Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reflectivity

*Everything below is complete fiction, so don't get the wrong idea...


***

The M4 carbine is heavier than it should be, but so is the dying body strapped to his back, tied together in a fireman's carry as he makes his way through the deserts of one country on his way to the deserts of another. He's crying, and he knows he'll never admit that to anyone, but in the moment, he can't deny it. Can't even justify it as a result of exhaustion, a side effect of being alive, a reminder that life is beautiful. Even then, as young he is, he knows he's seen too much, learned too much, and he'll never feel comfortable again.

"Hey." It's a whisper from a dying man. One that wants to be ignored. "Hey... leave me here. Please, just leave me here. I don't want to take you with me."

"Fuck you," is all he can reply. And he continues to walk. Until sunset becomes sunrise. Until a dying friend is already dead. Until his legs are numb. Until it's all over.

Except... it'll never be over.

***

She yells at him and he laments the realization that she's not someone who'll ever understand. She's not someone who really cares. He's come close to telling her the truth many times, but her flippant attitude, her childish response to everything outside of her realm of comprehension, her defiance at his way of thinking... he's never told her. He figures out that he doesn't really want to tell her. If she really cared, she'd care to ask.

But she's not someone who'll ever understand.

***

It's a strange phone call in the middle of the night. He recognizes the international calling code. Israel. Even before he answers the phone, he knows who's calling. He answers in French, as she, too, speaks French. It's been a joke between them since both were barely out of their teenaged years.

She tells him his daughter is sick. But, still, she doesn't want him to meet her. She just thought he should know.

His girlfriend at the time wonders why he's in a sour mood. She even cusses him out for it. He refuses to let her see him cry.

It's another world... another life... one he doesn't want to share. Doesn't see the need to.

***

He's on a film set, working a new job, wearing new shoes not quite broken in. His heels are bleeding. He's waiting for his ride home. He's being yelled at on the phone. Nobody knows what's going on in his head. Nobody knows the tragedy he's pretending didn't happen. Then again, nobody cares.

After all, his ride - his girlfriend - is yelling at him for being a selfish prick.

He smiles at the transportation coordinator on set who was kind enough to offer him a ride home. He declines... instead, walking three blocks out of his way with bleeding heels in order to placate someone who doesn't understand.

C'est la vie.

***

It's another desert. He's trying to relive a life he left long ago. But he needs it. He needs it to feel young again. Too many friends have passed on to the next life. Too many friends... He should've been there. Could he have made a difference? Probably not, and he knows it.

That doesn't change the fact that he wishes he'd have been there.

As the dust storm envelops his position, he closes his eyes and pulls the drawstrings of his hood tight. He's lonely. Another thing he'll never admit to. But, for now, he believes he's where he should be.

***

A group of actors file out of his living room. He's still incredulous. These people - famous, talented people - just read one of his scripts in his home. His fucking living room.

Silently, he asks... What did I do to deserve this?

He answers himself. Nothing. Nothing at all.

It's almost enough to make him cry.

***

His aching foot wakes him up yet again, and he limps to the kitchen to grab some painkillers. His loyal dog looks upon him, and there's a sympathetic understanding. Pain is universal.

Irony sets in as the medicine takes effect. It's not even his dog.

Neither are the two cats who try to cuddle with him as he falls into a drug-induced sleep.

***

"So, what do you do?" the tall, beautiful Colombian-American asks him.

"I try to write," he asks, much to the surprise of his friend and business partner. He usually answers "nothing" to such questions.

"You're a writer?" she asks.

"I write. I am not a writer." He looks at her. She's not the most beautiful woman he's ever seen, but she's the most perfect.

And he knows he'll never have her. It's not the time. Not yet.

***

He hears the sound again. A strange, rubber-band like sound. His friend, Joe, looks up at him, confused.

"Dude, you might want to get down."

"Why?" he asks.

"Those are bullets."

Slightly embarrassed, he drops prone, thanking Joe as he does so. Joe had been in combat before and knew the sounds. It's a lesson learned right on time.

***

"Who are you? I mean, really?" she asks.

It's been a while since they've talked. He's apathetic. She's moved on. What-the-fuck-ever. He doesn't even know why she called. It's all so strange to him. But, then, he's drunk. His curiosity gets the best of him. There's a small satisfaction in the realization that she still hasn't found what she's looking for. He knows she never will. She claims otherwise.

At the end of the day, one will be proven right. He's certain it will be him.

"What are you talking about?" he asks in return. "I'm nobody."

It may sound like self-deprecation, but it isn't. It's simply a fact.

***

He stands over the unmarked grave of a friend he can't tell people he ever had. Such is their lives, their occupations, their decisions. Entire lifetimes lived, but never recorded. Never admitted to. Never acknowledged.

And... strangely... these men don't seem to care. It's what they do. It's who they are.

The unknown. The shadows. The ghosts. Those who cry before they fall asleep at night... but never when someone's watching. No. Never when someone's watching. The weight of the world is on their shoulders, after all, and nobody forced them to carry it.

***

"I miss you," he says, to no one in particular.

As the wind blows his words into nothingness, he sips a glass of cheap Merlot. And smiles.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Myths of Los Angeles


Everyone who's never been to Los Angeles thinks they know Los Angeles. People who've visited Los Angeles think they know Los Angeles. People who live here... don't really care. Granted, all of this is true of most large cities, particularly one that has a presence in the media as large as Los Angeles.

Hell... quite a bit of the time, the "New Yorks," "Miamis," and wherevers you're watching on television or in a movie are actually Los Angeles.

But, so what?

Nobody really gets Los Angeles. Not the tourists. Not the shut-ins who've never been here. Not the people who live here. Not the people who grew up here.

And that's what's so god-damned wonderful about this place.

Someone you know complains about the traffic. Well, duh... there's not a person on the planet who wouldn't complain about L.A. traffic. Or L.A. smog. Or earthquakes.

Someone else you know complains about the fake people here. Yeah, well... there are fake people everywhere. But how much time have you spent in a diner in Studio City? Or a sidewalk cafe in Los Feliz? Or on the beach in Venice? Most of the people are as real as you think you are, or as real as the "someone else you know" thinks they are.

And how do people know the people out here are fake, anyway? Oh, that's right... they buy the gossip mags at the local supermarket.

I will be honest here. I do not like 75% of this city. That figure's probably closer to 90%, but I'm being generous. But the remainder? I fucking love to death. I can honestly say I'm living in the best neighborhood I've ever lived in my life, and I've lived in seven states and three countries.

That stated, I'd still rather be in San Diego... but only because driving to Padres and Chargers games isn't as big a hassle.

It's not easy to live in the city, no. It's not easy to break into Hollywood, no. It's not easy to do a lot of things in a lot of places, and Los Angeles is no different. But it's a great fucking town.

Why am I ranting about this? I dunno... I think part of it has to do with the 20th anniversary of the L.A. riots. A scar this city wears to this day. My close friends know that I don't put much stock in anniversaries, but I had a bit of a profound moment this past weekend, when I went to a production of Twilight: Los Angeles 1992. After the show, the cast asked the audience to stick around for a Q&A regarding current thoughts of the riots. In the first round, they asked for people who were living here at the time. In the second, they asked for people who were not... and that's when I told my story.

See, I grew up just south of here, in San Diego County. I'd just moved to Northern Nevada before the riots starting. I followed the riots closely, still feeling that Southern California was my home (a sentiment I've never lost, even though I don't actually feel I have "a home")... but the one thing I recall the most about the riots? My dad walking in and saying to me, "The city's burning."

And burning it was... for all the wrong reasons.

I don't know what came over me, but something about the conversation prompted me to say - in front of a huge cast of fantastic actors (seriously... the IMDb resumes of these people are insane) - that "I fucking love this city."

It's true... I hate 75% of it... but I fucking love it. I've been to a lot of big cities in my life, and few have the personality that Los Angeles does. It's confused, lost, crazy, chaotic... and home to nearly 4 million people. Only one place in America has more... and it's nothing like this place. Oh, it's no better or worse (unless accounting for weather), but it's nothing like this place.

Anyway, I'm just being sentimental, I suppose. It's been a busy year, the phone's been off the hook the past few weeks, and I'm happy to say that my persistence in pursuing my career aspirations is paying off. Again, my close friends know that, despite that persistence, a lot of the credit in the payoff is due to this city. It's the right place at the right time. Who knew? I guess I did, really, but it's the arrogance of naivete that convinces people you can act the Roman when not in Rome. Look at all the film school graduates, including many of my friends, doing anything but making movies. They've never learned how warm and welcome this place can be. Never took the chance. Why? There are many reasons, obviously, but I'm willing to bet there's a fear of Los Angeles borne of those stupid gossip mags. If they only bothered to find out, it would only take a few months to realize how full of shit those admittedly full-of-shit publications and other media actually are.

Twenty years ago, this wonderful, weird, inspiring, and insane city was burning. Well, I got news for you... it's still burning.

Now, though, the reasons are better.

Hate this place all you want. Blame this place all you want. Just remember that, if you ever make it out this way, there's a part of the City of Angels that will always welcome you home. It took me some time, but I know that now.

Anyway, gotta run... three script deadlines this week. I fucking love this place.

Irreview, Book Review: The Nutshell Technique

I have, to date, read well over two dozen books on screenwriting and its related mediums (theatre, specifically).  While most - if not all -...