Wednesday, January 21, 2015

An Oral History of Glowstring


Sid DelMaar (Producer):

It was called "authentic." "Masterful." "A performance for the ages," and all that bullshit claptrap you see on TV commercials and on the the cover of DVDs and Blu-rays. Or on the back, if you're not yet at the top of the buzzword-addicted, shitty-critic food chain.

In twenty years, some narrator will be saying in a bass voice, "Aaron Klein was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Jimmy Yates, in which he played a young man coming to terms with losing his voice after being hit in the larynx with a baseball." They'll make a documentary of an okay movie. It was pure Oscar bait, but Aaron made it into something honest. God was that a performance.

Tim "Curvy" Cavendish (Writer):

It's a good movie. I definitely recommend it. Caveat: I worked on the script. I wasn't the main writer, but I made some suggestions that made it through to the final draft. I think the best change that I made was to change the character of Jimmy from someone who gets hit in the throat by a foul ball as a spectator into the starting pitcher. It wasn't a real fucking story, so why not?

It made 11 million its opening weekend at the box office. Not a wedding reception, but not a funeral, either. We'd wait to see the VOD numbers. Aaron Klein was a star on the rise -- kid has eyes like wet icicles -- and we were confident we had something special.

Vanessa Scotchson (Actress, "Hilly Dodd"):

Robert would come out of his trailer screaming, "We have him! We have him!" I thought he was on coke or something, but now I realize that Aaron's performance was that good. They saw it in the dailies.

Robert J. Sachs (Director):

I was doing coke. A lot of it. [Laughs] But I was more high on this kid Klein. When I saw his audition tape, I knew he was the one we wanted. Sid knew it, too. But it wasn't until that first day of shooting that we realized we had lightning in a bottle. I was fucking elated. Are you kidding me? No other actor could have played that part. It was manna from heaven.

Jean Dupris (Casting Director):

The studio had two big concerns. One, Aaron had a SAG card, but he was completely unknown. He'd done a few commercials and had a few lines in some DTV movies no one had seen. That's not unheard of: an actor having a breakthrough performance in his first leading role, but it makes the studios nervous. They want something reliable. Two, during the audition recording, before he started saying his lines, the guy looked like he was going to piss his pants in fear or have a nervous breakdown. That was the studio's biggest fear, that he was mentally unstable or had maybe some drug issues. He kept swallowing and tapping his feet nervously. His hands were shaking, and he could barely hold on to the script pages. But when he started reading his lines, my god. He turned into another person! He was confident. He had presence. I've seen a lot of actors fall into a role at the drop of a hat, but I've never seen that kind of transformation. It was supernatural. Sid and Robert can back me up on that. I sent them the tapes, and we agreed that we were going to go to war if we had to to put this kid in the movie.

Robert J. Sachs:

That audition tape! Sid and I were in Vancouver working on reshoots for Pale Sepulcher. Jean sent us the audition. She starts, "Don't try throwing anything pretty, Yates. Just get this last strike and then it's on to Pittsburgh. And Aaron goes--

Sid DelMaar:

"I'll throw it so goddamn sexy that you'll be hard by the time it hits your mitt, Carrington..."

Robert J. Sachs:

"Now get back behind the plate and watch me pop your fucking cherry." Jesus Christ! What a line! And he ad-libbed it!

Tim "Curvy" Cavendish:

That is true. It wasn't in the script. The original line was, "I'll throw it so goddamn pretty the whole stadium will turn to try and look up its skirt. Now get back behind the plate, Carrington, and watch me put some lipstick in your mitt." Aaron definitely made it sexier. [Laughs]

Paul Duncan (Writer):

I wrote the first two drafts. After that, Mark Winter, whom I'd worked with on two previous pictures, was brought in. The story was basically guy loses his voice, guy loses his job, guy gets depressed and starts spiraling downwards, then gets motivated to give it another shot and ultimately finds redemption. That was the skeleton of the script. Without any further details, that's a story that sounds dull and one that's been told a million times. Those first two drafts weren't as simple as that, but something unique was missing. Mark suggested we get rid of the third act, more or less.

Mark Winter (Writer):

I wanted to go dark. I was in a pretty dark place myself. I was going through a divorce and was drinking a lot. I wanted Jimmy Yates to die miserably and have the closing music an upbeat pop song as a fuck-you to how I was feeling. I was still drinking, but I sobered up on it being totally mean. I still wanted to get rid of the third act, though.

Sid DelMaar:

The third act was shit. We went over and over it, and it was like a Chinese finger trap. But we had to end the fucking picture!

Robert J. Sachs:

We brought in Curvy. That's how he got his nickname. We tried to call him The Closer, which seemed apt for a baseball movie. He didn't like that a bit, so it became Curvy. He didn't like that name either, but he didn't hate it. 

Tim "Curvy" Cavendish:

The name bothered me because the movie isn't a baseball movie. Sid and Robert didn't consider it a baseball movie, either. There's no more baseball after the first act! But they kept calling me first The Closer and then Curvy, and I couldn't fucking stop subconsciously inserting baseball analogies into the rewrite. It was beyond distracting. We finally came to an agreement that they could call me Curvy if I completed the script to their satisfaction, and I could call them whatever I wanted if I couldn't. And so now those assholes always call me Curvy. [Laughs]

Sid DelMaar:

We premiered at TIFF. Robert and I got lit on gin and tonics in the hotel bar before the show. It wasn't our first rodeo, but we were terrified. What if everything we believed this film was was a lie we were telling ourselves? It didn't help that when we sat down in the theater Aaron was blanched. His knees were knocking together. He looked like a six-year-old afraid to get a shot at the doctor's.

Robert J. Sachs:

I sent the new script pages to everyone the day after Curvy came on board. There was a third act, but it was very different from what we wanted, even though we didn't know what we wanted. Jimmy Yates didn't kill himself [Editor's note: In the original script, Jimmy Yates runs onto the field during a baseball game and shoots himself in the head on the pitcher's mound], but there was a shoehorned romance angle I wasn't fond of.

Vanessa Scotchson:

I wanted to be in more of the movie of course, but I realized it would kill the narrative. I emailed everyone and gave my honest opinion. It was a shitty idea. I didn't want to be hated as a person because a scriptwriter had tried to use my character as a spare tire to fix the movie's problems.

Robert J. Sachs:

Vanessa's shortened role is very bittersweet for me. She's one of the greatest actresses we have, and all of her scenes were brilliant. Bless her, she bit the bullet on the picture. She could have kicked up a fuss. I like to think that her soul remains in the finished film, like the scent of perfume left behind on a blanket after a daliance.

Vanessa Scotchson:

Did he really say that? God, that's Robert. A lot of sociopaths hide their malice behind charm.

Tim "Curvy" Cavendish:

We had to shoot. Something. Aaron sent me an email after Vanessa had bowed out that said, "Why doesn't Jimmy learn sign language and become a sign-language teacher?" "You can't be fucking serious," I wrote back immediately. That sounded like the stupidest idea to fix this movie, and I had a lot of bad ones. Some including robots. "Who cares about a baseball pitcher who loses his voice and goes on to teach sign language? It's a shit idea. My beagle could come up with something more creative than that."

"I'll buy you a coffee and we can talk it over tomorrow morning. Keep writing if you think you have something better," he replied.

Sid DelMaar:

So Aaron convinced Tim to make Jimmy an ASL teacher. Convinced everybody. Eventually.

Robert J. Sachs:

Tim called me down to the hotel restaurant. When I got down he just pointed his finger at Aaron, who was making these hand gestures. They were fluid. He was break dancing with his hands. But I didn't know what the fuck was going on, you know? I called Sid.

Sid DelMaar:

I knew he was using sign language, but I didn't know if he was using it correctly. It looked authentic, but so does a plastic snowplow to an Ecuadorian.

Robert J. Sachs:

"Knock off the spastic shit and just explain what the fuck you're doing, Klein!" That was Sid. The kid wouldn't budge. He gave Sid a napkin that read, "I'm not talking until this movie has premiered. Get an interpreter that knows ASL if you have something important to say. And let's finish this fucking movie."

I saved that napkin. Sid didn't care much for the bravado it contained, and I tucked it into my breast pocket when he wasn't looking. It might still be there; I don't know because I lost the jacket.

Sid DelMaar:

The TIFF buzz was deafening. The snowball started rolling down the mountain.

Aaron Klein [Actor, Jimmy Yates]*

I called my mom. I was frantic. I couldn't even tell if people hated my performance or loved it. It was like I was stuck in a garbage can for three hours with lid held on tight. That's the worst I've ever felt in my life: waiting for someone to judge me and tell me if I did a good job or not. I thought I did a pretty good job, but I don't know. It was up to the arbiters of art now."

Robert J. Sachs:

We had a cinematic rarity. All the bullshit that we hated and kept being fed by the studios was about to be reversed. This was a film! It was magic! They hated the title, though. So did I.Glowstring? It had no meaning. It sounded so cloying. I wanted to change it two weeks before Cannes, but by then Aaron was in the hospital.The title stayed. I'm glad it did. It makes no sense, but few things do.

Tim "Curvy" Cavendish:

The original script was titled Foul Ball. How awful is that? For a while it was Playing Catch, which was even worse. Aaron suggested Glowstring. I can't remember if he was high or not. He rarely was, but sometimes he'd partake, especially during press junkets. We needed a title, and it stuck. It's an awful title, but it weirdly fit the picture. Maybe Aaron knew some deeper meaning behind it. If he did, he never told me.

Edith Klein (Mother, Aaron Klein):

Glowstring. My lord. Aaron used to have nightmares as a kid, and sometimes he'd wake up screaming in the early morning. I'd go into his room and lie in his bed to settle him down. After a few minutes, or sometimes a few hours, he'd get tired enough to fall back asleep, and then he'd say, "It's okay, Mom, I can sleep now. The glowstrings are coming."

Sid DelMaar:

Oscar Night was such a...it was scary. We were nominated for Best Film, which I knew we had no chance at. Bob was nominated for Best Director, which he had no shot at, either. Curvy was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, but he was fucked, too. Daedalus was going to kill us. It was a juggernaut. But Aaron had a chance as Best Actor. The press was already calling it a pity party award if he won, but fuck them.

Edith Klein:

Aaron was really frail. He was throwing up every twenty minutes or so. His eyes were so sunken in his head that they might have burrowed into the back of his skull. "Mom," he said, "I have to be at the ceremony." 

Robert J. Sachs:

I remember Jake Gyllenhaal opening that envelope. I was thinking in fast forward, and my eyes were watching his lips in slow motion. You form an A with your mouth open, and a D with it partially closed. It's a subtle difference, and I was waiting to see which appeared. When I saw that mouth open wide, I stood up and started clapping. I knew.

Sid DelMaar:

He looked like a skeleton. He practically was. But that acceptance speech -- if you can call it one -- will live forever.

Tim "Curvy" Cavendish:

He was signing. No one knew what to make of it. He could barely hold the statue, so he put it down by his feet and started signing.

Sid DelMaar:

You could hear the entire audience shifting in their seats. Coughs, rustling. It sounded like a wave of crumpled paper slowly being blown down the aisles.

Edith Klein:

I have the acceptance speech. Aaron gave it to me that night and told me he had it memorized. It reads, "Thank you for this honor. I am so thankful. You have bestowed on me a great honor. Thank you to everyone I have worked with on this great film, and thank you to everyone I have encountered in this great life. I have been blessed. And lucky. Maybe it's the same thing. I think it's more of the latter, but I have never been distrustful of luck. If not for it, where might I be? Unfortunately, unluckily, my time around here seems to be up. I'll be gone soon, but others will go on, always building on this great cosmic snowball of life. You are all pretty."

That's how it ends.

Tim "Curvy" Cavendish:

There's one more part from that acceptance speech that Aaron tagged on at the end. I know because it was on the napkin he gave me in the hotel restaurant in Toronto before Rob and Sid sat with us. It says, "When I win the Academy Award for Best Actor, I'm going to sign my entire speech." The last part is a post-script confession: "I got a Polaroid camera for my eighth birthday. I took a picture of my dick and shamefully hid it in my bedroom ventilation duct. Maybe it's worth something now."

Maybe it is.


* From Klein's Esquire interview, published 2 weeks after his death.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Bad Dreams are Only Dreams



2007. February. Recently separated, divorce papers filed, lawyer hired. Waiting. Had to get a job at a hagwon because I needed an apartment. Because, despite the -- cursory, unsympathetic -- advice of my lawyer, I had to leave the apartment my ex, daughter, and I shared for fear of my own safety. I was the victim of domestic violence for several years. Having the opportunity to look back nearly eight years later, I'm confident that I made the right choice. I think my ex-wife would have murdered me had I stayed.

I was hired at a language school and worked hard, as I always have (well, at least in adulthood; I was a pretty big slacker as a teen), while the slow process of the divorce took its time. I lived in a one-room apartment with a single bed, a small CRT television, a pinewood desk, and little else. It got good sunlight, though. I swapped a basement apartment in which I'd originally been placed in the same building with a fellow teacher for it. That place was dark and dank (and the previous tenant hadn't paid his water bills, so I had to shower, in winter, in freezing-cold water. That makes you reevaluate some things). But some people prefer to live in the dark, god knows why.

I had support during that time, but not a lot, and it's curious to 2015 me how I was able to make it through a period that, today, I can't fathom tackling. I'd email my mother and give her updates; Kmork, that beautiful bastard, gave me a laptop; I'd chat on the phone with my now-wife*, who was in Australia, every night; the teachers at the school I worked at were good friends, and eventually I explained the truth of my divorce after months of lying that my wife and daughter were in Canada.

2007. June. Arbitration. The arbitrator suggests that I relinquish child custody and all of my earnings. My lawyer is furious and cancels the hearing.

2007. July. Arbitration. Having requested joint custody of our daughter and half of our total savings, I am granted the latter. My ex-wife is given full custody and I am to pay 300,000 Korean won monthly, which I will gladly do because it is for the support of my child. I am given bi-monthly visitation rights. My lawyer tells me this is a victory of sorts. He can chew on a car tire.

Five minutes later, I'm sitting on a stiff wooden chair more fit for an interrogation room than a courthouse. My ex-wife's lawyer emerges and explains to my counsel that I have been granted full custody. It takes interpretation and a little longer for me to comprehend this change of events. When it finally clicks, I am ecstatic. I could punt-kick a skyscraper.

I reenter the arbitration room. I am told by my ex that the reason she has given me full custody is because her daughter looks too much like me. She can't stand to look at her. So much for motherly love.

I have remained here in Korea in the years since. My parents (and siblings, and more relatives and friends than I can name) have taken great care of my lovely girl, for which I'm eternally grateful. I will always find time to go home, to be with my rainbow. Hopefully, someday, it will be a permanent stay instead of a vacation.

XOXO
ROY G BIV


* That sounds terribly reductive, and I apologize. Pineapple, as she will pseudonymously be called henceforth, is my dear, precious wife and love.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Frozen 2



"Aren't you tired, Orson? It's a long ride back to Stonebridge, and the temperature is falling."

"I don't 'get' tired. Tired gets you killed, or at least it used to. Fall asleep while hunting back in the day and a fucking sabre-toothed tiger'll eat you, you know? My aunt Candice was over at my folks' place over the holidays and was talking about how her massage chair helped her sleep between ten and fucking twelve hours. Who does that? This country is going to shit, and it's because everybody's lazy. No one has a fucking priority. They just want to put on their Snuggies and hibernate like fucking bears. It's depressing. We turned the foundation of this world from shit to gold once upon a time, if you can believe it, and now the pillars of our triumphs are collapsing because of lazy assholes who don't want to work hard for anything. Also because of the queers. Up is down and down is up. Suddenly I'm a Nazi for being offended by seeing a picture of a cock in another guy's mouth? Like somehow seeing a cock in another guy's mouth and being offended makes me the villain? We're all doomed. You need a fucking Ambien to fall asleep, you're a retard and need to be culled is what I'm saying. Darwin. Survival of the fittest. There's no participation award in life. You have to snatch it like a hyena making off with a cheetah's prey. The one's that don't starve. If you want something, you fight for it. That's life. That's what living is. You don't ask for pity and pop a couple dozen pills and hope the magic of medicine will make everything all right later. You use your fucking brain and think, 'How can I turn this disadvantage around?' You reach into your 150,000-year-old survival instinct toolbox and try to find a way."

"What about compassion? Studies have shown that animals across a broad spectrum of species possess compassion."

"It's a deformity. A living thing's hourglass is turned upside down and toward death the minute he exhibits compassion. We have Mongoloid babies and people breathing through tubes because of this nonsense. What a waste of time. What are they contributing to this world, Rebecca? Absolutely nothing. They wouldn't even have realized if they had died during labor! They know nothing about the world. They are like an obstacle or a fence: you go around it, over it, or you tear it down so that it is no longer in your way."

"Something's always going to be in the way."

"So you say. I'm pretty sure history will reveal that the strong will steamroll over your limp-wrist liberal attitudes. That gap year in Europe turned you into a flamethrower with no fuel. All of your ideas are snowflakes that melt before they hit the ground."

Rebecca stood up.

"Thank you, Orson. As always, it has been a pleasurable chat, but I must insist that you leave."

She began clearing dishes.

"You're kidding. I've had two bottles of wine and it's driving snow outside. I'll freeze to death."

"I'm sure you won't. Survival of the fittest, Darwin, and all that...

Now get the fuck out."

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ROY G BIV (Part 1 of Maybe)



"Do you have everything?"

"Yes."

"Are you sure? You haven't left anything behind?"

"Dad, yes," Rachel Madison said.

"You have your lunch and all your books?"

"Yes."

"I'm not going to have to drive back here and then drive back to the school because you forgot something, am I?"

"No."

"Ray, go through your checklist. I'm not moving until you're positive you have everything."

"Dad!"

"Checklist!"

Rachel sighed defiantly and searched her memory of this cold February morning. She was sure she had everything for school. Then --

"Oh, shit, wait," she said and darted out of the car and back into the house. When she reemerged, her head was hanging solemnly on her chest. She opened the backseat door and sat down.

"I can't find my ballet stuff," she said.

"Ray, we had a deal. You stop losing stuff and I stop having to try to find it, remember? This is, what, the third time this week? First it was your science textbook, then it was your daily planner. By my count, this would be your third strike. You know what that means."

"Just drive. I don't need to be late for school on top of everything else about this crummy morning."

"Crummy. Hmm. That's a lot less colorful word than the one you used before."

 "Sorry."

"Eh, it happens. But I get to take back the two dollars I put into the swear jar last week for calling the ref of the Bulls-Sixers game a bad word, deal?"

"You called him a motherf--"

"Hey now, I know what I called him. No need for a reminder."

"Jocasta is going to murder me."

"No she won't," George Madison said as he reversed the car down the driveway. "Why would she without a motive?" He put the car into drive and picked up a faded pink drawstring bag from the passenger seat. "Looking for this?"

"Daddy!" Rachel shouted in elation. Then, "Wait, how long did you know it was there?"

"Since last Thursday when you left it there after we stopped by Subway on our way home. Take better care of your stuff, kiddo."

"I will," Rachel said.

"I'm giving you a Mulligan here, Rachey. The call has been reversed. Looks like you're still sitting on two strikes."

"So, milkshakes later?"

"Milkshakes later. Have a good day at school. I'll see you at four o'clock."

"Bye Dad."

"Bye."

---

George didn't mind sitting in the ballet studio waiting room. Usually there were other parents he could make small talk with: Mike Olynyk, who worked for a cable company; Emily Barnes, who taught third-grade math out in Noble Square; sometimes Jenny Conrad showed up, and they'd talk about pleating. George had no idea what pleating was -- his best guess was a Greek philosopher -- but he listened raptly to Jenny speak on the subject. Her blue eyes were as big and deep as a pristine Olympic swimming pool. George was in love with her, but he was in love with her the same way people are in love with Marylin Monroe or Elvis Presley. Or Jesus Christ. Jenny Conrad was real, but she was not available. She was married to a radio station executive and had two daughters, Gracie, 4, and Francine, 12, the latter with whom Rachel shared ballet class.

None of these regular parents were there on this particular Tuesday night, however. Not even George, who had fallen asleep not long after returning home from work that day. He woke up on the sofa just after five-thirty with a foam food container filled with chicken bones resting on his chest like an unfunny approximation of funeral flowers.

"Oh, shit," he said as he threw on his jacket and snatched his car keys.

---

"Kid, I'm sorry."

"You always are."

"I fell asleep watching Family Feud."

"How many strikes is that for you?"

"For the week?"

"For your life."

"Hey, low blow."

"Jocasta wants to talk to you."

"Well why didn't she say so when we were just in there?"

"Obviously because she didn't want me to hear it. Maybe she wants use foul language. Maybe she wants to have sex with you."

"Rachel!"

---

"Mr. George, hi again."

"I'm just George. My last name is Madison."

"Okay. Mr. Madison, Rachel has trouble with her feet."

"Like...how? Her feet look fine to me."

"Her pointe shoes are decrepit. The ribbons are all ratty, like mice chewed on them. And the heel is falling apart."

"I'll fix it."

"Mr. Madison, can you sew?"

"No. At least not professionally. I'll learn. Is that what you wanted to talk about?"

"With the right direction and support, she could go to Juilliard."

"I'll keep that in mind."

---

"What did she say?"

"Your shoes are fu-- damaged. They're damaged. They need to get fixed."

"I knew that."

"Well thank you, Einstein. I didn't. And I can't afford to buy you a new pair of shoes. Which makes me an asshole."

"Dad?"

"Yeah, what?"

"Two bucks in the swear jar."

"I know."

---

"Try this milkshake. It's really good."

"Mm, that is good."

"I like good stuff."

"So do I. Know what I like more than good stuff?"

"Basketball?"

"Funny girl. Besides that."

"What?"

"Better stuff."

"Like what?"

"Better grades."

"Here we go..."

"Ray, your teacher called. The last time you turned in a homework assignment Muhammad Ali was still Cassius Clay."

"Who?"

"Exactly! Kid, you need to smarten up. You're my baby girl, and I love you and everything, but you have to see the picture through the trees...the big picture. You have to work harder. Get stuff done. Elbow grease."

"Does that hard work include falling asleep and forgetting to pick your daughter up from ballet? Because I think I could handle that."

"Get in the car."

"Can I drive?"

"No."

---

"We asked a hundred people. Top four answers are on the board. Name the most embarrassing situation for your dirty parts to be exposed."

"What does he mean by dirty parts?"

"It's a double entendre."

"What's that?"

"Ask me later. RED CARPET!"

"What's a double entendre?"

"What?"

"You told me to ask you later. Now is later."

"MEMOIR! Sorry, sweetie, what?"

"Never mind. I found it on Wikipedia."

"That's good. SEX TAPE!"

"I'm going to bed."

"NSA SURVEILLANCE SCANDAL!"

---

"Ray, wake up, kid. Time for school."

"Mnidonwannagotaschooltoday. Cannijussleepin?"

"Not on the itinerary. I don't want to go to work, either, but we all have our fate. The sword of Damocles hangs over both our heads."

"Can I drive?"

"Maybe when you're older."

"Who's Damocles?"

"He was before your time. Mine, too. He played jazz. Had a cleft lip, but he played the trumpet better than Gabriel."

"Who's Gabriel?"

"He's an asshole, don't worry about him. Have a good day at school, Small Fry."

"Have a good day at whatever you do, Big Fry."

---

Saturday, January 10, 2015

RFturn



I'm home again. I have a screwdriver in my jeans pocket. It doesn't talk to strangers. I found my way upstairs, and now I'm opening my bedroom door. Coffee cup on the dresser; dirty worn-out socks; a gummy worm covered in dirt on the carpet. Life is a shame, and enjoying it is shameless. I want to become a noun.

I saw a crucified rat yesterday. It had a burdock in its mouth.

Before he became a world-renowned architect, Joseph Stalin used the play the guitar. Acoustic -- this was long before electric. I met him once, in Sweden. He was wearing a funny hat, and he had a cold sore on his upper lip. It looked like an elephant clitoris. We drank wine and sang songs about dragonflies.

Oh, precious queen. When will the thunder cease and the hills be green? Is there a taxi cab to drive my heart home? And when I arrive, will I be alone?

I've never skied. I don't drink milk. When I was eleven years old, I drowned my baby brother. That was the first and last time I played submarine with a human being.

There's a jigsaw puzzle of Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night glued to the ceiling. One thousand pieces. I glued together each piece, too. I made it, and it cannot be unmade. I started it, and I finished it, and then I glued it to the ceiling. It's the first thing I see before I fall asleep and the first thing I see when I awake. I hope it stays there forever. It better.

Today I'm taking a bus to Boston. It's chilly. I have my winter cap and my mittens on, though! There are faces in the bus's paneling. Dr. Ernstrom calls that pareidolia and says that I'm acutely "involved" with it. He tells me that's not necessarily a bad thing, that my brain is playful. But I shouldn't get too playful. That's what the medicine is for. Two pills: one white, one pink. One to fight, one to think.

But god do they make me constipated. Sometimes I feel like there's a lump the size of a orangutan skull stuck in my anus. Other times, everything builds up and I just have to release.

We're moving. I put my head against the window and fall asleep.

A chocolate-chip mint ice cream cone. I go to take a taste, and a mouth with razor-sharp fangs emerges from the cone to attack me. I wake up. I have wet myself.

"Oh, Christ," the man beside me says in disgust. I tell him I'm sorry and try hard not to stare at his mandible ant mouth. At our next rest stop I throw my underwear and trousers out in the restroom garbage can and retrieve a fresh pair of clothes from my backpack: a pair of white slacks and a pink Hannah Montana T-shirt.Then I go to the counter of the diner and ask for a glass of water to wash down my pills with. The waitress has a huge smile and large breasts.

I get back on the bus. Two young men at the back are discussing baseball.

"No way he averages .400 next season! You're crazy! If he does, god as my witness, I will suck your dick."

"Is that a promise?" I blurt out. My mouth is always outrunning my mind.

"What the fuck did you say, asshole?"

I slink in my seat and try to turn invisible.

"Leave him alone; he's retarded," the woman behind me says. "He doesn't know any better."

"Fuck I don't," I whisper sideways.

"South Station!" the driver yells. I grab my bag and disembark. A cab takes me to Back Bay. I pay the driver and walk up those familiar steps.

A woman opens the door. I don't know her.

"I'm here to see Raymond Mills," I say. "I'm his son."

"Who?"

"Raymond Mills. He's a professor at Emerson."

"You must have the wrong address."

The sky is pitch-black and snow is threatening to fall. The clouds are pregnant with precipitation. A car starts then stalls somewhere nearby.

"It would appear I do. I'm very sorry for disturbing you," I say.

She shuts the door. As it closes, a thin wisp of black smoke escapes and circles my sneaker.

"Hi, Dad," I say. "Sorry I couldn't have visited sooner. I've been away. But now I'm back."

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Other People



 January 2, 2015

"Ladies and gentlemen, we've just been informed that we're a little over our maximum weight --"

"What do you expect? It's the holidays!"

"--so we're going to wait on the runway for an extra five minutes or so to burn some fuel. We realize that as an environmentally responsible airline we need to be economical with how we use fuel, but we also have to follow safety procedures to make sure you get to your destination safely."

"What did he just say?"

"Janelle, is this your first time flying? Janelle, make sure your phone is on airplane mode, or else we're going to crash."

"Do they celebrate Christmas in Switzerland?"

"This is so weird; I'm in the air."

"Janelle, the wing just fell off. Janelle, we're all going to die."

"See, like, I have a hard time explaining to my students that there's a level just below Heaven but above Earth."

"Janelle, what do you call the level below Earth?"

"Hell. What's Hell in French?"

"Enfer. That's where we're going."

"Oh, 'enfer,' like inferno? Like Dante's Inferno?"

---

"Excuse me, ma'am. Ma'am?"

"Yes?"

"I'm sorry to bother you. Could I ask you a question?"

"Okay. What is it?"

"You walked by the lavatory a few minutes ago, and I couldn't help noticing your perfume. It was quite distinct."

"Oh, well, thank you. It's Chanel."

"I...um...I wasn't complimenting you."

"Oh, no?"

"No. Like I said, I wanted to ask you a question. Your perfume made me want to vomit. When you walked past my seat, you left behind an invisible trail of foulness as odorous as bug spray. I'd have preferred if you had farted in my face, because that would have been more honest and genuine. So my question is, what compelled you to drench yourself in perfume for a twelve-hour plane trip?"

---

"What's this little one's name?"

"Cammy."

"Oh my god, Cammy, you are such a handsome baby!"

"She's a girl."

"Dan, you didn't have to be rude. She was just being nice."

"Sorry."

"It's not like it's easy to tell the gender of a two-month-old baby."

"Well, exactly. She's pretty much just a lump of clay. I don't like the presumption, though. It's rude."

---

"Chicken or beef?"

"Excuse me, sir, can you put down your window?"

"Chicken or beef?"

"Beef."

"Chicken."

"Sorry, but all we have is bibimbap. Is that okay?"

"That's fine."

"We promise that we'll give you first pick of our menu options for breakfast service."

"Yay. I must have won the lottery."

---

"Um, miss?"

"Yes?"

"I'm not sure if you remember me, but I bought a Crispy Crunch here about a half hour ago."

"And?"

"Well, I'd like to return it in exchange for another one. The one I bought must have been smashed by Thor's hammer, ha. Half of it fell on the floor when I opened it, and the other half, well, you can see for yourself."

"All sales are final."

"I don't have a warranty for this particular candy bar, but it was broke when I opened it. All I'm asking for is an exchange for a new one."

"How do I know that you didn't eat half of it and now you're trying to get another one for free?"

"I'm not Daddy Warbucks, but I can afford to buy a candy bar, even one with such an insane markup as you charge here. All I want is another Crispy Crunch. I didn't eat breakfast, and I have a thirteen-hour flight ahead of me."

---

"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for dying with us. We hope your flight has been a good one, and if you're continuing on to a further destination..."

---

Chicken or beef?

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Fifteen for 15



Below are fifteen images, and each one signifies someone I know - neither celebrities nor historical figures, but individuals known on a personal level, perhaps intimately, though not biblically, necessarily, maybe. The point being, there are fifteen pictures, and there might even be a point to it, possibly one for you.

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
 12
 13
 14
 15


16*



* I never said there were rules, and even if I had, it's Psychedelic Kimchi, so who cares? 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Catch



Julian Cassady was indignant, and he had had the entire weekend to remain indignant. On Friday, his fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Ogilvy, had handed him back his creative writing assignment, a 2,000-word story that was supposed to be 500 words, about a boy who, one school morning, couldn't find his right sneaker, so he goes to school wearing a rubber boot on his right foot instead. What follows is a series of bizarre and comical events.

Julian thought the story was perfect. He knew it was grossly over the 500-word limit, but to him that was just an arbitrary number set by Mr. Ogilvy to discourage other kids from rambling through an incoherent narrative. Julian was confident that he understood the economy of words, and he was sure that his story had no extra padding -- everything was in service to the plot.

Just to be sure, though, he had asked his mother and father to look it over, to see if they found anything that he might have missed. His mother found it delightful and praised him for his creativity. Likewise did his father, although the old man cautioned him about two things: 1) the story's fictional, bumbling teacher, Mr. Vigolgo, was an obvious analogue of his real-life one ("Never piss off your audience, kid"), and 2) the part about the principal being hospitalized that day and substituted by a soggy ham sandwich was similarly unlikely to fly.

Julian listened and edited those parts. Mr. Vigolgo became Mr. Branch, and the principal was brought back to life from almost drowning while aboard a capsized gravy boat.

When Mr. Ogilvy handed him back his story on Friday afternoon, Julian had anticipated a big red A+, possibly with fireworks erupting from the grease pencil marks from which it was written. Instead, what he found horrified him: A B-minus. No fanfare, no comments, just a cold B- that looked like a piece of frozen meat.

This wouldn't do. Julian didn't complain to his parents about the perceived unfair grade. Neither did he sulk (at least outwardly; inside he still felt that he had been deeply wronged). What he decided to do was confront Mr. Ogilvy on Monday morning, before class. He would explain his side of the -- literal -- story. Perhaps Mr. Ogilvy would reconsider the grade, or at least concede that Julian had some salient points in his protestation.

Julian walked to school on Monday morning burdened by his backpack and the load on his mind. He was determined to get his point across and to not swear, like his dad did when the Bills were losing (which was often), or his mother did when she burnt her fingertips on the oven (pretty much every day). No; he would have a polite-yet-firm talk with Mr. Ogilvy. This could be resolved.

When Julian walked into the classroom Mr. Ogilvy was, as always, sitting at his desk, hunched over a stack of papers, the long white remains of his nearly bald head a shroud over his furrowed brow and oyster-shell ears. Lost in concentration. He was marking tests. Did Mr. Ogilvy do anything else besides mark tests and teach? Julian doubted it. He probably nourished himself with pen ink. Julian tried to imagine Mr. Ogilvy on a roller coaster or having a soft-serve cone at Dairy Queen and found that he couldn't -- it was like imagining Jesus Christ surfing.

Finally, Mr. Ogilvy looked up.

"Cassady, you're here early."

Julian smiled halfheartedly and walked to the back of the classroom to hang up his backpack. He unzipped it and took out his story. He walked towards Mr. Ogilvy's desk with a lump in his throat the size of Pluto, but he was resolute to lodge his complaint.

"Mr. Ogilvy, I don't think I got a fair grade on this story. I put every effort into it, but you gave me a B-minus. I don't want to have my grade changed, but I think you should read it again."

Mr. Ogilvy sighed. He took his gaze away from his stack of papers and looked Julian in the eye.

"First, you named your main character Chip McSwitch. That sounds made up."

"It sounds made up because it is made up!" Julian said.

"Fair enough, but the logic of the story doesn't work. If Chip can't find his right shoe, would he really just wear a rubber boot to school? Maybe he would, but you didn't flesh out the character enough to make that plausible."

"You gave Frank Jordan a B, and all he wrote about was an earthquake in Thunder Bay. There aren't earthquakes in Thunder Bay!"

"That's what fiction is: making the possible out of the impossible."

"But you said Chip McSwitch isn't a real name. How is it different? I made up that name. Frank made up an earthquake in Thunder Bay. How is it different?"

"Julian, don't question my grading. You seem to be very upset about your grade, so let's do this: I will read your story again. I might find something in it that I missed before. If that is the case, I will change your grade."

"But I don't want you to change my grade. I want you to like my story."

"We'll see. Maybe I'll change my mind. In the meantime, the buses are going to be here soon, so have a seat and settle down."

"Okay," Julian said. He sat and fidgeted for a minute and then remembered something. He walked to the back of the classroom, took his backpack off its hanger, opened it, and produced a shiny black weapon.

"Julian, no!" Mr. Ogilvy shouted.

The rubber boot nearly struck Mr. Ogilvy. Only a paperweight of a camel bought by his granddaughter on vacation in Egypt in 2011 spared him.

"How made up is that, you asshole?" Julian screamed before he was taken away by a lunch lady and the school librarian.

---

As of this writing, Julian is awaiting trial. Despite testimony from both sides, his rubber boot has yet to be recovered.



Saturday, November 29, 2014

On Star Wars



I'll try to keep this brief. I won't, but I'll try. Because everyone has their own experiences, opinions, and thoughts (idiosyncratic or not) about Star Wars, and I don't think mine are more unique or noteworthy than most people's. Talking about Star Wars has become boring, like talking about the dream you had last night. No one else really cares, nor should they.

Coincidentally, however, and apologies in advance, it was a dream I had last night that led to this post. I don't often have nightmares, but this one was a doozy. I was being chased by Fenrir, the wolf of Norse mythology, and he had me cornered in the upstairs bathroom of my parents' house. I locked the door, but he turned into Norris-assimilated-by-The-Thing in John Carpenter's titular film. Writhing tentacles and viscera started oozing under the door.

I screamed and woke up. Maybe I didn't scream out loud, because my wife was still sleeping peacefully next to me. Or maybe she's just a heavy sleeper. I can never tell. Regardless, I went to the bathroom, splashed some cold water on my face*, and inwardly cursed that I woke up before dawn on a Saturday morning.

Then I remembered that the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens** had probably been released online.

It had, just minutes before my nightmare stirred me awake. The Forbes Awoken!

It thrilled me. That was Star Wars.

---

I grew up on Star Wars. I was two years old when The Empire Strikes back hit theaters, and sometime after its release my mother took me to a double-bill of it and A New Hope. I was rapt. Star Wars was the cultural imaginative touchstone of my generation. Return of the Jedi was released in 1983, but between then and 1999, when The Phantom Menace was released, the hype never died. The original trilogy is iconic because of how much of an indelible imprint it left on the minds of moviegoers. Very few film franchises reach that apex.

...And very few film franchises see that nadir. The prequels are awful from almost every level of film criticism***. Terrible on almost every level, they ruined most people's enthusiasm for Star Wars (kind of like how the Philadelphia 76ers are ruining their fans' enthusiasm for basketball).

But a funny thing happened. Disney bought Lucasfilm, something that still blows my mind. George Lucas, who tinkered with his films to the point of detriment, like a plastic surgeon performing procedures on a face until it's almost unrecognizable and ironically ugly, sold his franchise. I would have thought Israel and Palestine would reach a peace agreement before Lucas would give up Star Wars.

But he did. And JJ Abrams has directed The Force Awakens, which will be released in December of 2015 (I imagine there are a lot of idiots on Twitter who think the movie is coming out next month). Then Rian Johnson takes over for Episode VIII and IX.

The Force Awakens might be a good movie, or it might be a bad movie.

But it's Star Wars.

PS - The soccer-ball droid is awesome.


* I didn't actually do that. That only happens in movies, right?

** Look, I'm no title-writing expert, but that's a pretty bad title, right?

*** Attack of the Clones is my favorite, mostly for the shot of Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) piloting an X-wing in space. For me, that's the only time Star Wars actually captured the openness and loneliness of space.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Oh (No)





I was napping last Saturday afternoon when my wife woke me up. I was in a mid-nap stupefied haze, her voice sounding like Charlie Brown's teacher's, but I sobered quickly and realized that my wife was talking about our dachshund, Flash. My be(a)st friend.

That's a regular thing in our household. We're always talking about Flash. Flash did something cute. Flash did something bad. Flash ate another pair of earphones. Flash hacked the Pentagon's mainframe. Word to Warren Zevon, our dog is an excitable boy, and he's always sitting by the sliding doors that separate our bedroom from the living room., either because he's hungry (morning) or because he's bored and just wants to play. Flash is the embodiment of excitement (he once jumped from the passenger window of a moving van*), so when my wife woke me I assumed Flash was waiting for me and wanted to lick my face and do regular Flash stuff.

He wasn't. He was having a seizure. A pretty big one.

We know this about Flash. Last year he started having petit mal seizures. He'd pee on the floor or vomit, sometimes both, and look confused. But he remained cognitive, for the most part. I -- perhaps stupidly -- took him to a former student of mine who is a young veterinarian, and Flash was diagnosed with back problems and prescribed steroids. He doesn't have back problems.

He has epilepsy. And it breaks my heart to see him when he's having a seizure, knowing I can't do anything, knowing how scared and confused my best friend feels. The one he suffered last Saturday was a doozy: he was convulsing, and his eyes rolled back, if only briefly. He's graduating from petit mal to grand mal. And...fuck.

I mark Flashy's "episodes" on my calendar. For the past three months, they've been consistent -- a seizure every 30 days or so. He's normally a devil dog, full of piss and vinegar, but those episodes take a toll on him, and I'm scared they might become more frequent.

I don't know what I would do without my boy.


* It was a van that was moving; it wasn't transporting belongings from one house to another.