Conversation With My Crazy

Six years ago today my Crazy whispered, “Sobriety? Sure, Pal. Let’s spend the rest of our life as a tragic bore. It’s all crosswords and tea cups from here on out.”

I replied from my slumped fetal position under the hard florescent lights in a psychological-observation lazy-boy betwixt two other mad-hatters, “Have you seen where we are right now?”

“Exactly. You need to figure out how to get us out of here pronto. We’ve managed our way out of worse together. You’re good with the words, let’s make with the apologies and promises and see if we can’t be excused. Better yet, when they move us out of this room, let’s just make a run for it. Maybe with a little luck we can still make it to JFK to hop a flight to Austin and catch the Texas/Missouri game with your old man,”  my Crazy replied.

“They’ve got my wallet,” I said. “Not sure how we’d manage that.”

“You’re not using your head—think, Dude.”

“Well, I think my credit card information is saved on the JetBlue website site, so we could probably buy a ticket to Austin online.”

“Keep talkin’.”

“And, my passport is at home, so we’ve still got an ID. I’m not even sure what hospital this is though, we could be miles from the apartment.”

“We’ve walked longer distances, I’m sure of it.”

“True, but not in a hospital gown.”

“This is New York City, no one is going to think twice about us. And if we had to, we could hail a cab and ditch it at a light. You are a fast runner, Peter.”

“Yeah, I am pretty fast. Even barefoot. They’ve got my keys, but my landlord is probably home, he could let us in—hell, he might even give us a ride to JFK if I told him it was an emergency,” I suggested.

My Crazy conspired with the part of my brain that was responsible for doling out what little adrenaline my body was still capable of producing. “Alright then, we’ve got a plan. Let’s do this!”

“What do we do when get to Austin?” I asked. “We don’t have any money, and unless I can convince the staff here to let us leave peacefully so that we can have our things back, I’m not sure how we’d get any.”

“Lots of pawn shops on the way to JFK, my friend.” Crazy insinuated. “You are a man with one too many guitars, aren’t you?”

“Genius,” I said. “We’ll hock the Fender, it’s worth like four grand. I bet we can get at least a grand for it.”

“See, Peter? And here you thought we’d no options. Let’s get going.”

“We tried to run last night though, remember?” I warned.

“Not your best effort, that.” my Crazy scolded. “You’ve got more ‘oomph’ in you now. Let’s stand up, see if the door is still locked, and go from there.”

I stood up, shuffled across the room with my blackberry between my butt-cheeks, to test the door, keeping a watchful eye on the attendant through the observation room’s glass. Locked.

“It’s locked.” I informed.

“Thanks for the update, Chief.”

I gazed through the small window on the door, out at the long hallway we’d have to sprint through if somehow magically the lock just popped to open in the next few moments. “Well, the dude behind the glass already told us we had to wait for the doctor to show up. He seemed pretty perturbed the last time we bothered him. What now?”

“Remember the time we faked being ill to get out of that Bronx jail cell?” my Crazy reminded.

“Oh yeah, we did do that.”

“Same thing here, should be even easier, don’t you think?”

“It’s not really apples to apples, but yeah, I get what your saying.”

“Alright then, enough talk.”

“This all sounds like an awful lot of effort just to see a football game,” I said.

“QUIT FUCKIN’ STALLING!”

“We aren’t trying to escape to go to Austin, are we?”

My Crazy regained its composure, though its desperation was still evident in the trembles that punctuated its words, “Come on, Rosch. You know the answer to that.”

“This is about the three tallboys still sitting in the fridge from last night?”

“If you say so, Peter.”

“There’s always the chance we already drank those and we only think they are still there,” I warned.

“Well, we won’t know until we know.”

“True. Okay. When we get back to the apartment, we’ll drink those, get cleaned up, either have the landlord drive us to JFK or convince a cabby to take us to a pawnshop on the way to JFK, and then once we are in Austin we can call the banks and get new credit cards, bank cards, and figure the rest of this out—BUT, right after that, we are getting sober.”

“Absolutely. Wouldn’t have it any other way.” my Crazy assured. “I mean, we pull this escape off, we deserve a drink, but after that drink—after just enough to keep us sane on our way down to Texas—we’re done with it and on to the crossword puzzles and church choir or whatever it is you’ve decided our life is going to be.”

“Cool. Let’s eat the Froot Loops they set next to us while we were sleeping, and then we’ll head out. I’m starving.”

“I like this idea. I’m no doctor, but I suspect your stomach isn’t really going to be too psyched about its re-introduction to milk, sugar, red no. 5 and the rest of it. You puke that up and it’s win/win.”

“Agreed.”

 

The Interview by Peter Rosch

Very little green in this “green” room, but it is a quiet place to temporarily cower. Maybe the outrage will be easily dismissed. No more difficult to sweep into the next sunset than making an apology. Own my guilt, even as I try to explain it away with the simplest of rationales: What God-fearing, red-blooded American boy born in the seventies didn’t hope that at some point, like Andrew McCarthy before him, some easy-on-the-eyes mannequin would magically come to life and bone him?

Like I said, simple. But we’ll get to that.

I sat down. I’m sitting now, but I mean earlier. I’d been told to sit down. And that was fine; some of us need to be instructed on exactly what we are supposed to do. The similarities between the heroic take-charge movie characters you only think are me and the actual-me end at the mandatorily crafted physique and bleach-white-toothed-mug. When the overly-caffeinated blonde, in charge by way of the authoritative headset strapped atop her power-crop-do, barked towards me, Let’s do this people! Nicholas, I need you to sit down, I did just that.

Do exactly as your told, my mother used to say. Not the first mother to say it; not the last to say it either.

I didn’t hesitate. That direction had my fifteen-million-dollars-a-picture-ass finding its seat pronto. The hard, ever so subtly curved plank of wood atop four metal legs was trying to pass itself off as a stool. Dreadfully uncomfortable; the same torturous device for the interviewee and the interviewer. It was a backless number chosen for an aesthetic reason, comfort be damned. We can safely nominate the “chair” as the first item on a list of things to blame for the possibly detrimental admission I’d be making just fifteen minutes after sitting upon it—just an hour ago actually.

You can watch my snafu play out with your own judgmental mind later tonight if you watch dreck like this. I suspect you’ll learn about it regardless. My affliction made light of by way of late night monologues or the callous reporting of TMZ. Perhaps your friends, the ones with nothing original to say, will post a link to the clip. It’ll be “trending” as they say. The point is, for a spell, you’ll have ample opportunities to recoil in disgust. Easier to mock another’s sordid perversion than examine your own. Get all holier-than-thou on me, even though my soon-to-be-public confession has finally set me free.

If you follow Hollywood going-ons, gossip, or what tragically passes for news on CNN or Huffington Post, then you already know that Nicholas Devlin (this guy) never had any intention of becoming an actor. I certainly didn’t foresee a life of celebrity, not as a child nor as an adult. The story of my serendipitous discovery by a well-known agent is the kind of modern day folklore the industry loves to perpetuate. It keeps young blood flocking to the polished hustle and bustle of The City of Angels. Were my chance encounter five years ago with the fat man I still call my agent a fabrication, you’d only be the wiser when he and his information agents decided spilling the beans about its falsity would be financially beneficial. The anecdote is the truth though, until it isn’t, so take it as The Gospel. Yes! Some day, you too might be grabbing a cup of coffee in between unspeakable acts, only to be “discovered” by one of fame’s gatekeepers. But only if he or she believes that bilking a mess of pretty pennies by pedaling your veneer to the masses is an almost certain slam-dunk.

You are ugly, you say? Friend, no need to fret. I was as well. Nearly forty years of anything but handsome, in fact. Maybe, like me, you just need to give the features that decorate your face a little more time. Possibly a lot of time. I’m not the first odd bird to wake up two decades into adulthood only to finally find the hawkishly large nose, squinty eyes, and the peculiarly large forehead all of a sudden pulling together brilliantly between deep wrinkles that somehow work. A façade that my agent recognized, or at least surmised, would be sellable under the guise of rugged manliness. Dare to dream, you have my permission to do so. Today’s toad, tomorrow’s prince–you just need a little kiss from father time.

My agent is persuasive. I’ve heard his colleagues use the cliché, Pit Bull, to describe his tenacity. Never to his face, of course. Of all my heaviest-set acquaintances, Marty’s smile works best. It’s a thinner man’s grin plastered onto the puff of a doughboy’s face. One need not be fit to rule some small part of the world. His successes are surely predicated on the combination of that disarming smirk and his ability to coax other players into believing that what he sees in an “aspiring” actor is profitable. A cash cow the world will fall in love with. His track record is impeccable; his sculpting of each new lump of human clay is bonafide. I took some convincing. He slow-baked my indoctrination by simply suggesting that I leave the door open to the possibility of what he’d labeled some “quick” photographs. I imagine he’d already begun greasing the wheels of his social circle with hype about his latest find, me, well before I showed up for the snaps several weeks later. In observing his methods play out with others since our working relationship began, I’ve been privy to his dance. How he twirls his latest finds is likely identical to the behind the scenes moves he’d made with me. We are Marty’s pretty little soldiers, and our entire pre-fame histories have been scripted by him and his small team of storytellers.

Marty is not some black-ops stonemason sort. The naive might be amazed at how much factual information one can bury about oneself with cash and the connections to fabricate non-fiction. Stuffed amongst enough digital destinations, and over time the truth about me (or any of the others) is dozens of additional clicks away from ever being found. All but the most obsessed fans remain blissfully ignorant of actual facts. Even when those tidbits of reality are finally discovered, it isn’t atypical for them to delightfully and dutifully serve as playful sorts of controversy for the media to fill their countless hours of programming, websites, and remaining paper pages with. The sheer volume and churn of modern-day information leaves most “revelations” pertinent for less than forty-eight hours. Say you’ve a film opening, a book due out, a song climbing the charts, or anything else that’ll make my agent’s twenty percent that much fatter, you can be certain he’ll be all for a wee bit of accidental (or manufactured) drama. That aforementioned skinny-man’s smile goes ear to ear when the most inane of facts lights a caustic fire on the World Wide Web.

“Let the sheeple fuss over your supposed nose job,” he might say. “Why the fuck they care so much has always been beyond me. It’s vexing, but let’s hope they stay that dumb forever.”

Marty made me, but he doesn’t know me. he never dug all that deep into who I was pre-Marty. Don’t get me wrong; he wasn’t entirely careless about it. In fairness, very early on, he did ask me three questions. He insisted the trio was all he needed answered truthfully by me, on the spot, so that he could work around any disagreeable responses once our first major motion picture broke.

“Are you a homosexual?”

“No,” I said.

“Do you diddle little kids?”

“No.”

“Is there anything—I mean anything—that you know could become a problem for us down the road?”

“I don’t think so,” I offered with a wavering commitment.

“Come on, Nick. You either know, or the answer is ‘No, Marty. There isn’t.”

“Like what exactly?” I asked.

“I’m not going to laundry list examples of all the fucked-up shit I’ve heard or seen in my three decades at this dog and pony show. I’ll ask again. Is there anything I should know about you that someone can dig up at some point to make our lives at all inconvenient?”

I acted like I had to think about it.

“No, Marty. There isn’t.”

“You know, I don’t believe you, Nick,” he said before squeezing himself back into a two thousand dollar jacket. “Don’t take any offense though, I don’t believe anyone about nothin’.”

Even if today’s new “news” about Nicholas Devlin had been put onto the table for my agent back then, it wouldn’t have altered our course. I think he’d have laughed it off. I held back the information about my sexual preference on the technicality he presented. In that moment, I chose to keep my habit to myself because I knew (or at least believe I knew) that nary a single soul on the planet could unearth anything to expose that part of me. It wasn’t public knowledge, I’d never ben caught, arrested, or had anyone approach me to discuss it or harass me about it either.

Let’s add the punishing heat of the directional lamps bearing down on me earlier to the list of things we might blame. Unless you’ve sat under them, it’s impossible to have any real idea of just how hot it can become when you are trying to play the part of cool as cucumber. Like my “friend,” Gwyneth, once said, at times, an interview with the press is on par with Guantanamo. Her words, not mine. Nonetheless, the frying effect of those illuminating beams is a fair scapegoat to include. Number two on the list of reasons I’ll prattle off to my agent when he comes back down from livid to help me craft an apology. More accurately, write the entire mea culpa for me. We’ll be blaming a lot of things; we’ll be taking the blame while doling blame.

We could blame Kristen, or possibly KrYsten, the faux-hyperactive talking head, surely some man’s ten-on-a-ten-scale bedpost notch, who’d conducted the interview. She certainly wasn’t waiting around for an apology when the dust of what I’d dished had settled. I’d pin her as aged around twenty-five or six; a touch to young to be trusted with anything other than the kind of bubblegum-pop-schlock a show like this delivers from three to five in the afternoon to the tragically homebound. She’s fit, wrinkle-free, and still a handful of years away from having to endure the painfully repetitive ticking of the Hollywood clock that counts down to the eventual disposal of dime-a-dozen cherubs like herself. I’m sure she’s already blown Marty. It’s fare when any unattended female in the room under the age of thirty hasn’t, usually within the first half-hour of their introduction.

If anything “good” manifests from today, I’d bet it all on it being a slight uptick in her own popularity. Parlaying this thirty-minute interview into a gig with another show, her own show, or even a few bit rolls in C or B films isn’t at all far fetched. Like any sycophant fluttering at the edges of those inflicted with the disease that is fame, she is likely biding her time. Eyes peeled for the the opportunity to hop a coattail to the party, even if it’s tattered and filthy with stink. I’ve no sympathy for her plight. She made the decision to come out here. The mid-western accent that she has almost perfected hiding hadn’t gone unnoticed by me. She isn’t native to SoCal; she’s playing the game too. I’m by no means rooting against her, I’ll be sincerely pleased if the result of her having put my feet to the coals with her semi-hypnotic posits bestows pun her a next-rung-leap with a more respected “journalism” program.

In the pisser, right after we’d wrapped, it’d occurred to me that her voice had mimicked my mother’s, before a two pack a day routine had caught up with her. That was a long, long time ago. It’d be too expected to blame Mom for any of this, though I think we probably could. Any therapist worth a nickel would, you can be sure of that. Marty has already “suggested” to me by way of text message that we are to make therapy a part of the damage control play he’s currently orchestrating. In time, we’ll all find out if Krysten (I’m going with the Y version, call it a hunch) can thank my mom at some point for her future gig. She’d have to find Mom first.

I didn’t kill my mother, if that’s what you are thinking. She’s been as good as dead to me two and a half decades, but I don’t know if she’s dead-dead. Surprisingly, when I “made-it,” there’d been no classic tale of a reunion between the recently fame-ized Nicholas and an out-of-the-woodwork opportunistic mother. If she’s still out there, and if she’d been teetering on the fence about such a thing, lying in wait just days away from venturing to Los Angeles to re-introduce herself to me, I think my little stunt today will knock her solidly to the side of the pickets that have nothing to do with visiting me. You never know though; predictability wasn’t her friend. If she isn’t six-feet under, maybe it’s now more likely than ever that she’ll come rushing to her baby boy’s side. Help see him through the forth coming shit storm. Inadvertently, I may have given her the first real reason to try and re-connect. Even if it’s only to defend her reputation in light of my having implicated her directly. So, if we shine this Devlin-turd up real nice, Krysten might get a promotion and Mom might show up on my doorstep, open arms and all, to “help” her only child.

When Krysten sat herself across from me, I’ll admit, it invoked a fleeting vision of my mother—how my brain remembers my mother anyway. I’d tell you that she and the younger version of my mother could be twins, but I’d be lying, or at least basing the declaration on no real concrete evidence. I’ve never been able to locate any photos of Mom. Krysten’s appearance wasn’t nearly as responsible as her first spoken words had been. Her voice, the pentameter she used to deliver her first phrase that was meant to put me at ease before we began, these had been the culprits.

“Okay, Nicky,” she playfully poked, “this shouldn’t be too, too painful.” Insert huge toothy lie of a smile here.

The double use of the word too was a staple in my mother’s use of that very same fib. The memory of the way Mom used to say the same reverberated within me as the silent count of a stranger’s finger was made from behind one of a half dozen cameras set up to capture the interview in earnest.

“Nicholas,” Krysten began, “let’s get the promotional plug for your new film, Haymaker, out of the way, shall we?”

“Sure, let’s,” I nodded.

“The story of a crooked Detroit cop who becomes smitten with the goody two-shoes sister of a his knowingly wrongful arrest.”

She let the synopsis of the movie hang in the air, having completed it with just enough of an upswing in pitch that it rode the room like a question. It was rhetorical, but she tilted her head to one side, indicating to me that she was looking for an unnecessary confirmation.

“That’s the gist, yes,” I answered.

“I saw the other day that your co-star, Lorna Alden, said that that the two of you kept in character from day one until you wrapped, to keep the tension between you both as real as was possible throughout. True or not, the uncomfortable interaction between your characters was spellbindingly brilliant. Did you find it difficult to keep that fiction up during the long hours between takes?”

Her first question was routine enough, though wordy. An entirely normal ask that I was having trouble replying to directly as I fought to shake of the memory-lane jaunt of my mother that Krysten had instigated with her mimicry.

“How so?” I asked only to give my brain a chance to shake the cobwebs of my past.

“Well, we all know you to be a peach of a guy, but your character, Detective Lazlo Frost, is anything but. I’d suggest he’s a remorseless sociopath, even on his best behavior day, and I imagine keeping that up for six straight weeks must have been challenging for a good like you, no?”

It hadn’t been actually. I’m not trying to be glib. Yes, it was my first foray into that method of acting at the behest of my coach, but pretending to be something you are already pretending to be isn’t that difficult once you commit. I do it everyday. Still, the world wants to hear that I struggled with that duality. So, I’m to confirm that it’s true, admit that it was difficult, and the praise my agent’s insistence that I work with the renowned performance guru, Jacob Crowley, in order to achieve such a realistic portrayal.

“Method acting is not for the timid,” I said through a forced smirk. “Hopefully, the end result of my agent’s insistence that I work with Jacob Crowley to explore extreme method acting is a film in which the viewers aren’t watching Nicholas Devlin at all. I think I owed that effort to the writers.”

“Any sparks between you and Lorna off-set then?”

I’d expected a deviation from a purely film-centric interview. The personal life of the celebrity sells tickets ten fold in comparison to most else. Still, I was bummed she put the lowest hanging fruit on the table so quickly.

“Well now, it wouldn’t have been Lorna. After all, she never deviated from player her own character, Caroline.”

A hearty laugh from Krysten followed my attempt at a subtle quip. That’s a mandatory for the role, and she delivered it flawlessly.

“Some people have suggested that if you and Lorna were to become an actual item, that’d it’d rival Brad and Angelina’s power-duo status. Maybe we’re all secretly hoping that the chemistry, which was akin to theirs in Mr. And Mrs. Smith, will also transcend the silver screen.”

“Well, I know Brad and Angie very well, and I doubt that they’d relinquish the crown without a fight.”

I don’t know either of them, but it’s a safe bet the dishonest remark won’t offend. I was simply perpetuating the myth that all of us Hollywood-types hang fabulously with one another whenever possible.

“I’ll be sure to left the know you said so though,” I assure Krysten.

That commitment seemed to genuinely please her. I’m sure no one else detected it, but I caught just the smallest addition of a wrinkle above the already twinkling eyes on that previously smooth and flawless forehead. The tiny crease came and went, but I saw it. Her return to a staged enthusiasm absorbed the defect quickly, but it had popped up over the bridge of her nose just long enough to suggest that my assurance to mention her behind the curtains of the great and powerful Oz was an exciting proposition to her. It pissed me off. I don’t know why. Perhaps I thought I was boring her, believed that talking about only me wasn’t quite enough to satisfy Krysten. Who can be certain, but I’d add that momentary lapse in an already broken self-esteem to the list of potential to-blames.

“Please do!” She tried to play it off. “Now, back to Haymaker. Some critics have already suggested Oscar nods are in the future—in your future for that matter. I believe Rolling Stone Magazine even went as far as to suggest that it was a modern-day Godfather, and that your performance was worthy of the comparison.”

I haven’t seen The Godfather. Absurd, I know. Both that I’ve not seen it, and the comparison itself I’m sure. The compliment pissed me off more than the Brangelina bit, and I was compelled to interrupt.

“That’s just ridiculous,” I started.

Right then, I know my agent, the studio, dozens of producers, and other egos must have shuddered with disgust on the heels of those three bank-robbing words. It’s always a good play to be humble, I’ve been told, but not to engage in blasphemy against one’s own project.

“I’m faltered by the comparison, it’s not really for me to decide,” I corrected myself without overcorrecting for the no-no.

“Have you seen it?” she asked.

“Haymaker,” I pretended, “of course!”

“No, The Godfather.”

“More times than I can count,” I lied. “What actor hasn’t studied it habitually, along with its legendary performances, in the hopes of joining their very ranks?”

I’d asked her a question, also frowned upon. No number of times at bat leaves you prepared to do the pitching. As it was, we’d deviated off the topic of plugging Haymaker too soon. I haven’t watched The Godfather, and the lie suggesting the opposite had left me an open target for the possibility of an even more in-depth questioning about the film and those “legendary” performances that I’ve never seen. If so, they’d have been queries I’d have been unable to field. I’m a fraud. I know this. I’ve always known this, and maybe I was a bit more anxious at that moment than is my norm. She’d ruffled this chicken’s feathers, I don’t know why. Throw anxiety onto the pile of reasons for the admission that had yet to come.

“Who are you a fan of? Who does Nicholas Devlin aspire to be?” she kindly asked, keeping a healthy ambiguity to our subject matter like an old pro. It put me back at ease, momentarily.

For her questions, I already had answers—two actually. My agent prefers for me to list an unlikely pairing that covers the whole gamut of what appeals to the public: a master and a clown; a king and a fool.

“Daniel Day-Lewis and Jim Carrey,” I said with a scripted pause for maximum effect. “Day-Lewis for his chameleon-like ability to be anyone but himself on screen, and Jim because a world without guffaws ins’t a place I want to live.”

I’ve never seen either actor’s films. I doubted it’d matter, as I sensed a growing disinterest in my interviewer’s demeanor. Her attempts at steering us away from something that wasn’t built on stock answers hadn’t succeeded, and mid sentence I witnessed a subtle slump that suggested she was over it. These inane and entirely dishonest responses had her ready to join me in a routine ping-ponging of infotainment tripe until its efficient end.

“I’m sure either would be delighted to know you carry a torch,” Krysten playfully mocked. But then came the curveball. An incident that my agent will later insist (with the video evidence to prove it) simply did not occur. “Though I’m sure you are full of shit, Nicky. Lying, and being just another naughty little boy.”

Mom used to say I was full of shit. She often insisted it was the reason my eyes were so brown. Krsyten had called my bluff. My eyes worked to find faces past the harsh lights of the set, to see if anyone was thinking of pulling the plug due to the curse word and insult. It was certainly unprofessional, but what little I’d been able to gleam indicated no panic from anyone. Marty’s scowl was there, but for the wrong reason. While I tried to find the calm to react to her insinuation, he angrily nodded for me to situate my state back onto my interrogator. She’d jumped to the next related subject, but whatever her words, that hadn’t register with me. Marty appeared trusted with me and indifferent to her prior offense.

“Nicky?” I heard her prod.

“Hmmm?” I stalled, trying to ignore an increasing pulse, that was running rampant due tot he re-use of my mother’s y-ified version of my name.

“I asked if there were any performances from Daniel Day-Lewis specifically that might have helped sculpt your character,” she claimed.

“Which?” I stumbled.

“From Haymaker, of course,” she sternly pressed, “you limp-dick imbecile.”

Again, no reaction from the peanut gallery; no one moved. In fact, everyone and everything around me seemed frozen. Though I knew that Day-Lewis had played a cruel character in some Scorsese flick, I sat in silence, hoping the authoritative blonde might shout, Cut! Allow for a reset after berating Krysten for her disobedience.

“Something on your mind, Nicky? Cat got your tongue? Out with it you pervert,” is what I heard. Though the video you’ll see later clearly shows Krysten asking, “Are you alright, Nicholas? Do we need to pause for a second?” Her verbal concern followed by an equally sincere peer towards her superiors searching for some guidance in proceeding.

Cat got your tongue? Another mom-ism.

“I was lying,” I spat. “I’ve not seen any of his films.”

I heard the word come from my mouth, and I already knew exactly where I was going with it.

By my own count I’ve done in excess of two hundred and fifty of these types of interview for five different films on multiple continents over the past four years. Frankly, the conclusion of each of the previous had always left me one step closer to the moment I found myself riding. The moment I made my admission just beyond the walls of this supposedly “green” room.

“Truth is this: I’ve only ever been a fan of one film.”

“Do tell,” Krysten asked with an obvious cruelty. I swear I saw the flicker of flames behind her eyes. “Come on, Nicky. This is your chance to come clean, pun intended,” she nearly sang.

The racing of my heart stilled. I’d zero left in the way of anxiety, which was odd because I’d not even bothered to take the Xanaz that Marty had handed me in the “green” room when we’d arrived this morning. I cleared my throat for effect.

“I’m sure that during and after the filming of Haymaker, I could have fucked Lorna senseless. I mean, that’s what a guy like me is supposed to be doing, right? Fucking starlets at every possible turn?”

Krysten didn’t’ answer. For me she wore a permissive grin, but for the world she’ll be wearing wide eyes and noticeably parted lips meant to express her shock with what I’d just said.

“No doubt, with a minimal amount of coaxing, you too would accept an invitation to meet me back in the dressing room right after we conclude our business here,” I suggested.

She didn’t verbally respond, but I saw that grin getting bigger. It egged me on; it had a comforting effect that made me want to cop to my charade.

“You, like so many other capable ladies before you I’m afraid, would be tragically disappointed.”

“Why’s that, Nicky?”

“I’ve an unusual way about me.”

“Can you be more specific?”

“I was fifteen the last time I saw my mother—”

“Yes, we know. She left you around then, very sad,” Krysten tried to participate. I wasn’t having it.

“You don’t know fuck all about it. None of you know anything about me really. You’ve been fed a story; you believe only what Hollywood’s masters have let you hear and see about Nicholas Devlin.”

“So, she didn’t leave you then?” Krysten said, trying to remain professionally confused. But I didn’t mind the ruse, it was a good seque.

“On no, she bailed. That part is true. Right after she came home from the Piggly Wiggly one crisp fall day in eighty-eight. She had three things on her: two cartons of cigarettes, and a VHS rental tape she’d snagged from the Blockbuster Video two doors down from that P.W.”

“And what movie was that?”

“Mannequin, actually.”

“The Kim Cattrall flick?”

“It’s funny, you know? You kids who grew up on Sex in the City see it that way. I’m sure Andrew McCarthy is rolling over in his grave, but I suppose it’s moot.”

“Is McCarthy dead?”

“Probably not. But inside, yes.”

“I’m sorry, Nicky. You were saying?”

“My mother had met a guy. I remember that. Uncle Patrick was what I’d been told to call him, and so I did. And maybe she skipped her merry way out of Wisconsin that day in lockstep with that deadbeat, who can say?”

“Wisconsin?” Krysten pries sincerely.

“Yes. Wisconsin. I don’t know why Marty thought revising my history to have me born and raised in Colorado was necessary, but he’s the pro.”

“Again, I apologize. Please continue.”

“Mom handed me that VHS tape. Put one side of it into my hand, while she clung to her side of it and told me this: feed yourself with what you can find around here, and watch this until I get back home. And so I did. Thing is, and you may have already done the math, she didn’t come back home. Yes, I was plenty old enough to leave the apartment on my own. Yes, we had a phone. Maybe I could have rung a family friend or even tried Uncle Patrick to see if she was with him. But I didn’t. Like always, I did exactly as I was told.”

“Watched Mannequin, you mean?”

“Yep.”

“For how long?”

“Until Social services arrived some eleven days after my mother had bounced. I’d paused the film a few times to eat what grub was around–crackers and mostly dry Cheerios, water from the tap. Anyway, before the city intervened, I had been able to watch Mannequin roughly one hundred and sixty times straight, back-to-back-to-back. I know this because I counted as I kindly rewound. Funny enough, the goons didn’t see me snag the tape on our way out. Other than the clothes on my back, it was the only thing that made the trek with me to the boys home they stuck me in two days later. Not surprising really, not a whole many grown men, or women for that matter, working civil service jobs are apt to risk digging around the stuffed pants of an almost grown boy. So, the tape made it with me.”

“Were you able to watch it there?”

“No. There was no VCR at Cleveland Academy.”

“Cleveland?”

“An odd name for a home in Union Grove, Wisconsin, sure. But I was able to keep the tape a secret from the sisters. It found its way under my pillow many nights. I had it memorized, word for word, by the fiftieth viewing, and so I replayed the entirety of the picture in my head while I fought off sleep. Cleveland wasn’t a place you wanted to spend too much time paling around with the sandman.”

“Are you saying Mannequin helped shape your acting? Or that Andrew McCarthy is someone you admire because of that early connection?”

“No. Not at all. Jesus. I’m saying it’s the only movie I’ve seen since the day my mother told me to watch it until she got home.”

“Oh,” Krysten responded. It was feigned concern mustered in the face of something tragic, yet comically un-tragic. It pissed me off. I was laying it all out there, and she couldn’t even be bothered to care.

Fuck it, I thought. I was speaking for me at that point. I decided to carry on for the good of me.

“Now, I wasn’t always this guy,” I said as I pointed at myself. “A beauty the likes of you wouldn’t have given me the time of day when I left Cleveland Academy at eighteen. None of this,” I continued with a circling motion around my face, “was really working together like they tell me it does now.”

“I was an ugly-duckling too,” Krysten chimes.

“The fuck you were, I’m sure. Lots of beautiful women like to pretend that they had to tough it out as teens. I doubt it. And who cares? Would you like for me to interview you instead? I’d be happy to stop and hit you up with some questions.”

“No, no,” she retreated. “Do go on.”

“Right.” I turned my head and body to address camera, to speak directly to the world. “The simple fact of my matter is, I can’t get it up for anything other than mannequins.”

“Well, that’s not so odd—” Krysten tried to cover.

“No. I suppose it would be, say, if I had my own home; if I’d kept it a private matter.”

“What do you mean?” She asked, conceding the floor for good, if even unintentionally.

“Honestly, I swore up and down after the first incident that I’d never do it again. You have to understand, that even at the age of eighteen, I didn’t know how to procure my own mannequin. There was no Google, no Internet—no easy way to order a plastic lady and have it delivered to me discreetly and directly. So, I went to them. Hit the stores where they lived.”

Krysten belted out her biggest laugh. “Are you saying you once masturbated to a mannequin in a store itself?”

“I’m saying, that until Marty found me, that until my recent fame, I used to jerk off to mannequins all over the country. And did it while folks like you were busy picking through bargain racks of useless shit you didn’t’ need. I’m saying that if you’ve been to any major clothing retailers in the malls that sit beside most major interstates west of the Mississippi, there’s a damn good chance you’ve walked over, bought something with, or if you worked there, cleaned my jizz off of something. Because here’s the thing: I’ve never been all that comfortable with blowing my load in my pants. It’s doable, but not preferable. Not, I’m not huge in-between the legs, so stroking myself to climax through a pocket has never been terribly difficult. A quick unzip or tug at my pants to get them down, and I simply shoot my baby-makers onto the nearest garment before tucking my pecker back into my slacks, or jeans as the case may be.”

Krysten wasn’t stunned; she didn’t believe me. “This is a Joaquin Phoenix-type prank, right? Like how he pretended to be retired and a beard rapper instead?” she insisted.

“Wish I could say it was Krysten, but no. The honest truth about Nicholas Devlin is this: I’d been whacking off to plastic ladies for the better part of my twenty years, and fuck me if I don’t miss it. For whatever reason–my own preparation for the deed, people’s self-absorption, inadequate surveillance technology–no one has ever been the wiser, and I’ve never been caught. I used to keep a tally of the time, but I had to stop counting somewhere around the number twenty-two hundred or so.”

“Nicholas?” Krysten finally eked, ” I think we should stop.” No longer of the belief that I was pulling her leg, the mask of go-along that she’d worn had morphed to one of deep unease.

Why no Nicky now, I’d thought. This wasn’t the same woman who’d essentially asked me to do what I’d nearly completed. My admission needed a conclusion. Krysten wasn’t going to get that promotion without a solid finale, and it was evident that she required some help seeing it through to that grand end. I decided to put a bow on the whole spectacle for her.

“I stowed the urge away for a bit. I wanted to believe the famous version of Nicholas Devlin could be something other than a grown man whose only literal release was that which I’ve described. I’ve had every Hollywood Doctor Feelgood hit me with Cialis, Viagra, Coke, Meth—you name it. Shrinks, therapists, pyshcobabblists, all of them, and the bottom line here Krysten? I’m a guy who doesn’t want to stop. I’ve certainly the fortune to keep my own home-harem of the best dummies ever built, but that’s not the same. And I’m done denying myself. This is the happy ending—for all of us.”

There was a long pause. Krysten received the go-ahead from her producer to bring the interview to a close. The only audible sound as of Marty clearing his throat. She corrected her posture for her best attempt at dropping the curtain.

“Nicholas Devlin, everyone,” she forced, “if that is even his real name.”

“Fair enough,” I graciously conceded. “It’s Foltz. Nicholas Foltz.”

That wrinkle over her brow returned. Her curiosity peeked by what, I thought.

“Nicholas Foltz then, everyone. Haymaker hits theaters this weekend. Thanks for talking to us, Nicholas. It was really very enlightening. I mean that.”

The lights went up. Other lights went down. No one spoke. Marty was already on his phone, and Krysten’s handlers had scooped her away from me without a word. A production assistant handed me the obligatory post-interview bottled water and I showed myself back to the very green room I’m sitting in now. Marty was explicit in his instructions: do not leave this room until I come to collect you, he’d said.

There’s a knock on the door.

“Come in,” I mutter, expecting Marty.

The door opens and Krysten slips in through just enough of a crack to allow for the action. She shuts it gently behind herself. Her hair is in a ponytail now, and she’s dropped the professionalism form the face she’d worn earlier. It’s relaxed, no make-up (or less at least). She leans back onto the door, keeping a distance from me, but does so with a casualness that suggests she’s here without fear. She studies my face.

“That was quite a story,” she says.

“Fact usually belittles fiction.”

“Nicholas Foltz, you said.”

“My given name, yes.”

She moves closer, grabs the chair I’m seated in, and slowly spins it around so that we are both looking into the large lit mirror atop the table. She’s staring at me, into me, by way of the reflection of us both.

“Your mother,” she asks suggestively, “was her name Louise?”

I’ve been referring to my mother as Mom for so long, the use of her actual name sends a confused chill up my spine. I meet Krysten’s penetrating gaze with my own. Her eyes, our eyes, the same eyes. She puts a hand on my shoulder, while keeping the mutual stare affixed through the reflection. Neither of us says anything for a minute that feels like thirty. The longer I observe her face and form, the more I find my own features living with a dainty femininity underneath her remaining traces of cosmetics.

“You look just like Mom, you know,” Krysten shatters the stillness.

The calm I’d been clamoring to ever since the interview ended slowly begins to turn. My pulse is racing again, and there’s an unusual tingle in my groin. I’m as horrified as I am relieved when my sister’s gentle squeeze of my tensing shoulder under her hand, a smaller version of my own hand, leaves me semi-erect. I’m certain she isn’t aware of it, but I know this marks the beginning of a new secret for Nicholas Foltz—a new secret for us both. She cements that fate with a reprisal of our mother’s favorite tease.

“Cat got your tongue, Nicky?”

Destructive Criticism

A thick skin.

So many insinuations and finger-pointings made about the habits, ineptitudes, malaise, entitlement and drive of the latest twenty-somethings who are out there trying to make some mark in this “brave-new” world.

I’ll add my own. I often wonder, do they have the thick skin necessary to not let what I say about their work turn them into my killer? Or, perhaps more accurately, I wonder if the way we go about sharing and dismantling ideas with our peers via mostly emails will be the impetus behind my demise. A punishing removal from this plane of me or some other creative who takes the time out of her or his busy schedule to try and help constructively push a youngster who snaps.

Nearly twenty years ago, as part of finding a gig in advertising, I began the grueling ritual of putting my portfolio, ideas, writing, and designs in front of seasoned professionals for their opinions, help, take, connections and wisdom. The process was oh-so-very different from today. It required a physical book. And that book had to be delivered via mail or by hand. And then, though there was email, the dominant method of having these “special” one-on-ones was still mostly over the phone, or if you were lucky enough, in their offices seated across from their sometimes smug faces. It was a far more costly process than today’s, both in effort and actual dollars. Kinko’s printings, poster board, spiral bindings, stamps, travel, dimes or quarters spent on pay phones, the pager and the pager plan, hotel rooms, cabs, trains, and the like. On the plus side though, most of the beat-downs of my work were delivered by an actual voice over the phone or in person with the voice and the added bonus of the human who owned it. They might have hated my book, but most of the time, it was easy to see or hear via those two things that while they thought my work was utter shit, that the opinion was being expressed with my best interests in mind. Sure, sometimes those additional human elements didn’t at all soften the blow-after-blow slaughter of my mental babies by the industry’s in-the-knows. I’m sure I left many an office wishing I’d had the “moxie” to punch faces before finding a bar to nurse the gaping brain wounds.

My experience is that it’s almost all email now. Or even worse, Facebook messenger. And I’m guilty of participating in this new way of exposure and feedback. It’s easier, cheaper, possibly more efficient. It consumes less time I guess for both parties. And if my note back is, “WOW! I think this is the best collection of work I’ve seen in some time. I have a job for you!” or “I’ll hook you up with some other people who have a job for you right now!” sure then, it was a nice win/win transaction for everyone. I get an appreciative email back, saying “Thanks Mr. Rosch!” Maybe the recipient even claims they’ll buy my novel. This is a gross exaggeration of that type of interaction though. I’ve rarely said that; I’ve possibly never said that. Even when I’ve liked someone’s noodlings enough to pass their name along, I’m sure I’ve still found something to try and help better.

There’s talent within all of the people who reach out to me. If I don’t like a book, it’s usually because most of the time there is simply a lot of un-learning to do. Not exactly the same un-learning I had to take-on, in fact, probably a far more aggressive attack on how to go about ignoring the oodles and oodles of heinous real world examples that fester in our brains and sometimes force our own best creative efforts into something passably benign and predictable. We’ve seen it before, it’s the way it’s done, so we put our spin on something that’s been spun.

I don’t care how many emoticons or exclamation points, or “you knows, hey, don’t frets,” I use in an email—at the end of the day, I think it’s far more difficult to get blunt or frank criticism about your work from a digital communication composed of Times New Roman. There are no eye brow raises, no smirks, no shoulder shrugs that subtly say, “I don’t really know what the fuck I’m talking about, kiddo.” It all gets lost. It must sting. It must sting like the numerous form email rejections I get by the dozens when peddling a manuscript. I’d think even more so because I’m not trying to sell someone on a manuscript to get a job or make money or justify the 100K my folks just spent on an ad-education.

I don’t know. I just know that in the past year or so, that a few of the next generation’s 30 under 30 who’ve reached out to me never bothered to write me back after I’d given them my honest and hopefully helpful critique. Just digital crickets after I hit them back.

And that’s fine. It certainly beats getting an email back in which I’m told I’m an old hack who doesn’t know shit about shit when it comes to what’s creative or a sure-bet-fire-starter in today’s marketing onslaught. But sometimes that silence works my brain to the dark spot, and I’ll entertain the idea that the feedback I’ve just given (even in all its peppy-packaged-you-can-do-it-optimism) might be the final nail in a coffin built on this one man’s opinion on what might make your book (website), your writings and shillings better, award-winning or worth a full-time gig at the next hot shop.

We work hard our ideas, even when they are godawful. And maybe the criticism we wield at one another has never been more deserving of some actual face-to-face time. Of course, then I’d only be giving you a leg-up in your ability to jab a pen through my neck. So, for now, even though I’ve identified it as problematic, I’ll be sticking to winkys and extra exclamation points when I tell you through the most impersonal of correspondence that I think you (and even I) can do significantly better.

Beware of The Bean

spiffCan’t say for sure how many more days our little lad will stay snuggly-safe within the womb of the most amazing woman I’ve ever known. You don’t have to be a paranoid freakazoid to wonder and worry what kind of world, life, and situations your current kids, newborns, or future spawn will endure, take-on, or even conquer. I half-jokingly said to Ariele the other day that I thought our boy would be the kind of genius who’d ultimately do some padded-white wall time. It didn’t go over well, even though I’d meant it as the highest compliment possible. “How so,” you say? I guess I’m a firm believer that (at times) if you are really in-tune with everything going on around us, the good and the bad, that you would go nuts, you’d have to go nuts, I’ve gone nuts and I am most assuredly no genius. “Oh sure, Rosch, you would think your kid was going to be gifted,” some Frenemy might be condemning. Yeah, I’ve got a big ego. Which is odd, because I’m also acutely aware of my simultaneous esteem issues. I’ve also put into the works the possibility that he could just end up being another constructive cog in the machine. A kind cog, hard worker, responsible, respectful, etc. but no more special than shoes. Though recently I heard the phrase, “You’re as cool as shoes.” Think about it, they actually are pretty f’in cool when you remember what they do. Either way, I can’t shut off the brain on this anymore than I can shut it off on any of it. I can meditate it out, run it off, carb-load it out of my system momentarily, but ultimately the endless spirals of what-ifs will always come crawling back. And so then, I got to thinking: maybe The Bean will lead the resistance against the robots or machines. Maybe he’ll be part of a larger group of people his age who actually change politics as usual. Maybe there’ll be no politics. Maybe he and his generation won’t even have to read an article about an NYC development with Rich/Poor entrances. One can hope. Will he write ads for a living? I doubt it. I’ve got a feeling computers are damn close to having the IQs and algorithms necessary to deliver marketing that isn’t too far removed from the shlock and drivel that inhabits a good deal of whatever space me and my cohorts can stick it in, on, and around. I’m not damning the fine-advertising, the kinds that inform and entertain (hopefully both), but if Amazon is working on programs that write books based off of collective-human narrative preferences, you can be sure shorter communications about the latest x, y, and z aren’t far behind. Like so many before me, I’m jumping the gun by twenty years of course. Who can say if he’ll be a rockstar, a writer, a fighter or a lover, or something not yet a thing? But, until he decides in some future unrealized reality on what to “be?” Well, I’m kind of vibe-ing on the notion that he might just become the guy whose decision or insight almost singlehandedly ends wars forever. I mean human wars obviously. After all, by then we’ve got to be taking on locust-like aliens hellbent on devouring what natural resources The Bean and his cohorts have managed to restore and protect, right?

Luke, I Am Your Father

photo (3)Well, well, well. Last night, the Mrs. carefully scrutinized our schedules, activities, and whereabouts for twenty-thirteen’s October. This might be a bit of TMI, but yes ladies and gentleman, with a near one-hundred percent certainty, we are finally comfortable with proclaiming: Twas my alter ego Joey Jo Jo who finally managed to sneak his evil seed past the proverbial goalie. On the eve of Halloween no less! If you’ve ever had the dubious pleasure of meeting that maniac, you are likely shaking your head like I did saying, “Of course it was him, that makes perfect sense.” Voodoo, black magic, warlockery and witchcraft—I’m a big fan of it all when it works out in my favor. Prior to unleashing Joey Jo Jo back into the world, I think we’d been trying to get pregnant for five months (not the longest of times, sure, but roll with this farce, friends). After nearly a year and a half of imprisonment in my gray matter—one night, that’s all he needed. Like all padres to be, I’ve put a lot of time against the speculation of who exactly, what exactly, this soon-to-be-born child of ours will be like. Now we have a more Windexed window into the possibilities, so watch out world, in two to three to six (who can say when the little demon will choose to exit) the first born of the maddest man to ever shred an axe in lower Manhattan is gonna drop on this rock like a tiny megaton boom. I’m excited. Maybe I’ll let Joey Jo Jo out at the birthing center too, I mean after all… Oh, by the by, his name ain’t gonna be Luke.

Dead Bird Gets The BookWorm

cropped-level9paranoialogo.jpgIn the first few weeks after putting a book into the world, I’ll admit there is very little I won’t consider in the name of pushing my blather into the psyche of friends and strangers. I used the word “consider” because ultimately there are umpteen-million services (free or paid) that all claim to be the magic bullet you need to climb the charts. It’ll come as no surprise that I’m suspicious of most, as that part of the self-publishing world has become a repugnant place for the shysters who pray upon the desperate get-read-quick-get-rich-quick hoards. Like the paid programming infomercials of the ’90s that promised steady income via tiny classified ads, the internet is littered with Don Lapre style boasts about how to get read and reviewed fast.

If you aren’t reading this because you, like me, have managed to make it to even the fifth or sixth page of Google search results for things like, “blogs that write reviews for the self-published,” than you might be utterly put-off by the idea that the world is abundant with writers teeming at the gills to feed the review machine that Amazon has created. I won’t go into too much, if any, detail on how that all works, and some of its absurdities, because I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds. Without them, I’d likely have one-hundred or more paperbacks in the trunk of my car that I’d long given up on hocking to local bookstores and co-workers. All you need to know is that for a new book, getting read and reviewed, mostly reviewed, feeds the machine. More reviews, higher the better, but any of it will eventually work your sweet words into the system that shovels suggestions to buyers at a better clip. Or so I’ve been told.

I returned from an early morning run yesterday, my brain spinning delightfully as is usually the case. Random bits of inspiration all vying for my attention, colliding with each other, often this is the moment where the most original of ideas are born. The pattern to my thinking at this time is far less structured, and the absurd often gets married to the logical. So it’s really no surprise that I hatched the ultimate plan of plans. Let’s call it the Stieg Larsson approach: basically, it became crystal-clear to me that, in fact, the best and easiest way to get But I Love You screaming up the charts, would be to be dead. Yes, yes—the book still has to be good for that plan to work. Trust me, my own assessment of the writing might be the only thing keeping me from seriously contemplating an alternative version of that plan that is far more attractive and egomaniacal: FAKE MY DEATH! Ah-Ha!

Now, I’ve no idea the lengths one must go to in order to successfully fake their demise in the most public of fashions, but I can assure you that it might be on par with the effort it takes to get people to part with the price of a cup of coffee to take a chance on your book. And, the best part of faking my death as opposed to actually dying (beside not being dead), is that I’d get to see the impact of those efforts as well. Would the news of my demise make a significant difference? Could I manage to log into one of the half-dozen or so cruel author-helper-sites that Amazon so dutifully puts into our hands to watch our babies flounder in real-time? Doubtful. And even if I did, from some internet cafe in the deepest regions of Columbia, I feel certain that my Amazon author-rank tracking graph would still leave me feeling utterly defeated. Hourly updates, seriously guys?

Truth is, I’ve no idea how to fake my death to begin with. The truthier-truth is, I won’t be Googling it to find out because I’m certain that the very act would bring black suits to my door quickly and put a white padded room into my future.

Oh, also, just between us, it’s interesting how much less I like poking fun about my own real-world ending now that I’m six or seven or eight weeks removed from having a son. So, you know, wood knocks and what not. After all, it’s just a book.

 

See You In The Funny Pages

“The image of a grown married man dressed in khaki shorts, a corporate logo polo, deck shoes with no socks, complete with braided belt turns my stomach. The image of that same gent leaning his body from a seated position as far over the nicked brass railing of a stripper’s stage, with his tongue protruding as far out of his mouth as possible, in—I don’t know—the hopes that the all-nude stripper in front of him will “accidentally” back her ass into it… well, is one I’d pay big money to eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind-style-remove.”

These are words from a back-burner book slowly being written as I pen others that details some of my adventures in the business of advertising. And maybe a warning of sorts.

The other day my wife was kind enough to regale me with a David Sedaris’ interview in which the author recalled some embarrassing experiences while living in Paris, France. The gist of it was this: when he is the victim of his own incompetency or the accidental fating of some awkward and absurd moment, the feeling sticks with him well after. He can’t help but think that those around him not only noticed, but took note, and are maybe carrying around his befuddlement as a story to tell. Not because he is famous, mind you. But because this is what he does; he observes people. All writers do.

I’m not here to lump myself in with Sedaris’. Honestly, I’m not even comfortable with referring to myself as a writer most days. I wonder if I ever will be. But, fair warning, I do observe. I do take it all in, and I use what I see when crafting characters, situations and the mayhem. Any fictitious character I create is likely some mighty amalgamation of personalities, quirks, sayings, that are thrust upon me, if not sought out, especially when I’m extra bored in a public setting.

Funny enough, as I’ve always done this, it’d never occurred to me that my own shortcomings, blow-ups, missteps, foot-in-mouth-events, short-fuse moments, and even the NSFW moments of my life might be working their way into some other author’s book or books. In a way, maybe books have long been making people famous without them even knowing it. At the very least, some part of that person. Some tiny little thing you often do, or some monumental mistake you once made, right now, could be making its way into another’s prose. And with the huge surge in self-publishing, I suspect it’s happening far more frequently than ever.

But worry not, nobody reads anymore. Right?