutes later, the storm subsided and a perky, reed-thin woman rang the doorbell. She shook off the rain and came inside. I told her about the house. She told me about the pilot: Tea Leoni and Hope Davis play high-octane New York City fashion divas. One drops out for a stab at the hippie life in an old farmhouse. I was secretly hoping it was Hope because I could see her “living” in my house. Then, Susan explained, something tempts her back to the city and she struggles with the conflict.

“Interesting plot,” I said. “A little like my own story except nothing could lure me back to the city.”

Susan and I continued to chat as she walked around the house snapping pictures. She especially liked the vaulted ceilings in our bedroom and the antique claw-footed bathtub.

Before she left, she gave me a few things to think about. The shoot would take about a week. They would want the house in two weeks. A film crew could be as large as 100 people. We would not have access to the property during the shoot. If they wanted to paint the walls a different color they would, but they’d repaint them back to the original color afterward.

She must have seen my Linda Blair moment because I’m sure my head spun a full 360 degrees.

“This is not for everyone,” Susan said. “The money’s great, but you really need to be able to relinquish control. When these crews come to your house, they don’t think of it as your house, they think of it as their set.”

With that, we wrapped up the meeting. She told me we’d get a call within a week if HBO was interested in our house. I closed the door and bolted it. Paying down debt was a nice fantasy, but I wasn’t game for an indecent proposal.

E-mail: [email protected]

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/business/realestate/residential/home_movie_MnCQTsrTe5v8hl0ZGt8T4J#ixzz1MnqoMwGI

My beautiful daughter-in-law threw her arms up and yelled:  “Thank God!  Not a moment too soon!” when I told her Rodent and I would fly back to Norfolk the next morning.   We’d delayed our flight three days due to bad weather.

A winter storm tortured DC, Boston, Baltimore, NYC and a wide swath of the Louisiana Purchase, and Delta Airlines had tempted folk to reschedule three days forward by rescinding its change-fee, so we readied to leave LA on 13 February, a holiday-packed weekend.

For only the second time in 15 years, my son volunteered to drive us to LAX.  His six-year-old twin boys shrugged goodbye and turned back to their Legos.  What did we care?  It was sunny, it was noon, it was a short flight, we were racking up our frequent flyer miles, and I had a couple bananas and a baggieful of red grapes in my carry-on.

Row 33 was the last row on the plane.  Advantages:  we were Really Close to the toilets and to the stewards’ gossip.  Disadvantages:  we were Really Close to the agonied, foot-shifting toilet queue, and we overheard the steward’s intercom messages to the Captain.

Rodent and I quickly got used to pans whacking in the galley behind our heads, but we paused dramatically at a steward’s cryptic message to the Captain:  “We need someone to talk about what’s going on here.”

I’d been happily counting my grapes, not noticing that we’d been fully-planed and sitting for 15 minutes after scheduled take-off.

The Captain came on the intercom, saying:  “There’s a leak in the Business Class toilet.”

The combined brains of Coach passengers held the same thought, or worse:  “Let ’em pee in Coach.”

The Captain continued:  “Mechanics are working hard and understand the time factor.  Though it sounds like a small problem, if the leak continues it might cause the water to go below to the Black Box and electrical systems which could—with the much colder temperatures during flight—freeze and cause problems.”

Forty minutes later we launched, and a happy tailwind had us in Cincinnati just in time to board our flight to Norfolk.

Cincinnati is not LA.  It is a hellhole of chill.  Not that it’s the only place in the USA that patiently provides four months of sub-zero temps and snow.  Oh no.  But this particular evening, near the cusp of St. Valentine’s Day, we had really ached for some sign of spring—Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction notwithstanding.  Hunkering down into our winter coats, caps and gloves, we tramped up and down a byzantine (ok, Rube Goldberg) passageway, stairway and bridge to our silver bullet, and—incredibly—comfortable seats in the fourth row.

My bum generously gripped in soft leather (was this Business Class?), I smiled at Rodent who looked a bit pale but game for the rest of the ride.  For the first time ever, I gave careful attention to the Safety directions.  At last someone had printed up a leaflet with bright, simple cartoons for each Safety step.  I am now able to explain how to grip the levers of exit doors A and C at the front of the plane, though not how to actually open the doors.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the Captain announced, “I might as well explain what is going on.”

Had I been counting grapes again and not noticed that we’d been sitting 20 minutes past take-off time?

He continued:  “The external air cart that starts the engine isn’t getting air.  It’s frozen.”

My brain decided to go walkabout and sit with the man behind us who, according to his female seatmate, was her husband and an airplane pilot.

He was explaining to her:  “An external air cart blows air into the engine to get it started.  It needs heating up.  Some private planes have an auxiliary power unit that bleeds off air to start the engines, to move it to the side of the engine.  It doesn’t take much to move the air.  But the unit’s expensive.”

I thus intuited that some commercial airlines choose to have external air carts, one which was being heated so that it could blow air into our lifeless engine.

I decided to worry about whether the Norfolk police would have towed my outdated-license-plate- stickered car from the driveway, as they had told my neighbour two days before.  This was a worry I could get my head around.

The plane began moving in reverse the way my now-dead 13-year old stick-shift Datsun B210 felt and sounded when going in reverse whilst the emergency brake was on.

The Pilot Behind Us was saying:  “That’s one of the pushers.  They use pushers so they don’t have to use reverse thrust.”

Right, I thought, and wondered if I’d really rather have reverse thrust, and whether the pushers themselves needed external air carts to get us down the runway at a lively speed.

As luck would have it, we were now moving forward, and the Pilot Behind Us was telling his wife about the signficance of full flights and terrorist attacks, and the comparative power of ship engines and airplane engines.

Announcement from Captain:  “During the wait, we seem to have got a little icing on the wings, so we’ll just shoot over to the de-icing fluid.”

Pilot Behind Us:  “Smaller planes have heaters on them, but they’re expensive.”

Possibly a bit mad with his info-power, he added:  “Hope they don’t do like they did in Greensboro where they sprayed so much de-icer it cooled down the engine, so we had to wait for the engine to warm up.”

Rodent was asleep, doubtless dreaming about the pipe he hadn’t been able to smoke for the last ten hours.

And then Cosmic Birther Of All Radiance And Vibration smiled.

She had us up in the air staring down at a silent lava flow of jewels, the Cincinnati night traffic.  Then we were beyond the city and into space, contemplating a sky smatter-rich with stars.  Next we knew, the PBU was identifying a glitter of bracelets below:  “Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel……Hampton Bridge Tunnel….”

We were home to an airport of lush green potted plants all along the walkway and a sign cheerfully announcing:  “Underground Parking.  Lots.”  (I assumed that meant Norfolk Airport has lots of underground parking.)

We were about to undertake the most dangerous trip of the day:  the cab ride home.

 

Have Happy Day

By Slade Ham

Memoir

It was early April that year and I was excited. I was going back to Asia for the third time, to see the cherry blossoms in bloom and hop from base to base telling jokes through most of South Korea and Japan. My itinerary was complicated, and the first leg in particular left very little space for a mistake. In a perfect world I was supposed to fly from Houston to Detroit, Detroit to Tokyo, and finally from Tokyo to Busan, South Korea.

But that’s in a perfect world.

In Real Land where I live, the problems started as soon as I boarded in Texas. They waited until the cabin door was closed to inform us that there was a minor computer issue. “It should only take a few minutes to correct,” the pilot’s voice crackled out over the intercom.

A baby cried somewhere in front of me. Sweet Jesus. Already? The mother fed it a bottle and rocked it to sleep. A few minutes slowly became sixty. I had a window seat, and that window was already beginning to fog up from the lack of air circulation. It’s been an hour, I thought. It can’t take that much longer. I’m a borderline claustrophobic person by nature and being stuck in the back of a long metal tube on the inside of a row wasn’t helping. The massive woman in the aisle seat was the size of an adolescent rhinoceros so getting out and walking around was going to be a challenge. At least I’m not in the middle though, I told myself.

That seat belonged to a man in his forties who, while having said nothing to support my theory, appeared to carry himself with a holier-than-thou attitude. I immediately didn’t like him. Some people have a cocky look on their face by nature. Maybe it was the way his facial bones were structured or how his eye brows arched, but he looked like someone who thought they should have a butler. “Simmer down,” I wanted to say. “You’re back here in coach with the rest of us.”

An hour and a half.

The speaker rattled again, this time with worse news. “This is your Captain again. Umm… we’re going to try to get this computer restarted one more time… umm… and if that doesn’t work we’re going to have to bring a crew on board to replace it. Just sit tight though. It shouldn’t be much longer,” the Captain lied.

Two hours.

Time was crawling. Shit. I remembered I only had a three hour layover in Detroit before my flight to Japan. This was going to cut things way too close. I pulled my notebook out of my backpack and tried to write to distract myself. The man in the middle was starting to get nosy. He pushed his glasses up with his finger and then tried to covertly read what I was writing with his peripheral vision. A blindfolded, stillborn chimpanzee would have known what he was doing. I adjusted my writing to compensate. Flipping over to a fresh page, I started a new paragraph:

“If you don’t stop reading this I will stab you in the ear with my pen and hide your body under the large woman to your left. They will never find you, do you understand me? Yes, I am talking to you. Don’t look away now, motherfucker. And when I’m through with you, and I get off this godforsaken plane, I will hunt your children down and eat them. You read that right. I will eat your children. On bread. Like a PoBoy.”

Three hours.

My layover time had officially been chiseled away. Unless we made into in the air in five minutes I was going to miss my next flight. I took a deep breath when I heard the intercom buzz. “Captain Adams here one more time. Just wanted to update you folks on our status. It looks like they have the problem under control. We apologize for keeping you on the plane this long, but it should only be a few more minutes. Sit tight.”

“Lying cocksucker!” someone yelled from the back. We all laughed, but there was no heart in it.

The beluga whale at the end of our row wasn’t doing so well. People that size don’t like to move a lot but they don’t like to be trapped either. The armrests were not being kind to her hips in an irresistible force/immovable object sort of way. The manner in which she seemed to have gotten stuck in her seat reminded me of a video I once saw where a double-decker bus failed to make it underneath an overpass.

Three and a half hours.

All I could focus on was the fact that I had to get to Detroit. I had to. The baby was crying again, now awake from its nap. Middle Man was fidgeting uncontrollably next to me but he avoided making eye contact. The sack of mattresses next to him was snoring, though she was wide awake. Her breaths came in erratic gusts, each one sounding more laborious than the last. More crying sounds cut through the thick air. It was miserable. I hope this plane blows up, I thought to myself.

Four and a half hours.

We were all beaten. Even the flight attendants had given up any semblance of professionalism. Ties loosened and sweat dripping, they dragged a beat up water cart down the center aisle. “Just say something if you want some more water,” one of them muttered. “I can’t help you otherwise.”

Five hours.

My flight to Tokyo had now been in the air for almost two hours. “Good news,” the Captain interrupted. “We’ve resolved the problem and are cleared for takeoff.”

One hundred and seventy-nine people sighed in relief; the fat lady just kept trying to breathe, period.

*  *  *

Eventually I made it through Detroit and into Tokyo, trudging into Narita Airport around 11:30 at night. The airline informed me that while the last flight into Busan had already taken off, they would happily fly me to Seoul for the night. “We get for you hotel, and drive person will arrive to transport you,” the lady behind the counter said in broken English. “Here ticket. Go enjoy. Have happy day.”

I didn’t know that the entire country of Korea goes to bed well before midnight. I learned that fact upon arriving at Incheon Airport in Seoul. Apparently they’re like Monchichis in that regard; at ten o’clock, someone takes the jewels out of their bellies and they fall asleep. The airport was huge, and totally empty. I was Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky if, too tired to run through Times Square, he had skipped directly to the screaming-at-the-sky-and-spinning-in-a-circle part. How could the airport be empty? Where was my driver? I still had to get a hold of someone in Busan and let them know that I wasn’t going to make it, but the only contact information I had was for a man mysteriously named “Mr. O”. I had that, and a phone number with a thousand digits.

What I did not have was any Korean won and the Currency Exchange had long since closed. Delirious, I stumbled down the massive hallway and tried to make sense of the logograms that surrounded me. My exhausted mind translated them based on what they appeared to be: picnic table, telephone pole, tree house. I was getting nowhere.

One lone, lethargic sentry waited by the exit near an eerily silent baggage claim. He led me to a phone and then left me alone to report my story to Mr. O’s voicemail, because Mr. O, like all of Korea, was sleeping. I had been traveling for nearly thirty hours. Where was my ride to the hotel? A voice echoed my thought even as it occurred.

“Hotel?” I heard someone say.

I was certain that I was imagining things because there was no one there. “Hotel?” the voice said again, and then a four foot tall Korean appeared from behind what had appeared to be an abandoned counter.

“Yes,” I said. “Please.” I didn’t even care if he was the right guy or not. I just wanted to stand under a hot shower and maybe take a nap.

“Come. We go fast,” he grinned.

“Yes,” I replied. “Fast is good.”

He led me to a van, threw my bag in the passenger side, and then clambered into the driver’s seat. I slid open the side door and crawled into my own seat in the back, fully prepared to doze off until we reached our destination. I heard the ignition fire up as my eyes closed, and then I snapped them back open again when Korean rap exploded from the speakers. The van tires squealed, kicking up dust, and we shot forward in the dark outskirts of Seoul at the speed of sound.

He could barely see over the steering wheel. I pulled myself forward against the G force to see how fast we were going, forgetting that the speedometer was showing kilometers. I heard some mechanical part fall off the van and I spun around to watch it disappear in the darkness. The man laughed at the sound and then sped up even more. Through the windshield I could barely make out the road ahead as it flew toward us. Among the other deficiencies, we apparently only had one headlight as well, like the Wallflowers. The tail lights of another car appeared ahead, but only for a moment. He bump drafted them, cut the wheel sharply, and whizzed past, throwing his hands in the air like Bastion on Falcor’s back in The Neverending Story. “Mansae!” he yelled.

Terrified, I moved to the center of the bench seat and put on all three seatbelts.

I crawled out of the van when we arrived at the hotel, shaking but relieved and ecstatic to still be counted amongst the living. Before I could tip the man or even thank him, he pushed my bag out after me, yelled something else in Korean, and then rocketed off into the night.

“Have happy day,” I chuckled.

I’ll never know exactly how fast we actually went. I know we covered what I estimated to be 1100 miles in about eighteen minutes, and I couldn’t help but wonder where this guy had been when I needed to get from Houston to Detroit thirty hours earlier.