Call To Arms
This month I'd like to address all the agents, publishers and
editors out there who intently read this and other columns all
over the web, searching for the "next big thing," the
"hot new talent," the "beacon in the night"
who will boldly lead us out of the swamp of shite that our present
cultural landscape has become. And I don't mean simply the "catch
of the day" or the "flavor of the month." I'm talking
about the "wonder boy/girl of letters," the
Anyhow, my point is, we need a leader. You know it. I know it.
And I don't mean the kind of leader who keeps repeating that he's
from the second largest state (like that's some great fucking
prize) who's idea of leading is killing off hundreds and snorting
coke by the barrel-full; no. Fuck politics. Fuck politicians.
I'm talking about a cultural hero, an icon of sorts, someone who
can catapult a literary revolution, an artistic renaissance, a
movement everyone can be a part of. And I do mean everyone.
You, the hippie trustafarian who doesn't know what to do with
him/herself now that the WTO protests are over - come along!
You, the true revolutionaries living in trees to protest deforestation,
not eating meat to protest cruelty to animals and not showering
to - What? Protest cleanliness? - join me!
You, the young hipsters who first were slackers and now work
for Dot.coms, who wear Iron Maiden concert t-shirts and denim
skirts and sneakers, who look like 60's Mods combined with 80's
New Wavers, the door is wide open
what are you waiting for?
You, the old people who remember when TV was considered a fad
and when people read and looked at art and DISCUSSED THINGS, turn
off your coma-inducing Wheel of Fortune and other games
shows and come on down!
You, the suburbanite soccer moms who are bored to tears with
their humdrum lives, particular the MILF's who are sick to death
of their sexless husbands
my arms are wide open!
You, the young republican Wall Streeters who praise money over
everything else and only read John Grisham and the WSJ, who think
art is a guy from some old hippie band, go fuck yourselves! (But
first give me some donations!)
You, the kids of today, the brilliant, beautiful kids who know
everything and are more tech savvy than the rest of us will ever
be, who will be running things in the near future, who will determine
what happens to me when I'm old and weak, I love you! Do you hear
me? I love you!
You, the Matrix-style robots who'll be running things if the
kids don't fuck up, I love you too! Please don't clone me or send
me to Mars!
The revolution is now my friends. And all I ask is for your support.
No one will be turned away; each person is essential. Are you
reading this, publishers, editors and agents? Do you see how persuasive
I can be? How welcoming? And all you have to do to start the ball
rolling is one simple thing: sign me up. That's it. And how long
could that possibly take? A few phone calls, some contracts printed
up, checks written
we're talking a few hours, tops.
And this has nothing to do with selfish goals or vanity or anything
like that - please, that's just not me. This is all about you.
I am merely the catalyst, the vessel. It is you who will receive
the ultimate benefit.
Why? Simple. My book will sell. I will make you lots of money.
Let me repeat that: LOTS OF MONEY. Green. Cash. Bones. Benjamins.
Dead Presidents. Think about it. You've got that woman, what's-her-name,
who wrote that column about sex that got turned into a big HBO
T.V. show with Sarah Jessica Parker and those other feisty, reasonably
attractive/intelligent actresses, right? That show is HUGE. It's
won Emmy's for God's sake. Then there's that British woman who
wrote a column for a while until she got a deal to write a book
in a diary format or something, a book that was equally huge.
Not good, but huge. Heck, one of you even signed up that chick
from The New York Press who had her own sex column for a while.
I don't know how her book did, but I guarantee mine will do better.
How do I know this? Call it a hunch. A premonition. A gut feeling.
Heck, call it whatever you want, I just know. And of course I'll
do whatever it takes to promote the thing. Book tours, autograph
signings, promotional events, speeches, nude calendars
it takes, I'll do it. So whaddaya say? The time is now. The people
are waiting. The ball is in your court. The clichés are
running out. End transmission.
The other night I stayed out incredibly late and then had an
excruciating day at work. Even though I was exhausted, like the
man I am I kept my Thursday gym appointment and then went to my
night class - Zen Buddhism. The first part of the class is all
meditation, and it took everything I had not to fall asleep. By
the time the thing was over, I was wrecked. I stumbled down into
the subway, and while waiting for the L to arrive I called my
favorite Japanese restaurant to place an order for dinner. Everything
was set. Get off the train, pick up the food, lie down on the
couch while eating tasty sushi and then pass out. Perfect. Then
I saw her.
I was still on the phone, talking to a very unaccommodating woman
Order for pick-up.
ME: Russ. R-U-S-S.
HER: Okay. What's your order?
ME: Uh, one tuna roll
HER: Okay, one spicy tuna roll.
ME: No, no, not spicy. Regular.
HER: Oh, okay. Two regular tuna rolls.
ME: No, not two. One. Just one regular non-spicy tuna roll.
HER: Oh, just one, okay. What else?
ME: Let me see
one dragon roll
HER: One dragon roll
ME: One California roll
HER: One California roll
ME: And one tuna. From before.
HER: And one spicy tuna from before.
ME: Are you fucking with me?
ME: Nothing, I'm sorry. It's been a very long day. But it's not
a spicy tuna roll. It's not two tuna rolls. It's ONE REGULAR TUNA
HER: Oh, oh, right. Okay, sorry. One regular tuna roll. Thank
ME: It's Russ. Russ I tell you!
It was about this time that I saw her. She was standing on the
far side of the platform and she was looking right at me. She
was amazing, tall, striking. I felt a strong need to talk to her,
but I was a virtual zombie, a sleep-walker, a retard. I could
barely remember where I lived, let alone muster up the strength
to approach a perfect stranger, a perfectly beautiful stranger.
Even so, when the train came, I got on the same car that she was
on, not sure what was going to happen.
She was on the far side of the car, and a huge gap stood between
us. To traverse this, large, brightly-lip gap would take a tremendous
effort on my part. I didn't know if I was up for it. In fact,
I knew I wasn't up for it. To boldly approach a stranger on the
subway is one thing; to do so while crossing over a significant
distance is something else. To do so while having the equivalent
IQ of a gnat is something else altogether.
So I stood there, staring into space. It was not meant to be,
I figured. And, honestly, I was relieved. What could I have said,
But at the next stop a bunch of people got on the train, and
she moved over to my side of the car. I mean, she moved over and
stood RIGHT NEXT TO ME. Now, I had no idea if this was intentional
or not, if she moved because there was a crowd or because my manly
pheromones had dragged her in like a tractor beam; either way,
everything had changed.
She stood with her back to me, my breath virtually on the back
of her neck. We had just left First Avenue, and mine was the next
stop. I had the time it took the train to go under the East River
to come up with something. Valiantly, desperately, I searched
my brain which, unfortunately, had shut down some time ago. I
had nothing and I knew it. Asking for the time was too cheesy.
Jumping in and saying 'hello,' didn't seem feasible. Finally,
due to the fact that she seemed foreign and had this amazingly
unique, exotic look to her, I leaned over and said, "Excuse
where are you from?"
As soon as it left my lips I regretted it. It sounded
Out of place. Weird. But she turned around and smiled and said
To be honest, I don't remember exactly. Something about not being
foreign at all, that she was American, but her parents were from
different countries, Haiti? Brazil? South Africa? But wherever
her parents were from, whatever their backgrounds, their genes
had combined in a truly remarkable fashion.
To make clear my condition I explained that I was extremely tired,
and when she asked me why I told her the truth, that I had been
out partying, which probably made me sound like a drug-addict
or something - who stays out partying all night on Tuesday and
Wednesday? She asked me what I did, and I replied that I worked
for a Dot.com. I thought this was a satisfactory answer, but she
wanted more. "Which one?" So I told her, and tried to
explain what we do, even though I don't know exactly. I mean,
I know, but it's kind of complicated and changing every day, and
at that moment there was no way I was going to do the company
So, in an effort to shift the focus off myself, I asked her what
she did. Her reply was that she made films. Now I was really intrigued.
A filmmaker. A fellow artist. A compatriot. Viva la Revolution!
At this point we reached Bedford and we both got out of the train.
As we walked down the platform, instead of asking her about her
work, about what kinds of films she makes and likes and whatnot,
I stupidly began talking about my own work, my writing. I believe
I said something like this:
"You know, that's cool that you're a filmmaker, because
I just finished this screenplay that I'm really proud of, really
proud. It's taken me a while to finish it too, I mean like a long
time. And, well
while it's not totally avant-garde, not totally
experimental, it's definitely not commercial. Not Hollywood material.
I mean, I don't know if I could just get an agent and try to sell
it, you know? No, I think the only thing that would work would
be to do it myself, but, see, I don't really know how to, to
make a film. I mean, I've shot a few super-8 films (a lie, by
the way. I have only shot one and it was a disaster), but never
a real film. I figure the only thing to do is to hook up with
a filmmaker who'd be interested in it, and try to go that route,
the independent route, you know? Like, I mean, these aren't the
best examples, but something like Clerks or the Brothers
McMullen or something, you know? Something like that. So what
do you think? Do you think you'd like to look at it sometime?"
Could you imagine some pretentious freak talking to you like
that? I'm surprised she didn't run away screaming. Instead, when
she offered me her email address and neither of us had a pen,
she walked with me into a deli to get one.
The girl behind the counter searched frantically for one before
she realized that we didn't need one to take away, just one to
borrow for a few seconds.
"Oh," she replied, offering us the one in her hand.
By this point I wasn't merely exhausted; I was barely conscious.
My eyes were nearly closed and I was squinting and must have looked
very, very bizarre. For, as soon as she gave me her address and
shook my hand, she was out of there.
"Get some sleep," she said, and was gone.
So K., wherever you are, this is for you. And look - I know I
must have come across as less than spectacular. But if you think
you'd like to hang out sometime, get some coffee, talk shop -
even if just for the sake of the revolution - I'd love it. I promise
to get plenty of sleep beforehand.
Send all mail to the author at this address:
Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
| October 2000 | Volume 7