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?”

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?

Sing Sing for my Son

A quick-ish lesson in the train of thought that leads one man to decide that, yes, he is capable of serving hard time for his unborn son. The Mrs. and I went to see Transcendence this past weekend. If you haven’t seen it, I’m recommending you wait until it’s on one of modern day’s home viewing options. Save your thirty to forty bucks for the umpteenth remake of Godzilla. Not sure why that trailer has me hooked, but it does. Now then, the Johnny Depp flick has nothing to do with child rearing specifically, but even if you haven’t seen it, you can deduce that it does construct a story that dances around notions of what the future might hold for our civilization.

And so, if you are me, you are watching and thinking in the voice of a ninety year old man, “Hurumph, lots of changes comin’, yes sir, yes sir!”

You continue this conversation with yourself, recalling a brief back and forth with a parenting friend about the impossibilities of knowing exactly what technologies you’ll be disallowing your children to use in the near to not-so-far futures of their lives. And if you’d been reading about haptic suits and a life lived almost exclusively as an avatar online in a book like Ready Player One, you start wondering if your future son will even go outside at all. You start thinking about what you’ll ban, remembering that all pre-parents had similar conversations about video games, cellphones, and the lot, only to ultimately be confronted with newer things you couldn’t have fathomed that come along with the pleas of, “But so-and-so-friend’s parents let he or she have a blankity-blank already, come on, I’m eight or nine or ten or five!”

You move forward, remembering that because you only intend on having the one that it’s important to put him into social situations with other babies, children, and grow-ups. You don’t want him to be a shut-in. Suddenly, all thought deviates to an entirely different possibility, “No way my kid is going to be living in a haptic suit, he’ll be a chip off the ol’ block. Very charming, a real go getter. Devilishly handsome too.” You condemn yourself momentarily for letting your ego turn your child into the inwardly projected image of yourself. Somehow, age fourteen comes into play. You wonder how you’ll convince him to have protected sex if he has sex at all. You didn’t have sex at fourteen, but your mind tends to bolster the prediction with its vague recollection of scattered news mentions of promiscuity occurring at younger and younger ages.

“I hope he’ll be smart enough to not take the risk so young,” you say, but before you can even finish the thought you’ve already scripted a scenario in which this young-man-about-town of yours has dazzled the pants off of some young lady at age fourteen. You change the age to fifteen to feel better about yourself. Next thing you know she’s pregnant. He didn’t listen. You think about how you’d handle that situation, and then with no invitation to the thought party whatsoever, the thought, “What if he feels trapped? Kills her and hides the body?” pops into your head. You know almost certainly that this won’t happen, but even as you watch Johnny Depp “die” (oops, Spoiler Alert) on a table in front of you, you can’t help but shake the possible reality that you’ll be faced with that difficult decision of either turning your pride-and-joy in to the authorities, helping him live a life on the lam, or figuring out a way to take the fall for the atrocity he has committed.

“I’d turn that lil’ shit-head in,” you reassure yourself, even as you begin to accept what your remaining years look like in the slammer. “It’d have been an act committed under intense duress. My son is a good boy. He’s a good boy. It won’t happen again,” you repeat to yourself. “It was my fault. I didn’t do a good enough job of explaining the consequences of the birds and the bees. This is how it has to be.” And so there, under the darkness that accompanies the screening of a so-so film that isn’t holding your attention, you silently proclaim, “It’s all good. I can do the time.”

Tales from the Crypt (Except replace the word Crypt with RAV4)

Bare with me through this lengthy tale friends, and I’d like to believe that you won’t be disappointed. Of course, I also simultaneously believe that if you do take the time to read it in full, that you’ll be disturbed enough to possibly unfollow this blog, cancel your friendship with me via other social channels, and maybe even phone the authorities to have me taken away to a padded cell. I’ll take my chances in the name of keeping myself semi-relevant to you for another week.

If you follow me on Instagram, you likely saw a few pictures of the fantastic place I visited at the beginning of last week. A wonderfully desolate locale known as Alabama Hills. Three days there shooting what I hope we’ll be an amazing thirty second spectacle has left me with many fine tales, but it is the journey home that is the subject of this post. The roughly three or so hours spent mostly alone behind the illuminated wheel of what was formerly my mother-in-law’s RAV4, driving from Lone Pine back to Venice, on the heels of a 12 hour shoot day in the hot sun of a desert not far removed from Death Valley.

Why was I alone in the car with no co-pilot to help guide me or share the responsibility of staying awake to stay alive for one more day, despite having ample co-workers present on set with me? Simple. I had made it very clear that I’m a man who likes to drive at a reasonable speed–and a man who demands that any one driving him also mimics the cruising behaviors of a seventy-year old man. And thus, I was left to my own devices–mostly smokes, caffeine, and the earbuds snaking from my cellphone to the left and right of my brain–to keep me awake and alive on that dark journey back down CA-14.

Fifteen minutes into the trip back home, and despite my best efforts to keep up,  I’d already lost sight of the four souls in the Ford blazing the trail in front of me. “No worries,” I thought. “I’ll just ring Ariele and talk to her for awhile.” I spoke into my iPhone, demanded that Siri ring the Mrs., and believe it or not even my low grumble from time to time results in Siri’s obedience. The phone rang, but alas, Ariele was unavailable to pick up the phone. I left a message, recorded via her voice mail what I surmised might be my last known location on the map and pulled off to what I thought might be the last gas station for quite some time.

In my haste to grab a beverage from the station’s market, I left my phone on the passenger side seat of the RAV4. So when Ariele called me back, she did not find me on the other end either. But, at the moment, I was relieved–as I always am–to know that she was still alive. “I’ll phone her back in fifteen minutes or so,” I schemed. “After I’ve had a chance to drink this diet coke and burn a butt with the windows down.” And that’s precisely the plan I put into action. But, when I finally got around to phoning her again, repetitive rings followed by an almost unfamiliar recorded greeting left me unsure of exactly why we’d been unable to connect not once, not twice, but now thrice.

I didn’t bother with another message. I figured she’d not had the speed to grab the phone before it’s final ring, and was quite certain I’d be hearing back from her within minutes if not seconds. When I didn’t, I put my voice to use again and asked Siri to ring my mother. We spoke for some 40 minutes, and our conversation had certainly aided me in my quest to stay alert while not-quite-speeding down that moon-lit highway. But, in the back of my mind a kernel of concern regarding the whereabouts of my wife began to take hold. “Mom, I must let you go. I’ve got to phone Ariele.” I barked. “I’ll speak to you soon.”

I phoned Ariele again. No luck. I placed the phone back into the passenger seat and assured myself that she’d call me back as soon as she was able. “Perhaps a spot of traffic, perhaps she is consumed with playing with our cat, perhaps her phone died and she doens’t quite realize it yet.” Many logical possibilities were uttered nearly aloud by me, for me, to sooth the twisted mess of a mind that I knew might start piecing together far more heinous scenarios involving my lovely. But my efforts to keep that devious gray beast from betwixt my ears at bay were for not. And within mere moments of having finished the last drag of my umpteenth smoke the very brain that was working to keep me calm with rational thinking, began to paint three distinct possibilities–three scenarios, and only three–that with each passing mile became more and more concretely certain.

Fact: My masters had arranged an after-work cocktail shindig in at Gene Simmons’ joint in downtown El Segundo that evening. I knew this to be true, and I knew via a brief text exchange before I hit the road that Ariele had decided to go. It was a decision that had whole-heartedly delighted me prior to reaching the utterly creepy town of Mojave, CA, as I tend to take great comfort in knowing that Ari gets out and about when I’m not around. Riding into hour two of my now hypnotic journey though, that fact only served as fodder to construct those aforementioned fates.

1) Being the lightweight that she is, two drinks had been too many. (I have no idea why this woman who I know to only have typically one drink, all of the decided to have two, but dammit that’s what she’d had). And thusly, one her way back from El Segundo to the sublet we currently call home, she’d had an accident. Likely on the backroad home along the Pacific. Likely end result: She is no longer with us or horribly crippled.

2) Perhaps at some point in the three days I was away I’d said something that had been misinterpreted by her own brand of crazy as something spiteful, unappealing, or hurtful. The lives of couples frequently separated by the rigors of their profession are filled with phone conversations that walk the fine line of sadness and madness due to the additional strains of having to cope with the daily routine without your favorite companion. It was a possibility, though I could not recall any exchange that’d we’d had that had ended on a less than high note. Even so, option two had me surmising that perhaps some younger buck had wooed her, and they were off to do the devil’s business.

One and two, and they came in that order, seemed highly unlikely. And yet, I’d still received no phone call back. With these two options decidedly difficult to approve by even me, my brain focused on the third far more likely scenario.

3) Ariele had left El Segundo after not even a whole alcoholic beverage, had made it safely back to Venice, had put off calling me back while in the car as is required by the law, had parked a few feet down the road from the entrance to our cottage and while fumbling with the keys to enter the gate due to the extreme darkness of the street had been put to sleep by a chloroform soaked rag in the hand of an abduction van driving lunatic. After all, from the moment I checked into our sublet many weeks ago I was suspicious that the difficulty of working the key in the nearly faulty gate lock would allow for such a tragic event to eventually occur.

And so there it was: the most obvious ending to what come September would have been just over four years of our amazing journey together. Even as I assured myself that this was probably not at all the situation, I began to run through my own fate now that she was likely on her way to being forever tortured in a dark basement somewhere or, if I was lucky, found in a ditch a few months from now. A deep darkness descending upon my car. True, I was relived to know that there was no way that I could be blamed for foul play, with my being so very far removed from Venice that day, but with this knew knowledge I began to wonder what was next for the kid.

If I knew her to be dead, with one-hundred percent certainty, wouldn’t the next right thing be for me to intentionally drive the Rav-4 off the next available mountain cliff? And if I did, could I really be sure that the tumble the vehicle would take would end my own life instead of just leaving me permanently disfigured and facing many hardships ahead? What other options did I have? A life spent in search of my soul mate ala Kiefer Sutherland going after an almost unknown Sandra Bullock was certainly an option. Head spinning, lungs filling over and over again with the bizarre combination of my own poisonous smoke and the rush of clean desert air, it occurred to me that on the plus side–with me dead or living, the relationship we’d forged (our very existence together) might possibly be held up as legendary. Future errors and indiscretions, miscommunications and temporary set-backs were no-longer a possibility. The future, the one baking in my skull, would be filled with phrases like, “They were such an amazing pair, tragic–who knows what a love like theirs might have accomplished down the road? We can be sure of one thing, no man and woman on earth ever loved each other quite like they did–Princess Bride style love that was.”

This was the tarnished but still slightly silver lining to it all. Ironic yes, as I’d not just a few minutes early temporarily placed her with another, but I’d had to have had that thought in order to get to the truth! Before I could commit to anything brash, I decided one last text or two was necessary to remove all doubt. “Text Ariele,” I barked into the phone. After I voice texted one last request for some sort of response to relive my growing panic, I simply assumed the next text I’d receive would be from that maniac–something along the lines of, “I’ve got her. LOL.” Or maybe even, “MLOL” which would be some sort of text version of “Mooohoooohahahaha.”

A brilliantly dark curve loomed ahead–the clock was ticking, and the phone did ring. I picked up thinking, “Oh this psychopath is a brave one. Calling me back to deliver his news via his own voice. That’s some 80s type psycho-old-school shit there,” I thought just before Ariele’s voice rang out into my ear, “Hey babe. I’ve called you like four or five times. It went to voicemail, the one you’ve still not set-up, every time.”

And there it was. Ah, yes. The reality that I most often choose to forget: AT&T is shit.

No Sugar Will Be The Death of Me

A recent bout of manic air travel had me observing the behaviors of fellow passengers and indeed even my own interaction with the myriad of strangers one encounters between point A and B. I’d like to think that on a scale of one to ten that my courtesy ranks at a minimum of eight no matter my mood. Since I’m bias and a complete ego maniac when it comes to my own belief that I’m so very much better than the rest of the human stain on planet earth, I’m willing to consider it’s quite possible that I’m no better than a four. If there is a god, more likely some servant of the deity, I’m of the hope that shortly after my final departure from this world that in addition to a catalog of the near-death experiences that might have removed me much earlier than that date, that perhaps it, he, or she, will also be kind enough to rank me legitimately as to my composure among the rigors of the living. Perhaps in the end I’ll score no better than a two for having faked extreme courtesy while quietly condemning and judging my fellow man at nearly every point of the journeys I’ve made. If it’s possible to report on such a thing from that realm, I’ll certainly own up to it and let anyone who cares to still hear from me know the truth.

Part of that truth might include the way I deliver my order for coffee these days–it isn’t exclusive to airport beaneries, but it was on one of these recent legs that I realized that the firm tone I put against the phrases, “no sugar, no sweetener, un-sweetened” could potentially be registered in the brains of service-industry-soldiers as an unnecessary increase in volume and threat. Going way way back, I can recall having been on the receiving end of a few cups of joe that were poisoned with one of that vile trio. The culprit more often than not was an employee of Starbuck’s, but if memory serves (which apparently it really does not), Dunkin’ Donuts and others had a hand in the creation of my twisted delivery of the simple everyday ask. “No Sugar.” I no longer follow it with a please, or whisper it, or expect that the person taking my order is listening to my order at all. And so, that part of the order leaves my mouth like a bullet to the brain. It’s jarring, possibly alarming, and I believe was the impetus behind a recent reaction by an airport barista that left me feeling anxiously confident that perhaps my request was the final straw on the proverbial back of the camel that day. “Sorry,” I said. “I just really hate sugar in my coffee.” I followed it up with a tense grin and watched as this fellow made his own decisions about how he’d like to be ranked on that fateful day in front of the afterlife’s courtesy report reporter. He sighed and moved on, but I didn’t.

Since then, and it’s been a few weeks, I’ve come to believe that if I don’t change the way that I insist that my java come with zero sweeteners of any kind, natural or chemical, that eventually I will run into the wrong mud-slinger and that seemingly benign request will have me receiving my own afterlife courtesy reports and near death experience lists far sooner than I would if I just excepted the fact the majority of this country loves a sweetened cup. Should  I join the clan, simply as an easier means of survival? I attest, I simply can not drink that filth, and so…

“No sugar, please.”

“No sugar, my good man.”

“Un-sweetened if you can, thank you.”

“If at all possible I’d certainly appreciate it if you didn’t sugarize that there concoction.” 

“It’d mean a great deal to me if you didn’t put anything that sweetened my coffee into the cup. (wink, wink and proceed to over-tip).”

Long Con Turkey

The Long-Con, I’m a fan.

Let me start by asking, has there ever been a legitimate request made via email for the banking information necessary to wire money? Do tell. I should probably back up here. Several moons ago, I received an email from a literary agent in Turkey requesting a complimentary PDF of my manuscript. I believe the agent may have mentioned the particular publisher from Turkey that was interested in the translation rights for my book. The entire email was spelled correctly, and if memory serves (it rarely does by the way, so beware) there were less than two grammatical errors–possibly none. Even so, I immediately dismissed the email, positive it was a scam. Still, I took to Google to do some research. There were other souls out there discussing the very same agency, not too many and not too few, with similar questions about this Turkish agent’s legitimacy. If you are an aspiring writer, you’ll probably want to get cozy with the website Writer Beware, which details many of the various scams used to prey upon the “oh-so-desperate-to-be-published.” But, even after going there and numerous searches, I could find no conclusive evidence that the agent and agency weren’t legitimate. Many legitimate publishing websites even listed the agency as one to reach out to in order to get published in Turkey. In the end, I decided to proceed with sending a PDF of the manuscript. I had detailed all the possible miserable outcomes of even that act, most of which ended with me and my wife somehow be kidnapped and tortured and dead, and surmised that at the very worst, someone out there might publish my book without my knowledge and try to make a few lira. That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world I thought. “God speed PDF,” I might have said, and probably forgot that I’d even sent by lunch that day. That was way back in June I believe.

Then, sometime around September, lo and behold, I heard back from this gentleman again. He’d found an interested publisher there, and hoped that I’d not moved ahead with someone else (a nice bit of flattery I thought), and said if I was still interested that he’d like to proceed with drawing up a contract. Still one-hundred percent convinced that this was all a scam, I replied, “Absolutely. Please send me the details and I’ll review them immediately.” Again, I heard nothing for several days. I had a new job, was living in a new town, and not unlike the first time, the whole thing fell far into the deep recesses of my brain–probably filed somewhere under Potential Mistakes I’m Currently Making That Will Result in My Demise. It’s a thick file, so not everything sticks.

A few days later, another correspondence with a contract attached. I read it over countless time, consulted with other traditional published writers, googled the names of all partites involved, spun my wheels, and in the end decided to allow possibly ten percent of myself believe it was legit. $1000 advance, and a small percentage of any of the 1500/2000 copies they were planning on publishing in Turkish. Cool by me. “Let my fame grow in Turkey!” I might have internally shouted. I signed the contract, sent two paperbacks, and even then was still certain enough that it was all too good to be true that I decided to hold off on the usual grotesque PRing of myself (something I’ve also often surmised will lead to my early demise) until I received the first half of my advance–then and only then would I allow myself to make a glorious post on Facebook along the lines of, “Friends and Countrymen! I am now also a traditionally published author in the great land of Turkey!”

The receipt of my contract and books was made known via yet another email from the agent. At this point, I might have allowed my belief in the whole thing to shift to about thirty percent. A guy who has “Question Everything. Trust No One.” tattooed on his arm doesn’t go to full on optimism about potential good fortune overnight. Still, I was damn close to making it big news on social media–I’ve got a hole in my soul that needs filling after all.

And so, finally, as I’ve surely bored you toward this post’s conclusion, today, seven or so months after the initial contact from this agent from Turkey, I received an email asking for my bank account information in order to wire me my advance. Ha. Of course. After a bout of even more Googling on him, his company, and the whole scenario–I still can’t say one way or another, and my mind has me believing that the party or parties involved are performing an excellent long con. There are numerous sites and posts out there that would seem to prove them absolutely legitimate. And yet, I can not commit. I am absolutely convinced that I have finally met the grifting bamboozlers that I myself have always romanticized myself to be. Patient, attentive, and going after the most skeptical of souls–doing an amazing amount of seeding, cajoling, and crafting in the hopes that a long, long way down the road I might bilk you of your money with something as obvious a swindle as a wire transfer. If I haven’t already.