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Film Festival Interruptus

I feel like invoking that old joke, “Other than that, how did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” as I explain that while attending (and enjoying) the El Paso Classic Film Festival this past weekend, I had to undergo emergency surgery for a detached retina.

When I think of eyes I inevitably think of the immortal Ben Turpin, who made a career out of being cross-eyed. I hope not to follow in his footsteps.

There’s nothing worse than getting sick when you’re away from home. Given that, my Festival hosts Charles and Ann Horak couldn’t have been more helpful or caring. And luck was on my side: their assistant Danielle Price is related to a third-generation El Paso ophthalmologist, Dr. Steven Schuster, who opened his office to me on a Saturday, diagnosed my problem and contacted his colleague, retinal surgeon Dr. Jeremy Cuthbertson. That morning I participated in a seminar with my dear friend, esteemed film teacher and author Jeanine Basinger—

—and by late afternoon I was being prepped for emergency surgery. Since I can’t fly for two weeks my family and I had an unscheduled road trip home to Los Angeles over the next two days.

Now that I’m here, I have to keep my head tilted down for the rest of the week and cannot sleep on my back. So much for screenings or catching up with DVDs! But I don’t intend to fool around with the healing process; my eyesight is too important to me, and right now all I’m seeing out of my left eye is a blur.

Normally, I wouldn’t be burdening my readers with these personal woes, but after the El Paso newspaper carried a story about my surgery and my daughter posted the news on her Facebook page I started hearing from friends and strangers far and wide and figured this was the best way to fill everybody in.

I am grateful beyond words to my wife Alice and my daughter Jessie for their loving care. Tomorrow I’ll try to get back to business and tell you all about the El Paso Festival which was great fun—until a little incident got in the way.

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