“Woa, woa! Wait a second! You sure you wanna walk inside me? I ain’t no arcade, buddy. I ain’t no coffee shop. Y’ain’t gonna get no wi-fi up in this. I ain’t no Saddle Ranch. Okay? There ain’t no electric bull in here. Oh, there’s some bullshit, yeah, but no bull. This is a church, okay? Alotta weird shit goes on in here. You like weird shit? You found your place. People wishing and hoping and moaning and feeling guilty and eating flesh. Yeah. Eating flesh. I’ve never seen any of them actually do it, but they sure talk about it a lot. Drinking blood too. I’m tellin’ ya the truth, man! Eating flesh and drinking blood! In America! Not literally, but don’t tell them that. It’s not anything you can call the cops on, but it freaks me out. Listen: If you knew there was a building down your street where people met several times a week to eat flesh and drink blood, wouldn’t you think about calling the cops? Of course, right? Well, guess what: There is a building down your street where people meet several times a week to eat flesh and drink blood. It’s me. Hi! I’m freaked out right now. I’m a haunted freakin’ house is what I am! You want a good scare? I would say come back for Halloween. Plenty of spooks in here. I got indigestion from all the hoping and wishing that goes on. Lemme tell ya about these people in here. It’s all about them. You know? Everyone’s all: “I’m not worthy this” and “I’m not worthy that” and “I suck” and “I don’t deserve anything because I’m a piece of shit.” Jesus! Have some self-esteem already! There’s a lot of gross and suggestive stuff they say too. There’s this one part where they go: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you.” Receive you? Eww. What’s he gonna do? I don’t wanna know. So, whattaya think? You wanna come in here?”
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(This is a fairly accurately remembered exchange I had with a commercial casting director Saturday morning.)
CASTING DIRECTOR: Matt, when I look at you, I always feel like you hate my guts.
C.D.: Yeah. Like I did something wrong or something. You don’t hate me, do you?
ME: No! No way! I just…no offense, but I hate being here.
C.D.: Oh, ‘cause it’s Saturday?
ME: I would love to use that as an excuse, but I’d feel this way if it were during the week too. So no. I just hate auditioning for commercials.
C.D.: It’s not something to do with what I ask you to do during these things, is it?
ME: No, no. Not at all. I enjoy the performance aspect of it. I like getting to be funny and all that. I’ve been very fortunate. It’s just this process and waiting out there and…you know, auditioning. I hate it. And, as the Pointer Sisters said, I just can’t hide it.
ME: So…it’s not you. This is a me thing. Totally a me thing. There’s also this other thing going on with this commercial I shot back in December for [name of enormous corporation with fangs and tentacles]. The spot has run and I have received no residuals for it.
ME: Yeah. It was a seasonal, post-holidays ad that was only supposed to run for a limited time anyway so it’s done airing now, but I still have not received any residuals for it. I got my session fee for the shoot, but no residuals for the spot that’s aired.
C.D.: Wait. Why not?
ME: I was told that “a session fee can be applied toward initial use.” Which means they’re saying that the payment for the aired spot is included in the fee I’ve already received for the day I worked, a concept with which I am in no way familiar. For as long as I’ve been doing this, I’ve never heard of that. Have you ever heard of that?
ME: Nor have I.
C.D.: This was for [name of enormous corporation with fangs and tentacles]?
C.D.: We did that one. Right?
ME: (Pause) Uh…maybe. Yeah! Actually, yeah.
C.D.: Well, that sucks.
ME: Actually, yeah. I’ve got the accountant at my agency looking into it, but haven’t spoken to him in five days.
C.D.: Well, keep me posted. I’d like to know what you find out.
ME: Oh, thanks. I will. The whole thing sends a chill through my entire body. So when you see me looking like I’m gonna kill someone, it’s just stuff like that stewing. It makes me wonder how much longer I’m gonna get away with doing this for a living.
C.D.: Hm. (Pause) Well, can you write?
ME: I can type.
I don’t want to do this anymore. I won’t do this anymore. I can’t do this anymore. I deserve better. Way better. The last one like you I let into my life started off great: reliable, effective, helpful, made my life fulfilling and fun. And then when its commitment started to wander and its dependability to wane, the relationship stopped working for me. Its connection grew increasingly fleeting and its devotion inadequate. It was no longer giving me what I needed and, from what my therapist tells me, deserve. And then you came along: same type, same everything. But newer. Better. I thought: “This one’s gonna be different. I’m gonna make sure I devote 110% to this new relationship and not let things get away from me.” And you were great! Remember how fun it was. At first? For about the first eight months? But then you crapped out on me too and right now I just don’t know who to trust anymore. It was almost as if you were pining for a better phone than the one I had. As if you would’ve had a much better time with a newer model than the 4s. And you kind of did right in front of me which is, among other things, rude. I don’t want to feel like I need another phone charger for my car and for my life, but if I do get another one, where’s the guarantee I won’t be hurt again? Of course, there is no guarantee and that’s what’s so scary. I’m so vulnerable and raw right now and honestly don’t know what to do other then to say I’ve had enough. There is no connection between you and me anymore. There’s also no connection between you and my phone, and I think that’s what hurts the most. The best and only thing for me to do now is move on. I know in this day and age it’s easier to type things at one other than say things to one another, but I just didn’t have the strength to say this to you. I hope you understand. You’re just not what I’m looking for right now and this isn’t working out. So it was nice knowing you but I’ve got to move on. Also: I think you need to be reconfigured for a 8.75V outlet and a current limit of 320mA.
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Great shot. For real. You weren’t even that close to the trash can. Exemplary trajectory, good form, smooth follow-through. You simply, like a camp counselor, summoned up the perishable substances that had been building in the highways and byways of your respiratory passages, arched your squat upper body back like the crazed little cobra that you are, let open the brown and purple maw that is your mouth, and launched a butterscotch-colored glob of viscous translucency the likes of which that Rite Aid parking lot I’m certain had never seen. Talk about rubbernecking. Cars were stopped dead. In front of a green light. As your gelatinous projectile soared through the air, roiling against a backdrop of grey clouds above, its arc took the exact shape of an ICBM’s route shot from Moscow to Seattle, Washington: a perfect crescent. Its path true, its span glorious. And just as I was basking in the beauty of your aim, reveling in the eminence of your power, gawking at the wonder of your spit and so desperately thirsting for an instant replay, you did it again, you outrageous beast!
But what was up with this second shot? It totally sucked. Some of it dribbled down your shirt and hit your shoe. Some of it went south down your chin. Some of it lodged permanently in the files of my brain where I store memories of disappointing events and witnessed failure. This second spit take had not nearly the majestic grace of your first offering, nowhere in the vicinity of your first effort’s greatness. What the hell happened, woman? Who the hell do you think you are? You are in public, ma’am! I’m an L.A. motorist trying to not waste away and die and you have the nerve to drop that weak-ass loogie hock in my presence? If it’s even possible for you to have a good day after that, good day, woman!
It’s a particular kind of fade when you walk past someone who’s not a friend but an acquaintance to whom you haven’t spoken in years because your circles no longer run together even though it appears you both live in the same neighborhood owing to somewhat similar enthusiasms relating to “culture” or “art” or “performance” or “writing” which leads to her ambling toward you as well as you toward her when your eyes and hers meet somewhere within the maybe eleven feet between you due to nothing more than proximity and happenstance amidst other promenading bodies who provide more than ample cover for her to avoid a “hello” by “fading to the right” with her head swiveling to the three o’clock position while her right hand rises to her hair and face for added protection against the horrifying possibility of a conversation with you even though what she doesn’t know is that you have absolutely no intention of saying “hello” notwithstanding your adjacency since it’s abundantly clear she would rather trip and fall face-first into feces than have a conversation with an oncoming you whose face has materialized like a slowly ascending balloon of inconvenience out of a brown-grey morass of plodding sidewalk denizens whose key objective is to maintain the straightest trajectory possible without averting their eyes from their screens while she saunters on to an increasingly distant point behind you that is decidedly you-free and you to one behind her that is decidedly her-free all in such a way that you actually find yourself admiring her hand-to-face technique the moment she saw you because it was smooth and unrattled despite its urgent necessity and undeniable cowardice combined with knowing that none of this is getting to you the way that it might because you’re walking to the bank with a huge check.
Three women bicker outside my kitchen door. They don’t stop. They get louder. One goes: “I said no!” One goes: “Mom, we can do it!” One goes: “No, mom!” One goes: “Absolutely not!” The mom—my upstairs neighbor—is British so it sounds like there’s an episode of Masterpiece Theatre going down heavy in my carport. One’s all: “This is ridiculous!” and one’s all: “No!” and one’s all: “Oh God!” And I sort of feel like all I have to do to get this to stop is make an appearance. I can’t see them continuing their row with some dude (or bloke) standing there staring at them. Of course, I don’t have the stones to just walk out and gawk so I walk out and open the trunk of my car, as if I needed to open the trunk of my car. In front of the three arguing women sit two suitcases. Upon my appearance, the mom one immediately tells me this: “Matt, my daughters are pregnant.” She sounds like Vanessa Redgrave. One daughter’s jaw drops like a dunk tank seat. The other’s face swivels to the heavens and her eyes close. This is followed by a pause. A literally pregnant pause. Have you ever had an older British woman with a penchant for squabbling tell you in the middle of your carport that her two daughters are pregnant and then say nothing else? I have! There’s a long enough gap between that sentence and the next sentence for me to think: “Women, where are the men in your lives?” I really do obnoxiously think that. I was thinking that before I walked out there, back when they were in the midst of their scrap. As their voices first escalated, I thought: “There are no men out there.” That’s why I went out there. To save them. Me. Absurd. As if the men in their lives are non-existent instead of merely not present. Finally the mom one’s next sentence is this: “Would you be so kind as to carry these suitcases up to my flat for me?” (Here’s the thing about that: If one of my neighbors refers to her apartment as her “flat,” why can’t I mine? So now if you hear me call my apartment my “flat,” it’s her fault.) I say: “No problem” and carry the cases up one flight. “Thank you so much,” they say. “No problem,” I say. They don’t know the main reason I helped them was to shut them up.
[Photo: the myndset.com]
People come here from all over to do things they’ve not only never done before but also things they have no reason to believe they even can do. I have yet to meet an aspiring actor who let the fact that they’ve never acted a day in their life get in the way of wanting to becoming an actor. It’s a positively thrilling thing to watch. It is, in and of itself, a rigorously engaging performance. It’s the most splendidly obstinate display of hope this side of that amputee Olympic runner trying to get people to believe he killed his girlfriend on accident. If he gets off, he should move right the hell to Hollywood. He’ll fit right in. Not just because of his acting skills, but also his penchant for murder.
I kind of did a stunt today. I was working on a sit-com and I got to pound a properly scored railing so it easily gave way, and then fall onto a large mat. Not a difficult stunt, but I did it. The stunt guys were very impressed. The playback showed my eyes bugging out, my arms flailing, my mouth contorting. All in slow-ass motion. “I’m not acting,” I said. “I was legitimately frightened,” I said. “There is going to be only one scene on my new acting reel and it’s going to be this one,” I said. Then they pulled back for a wider shot so a stuntman dressed like me could fall a greater distance onto an even bigger mat. The first thing I thought when I saw the distance he was falling was: “I could do that.” But I really think I could’ve. I’ve never fallen from that kind of height safely onto a mat on my back like a trained stuntman (it was maybe fifteen feet), but I think I could’ve! That’s honestly what I thought as I sipped my ginger ale. I had the most splendidly obstinate hope I’ve ever had in my life! Pretty soon crew guys are echoing my thoughts. One guy eating a Snickers leans in and goes: “You could do that.” For about two minutes I actually entertain the notion of becoming a stuntman. Then I bumped my knee on a podium, said “Ow!” and took a nap.
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(Four sperm whales—TIMMY, DIANE, LOUIS and MAX—get ready to go to sleep. They all float vertically just under the surface of the water.)
TIMMY: ‘Night, Diane.
DIANE: ‘Night, Timmy.
TIMMY: ‘Night, Louis.
LOUIS: ‘Night, Timmy.
TIMMY: ‘Night, Max.
DIANE: ‘Night, Louis—
MAX: Seriously, guys, do we have to do this? By the time we’re done saying good night it’ll be time to wake up. Let’s just all agree we wish each other good night.
TIMMY: Sorry, Max.
MAX: That’s okay. Good night, Timmy.
TIMMY: ‘Night, Max
LOUIS: ‘Night, Max.
MAX: ‘Night, Louis.
DIANE: ‘Night, Max.
MAX: ‘Night—dammit! We’re doing it again. We’re not sleeping again.
LOUIS: Aw, man. I just remembered. We got a show tomorrow, don’t we?
MAX: Yeah, that’s why I was thinking we could maybe go to bed.
DIANE: Uh, it’s called a whale watching.
LOUIS: What time?
LOUIS: Aw, man. Billy and I were gonna go breaching at Bear Point.
DIANE: Well, now you can go breaching at the Trench Pools.
LOUIS: Not the Trench Pools again! Aw, man. That’s so W.T.
LOUIS: Whiskey Tango.
MAX: White trash.
DIANE and TIMMY: Oh. (Pause) Yeah. It is.
LOUIS: The Trench pools are full of pee.
TIMMY: Yeah, but when it’s your own pee—
LOUIS: It’s not just my pee, it’s everyone’s pee. Why do I gotta swim in everyone’s pee? We gotta do flips and flops for a bunch of upright mouth breathers. It’s gross. We’re whales. We were made for much better things than swimmin’ for the Man!
MAX: Better things like sleeping?
DIANE: I love how they think we’re just doing what we do naturally.
TIMMY: Yeah, like we’re just hanging out like we would normally and then all of a sudden: “Oh! Hey! A random boat full of people! Why, I didn’t even see you there!”
DIANE: “Here, let me casually flip over and strenuously arch my back as if you’re not watching.”
LOUIS: And they all look like Meat Loaf. Ever notice that? They all look like a bunch of pasty-ass, runny-nosed jerks.
TIMMY: Why can’t they just watch us while we sleep?
MAX: Because it’s the creepiest thing in the world?
TIMMY: We look like four floating pickles, you know that?
MAX: I swear to God, Timmy, I’m gonna put clam chowder in your blowhole if you don’t shut it.
I was walking around listening to music last night and right in the middle of a song I hear two beeps and it’s Siri asking me: “What can I help you with?” Almost like she was challenging my musical tastes. I’m all: “I know The Buggles aren’t for everyone, but jeez, Siri.” I’ve never used Siri, never wanted to. The only thing I know about Siri is from what I’ve heard comedians say about it. Honestly. Whenever it pops up on my phone without me asking it to, I go: “Oh, this is like that one bit that one comic did where he goes: “The other day I asked Siri if she could tell me what I should do with my life.” Or: “Hey, this is like that bit that one comic did where she goes: “I asked Siri what was the best way to break up with my boyfriend and she offered to sleep with him.” Point is: This kept happening last night. Siri kept interrupting by chiming in in the middle of stuff I didn’t want interrupted. The only thing I really know about Siri is that you’re supposed to talk to her. So I did. I said: “Stop it.” I said: “Stop it” out loud to a computer. And when it popped up again, I went: “No! Go away!” I said stuff like this to it, out loud in the rain last night: “Leave me alone! This has got to stop!” She was all: “What can I help you with?” and I was all: “Can you help me kill you?” I was all: “Is there any way I can have an inordinate amount of alone time?” “What can you help me with? Well, I haven’t had a funny idea in about three months and when people talk about the drought in Southern California, I think that’s what they’re talking about. Can you help with that?” I actually told a computer with a soothing female voice to leave me alone last night, with more conviction than I’ve ever told a real person. “Hey, Siri, can you tell me why I’m talking about you in 2014?”
Remember these? I’m not saying they don’t exist anymore, but I certainly haven’t lodged my feet into the clutches of one of these cold metal contraptions in a long-ass time. Maybe not since I was a kid. They’re cold and rigid. That’s what I remember about them. Think of the disgusting socks this implement has had on its face, the feet meat it’s had to endure, the toe jam and heel flakes caught in its width bar, the fibers and toe cuticles stuck in its arch length pointer. This guy’s seen it all. You got a foot? This guy’ll tell you what kind.
Here’s another thing I miss: salesmen pinching the tip of my shoe to see where my toe is. I’ll admit it. I miss that kind of inspection. It feels professional and shows feet-on concern for the customer’s potential purchase. If I buy shoes in person now, I’ll put them on, walk around a little bit in front of whoever’s helping me, but then, after about fifteen seconds, I want them to get the hint that I’d like a little drop and pinch. And I never get one, probably because today it’s seen as a little weird. But there. I said it. My shoe buying experience always feels somewhat incomplete without a proper drop and pinch. Sounds rather untoward, doesn’t it? Drop N’ Pinch. I hope there are still shoe salesmen out there who will literally take a knee to offer that kind of attention. It always shows a strong thumb, I think, to pinch far enough into leather or rubber or fabric or recycled materials so that a grown man can feel his big disgusting toe with sock fabric nestled deep in the corners of the nails getting squeezed by another grown man genuflecting in the name of proper shoe salesmanship and wondering how it all went so incredibly wrong. If I were a shoe salesman today, I’d do thumb exercises: tiny little curls and rubber band resistance drills to make sure my toe-pinching game was high and tight. Or down and pinchy, I should say.
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