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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…sorry, I'll stop.

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. Much 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…whatever 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.

Subway Story

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…

ME: Order for pick-up.
HER: Name?
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?
HER: What?
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 ROLL.
HER: Oh, oh, right. Okay, sorry. One regular tuna roll. Thank you, Gus.
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, anyway?

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 me…where are you from?"

As soon as it left my lips I regretted it. It sounded…forced. Out of place. Weird. But she turned around and smiled and said…something. 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 any justice.

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…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: [email protected]

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Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | October 2000 | Volume 7

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