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Thursday, August 26, 2004

A Quick Drink 

I’ve gone to a bar to meet a few of my friends. It’s not just a bar, though: it’s one of those clones of a British pub that somehow never quite stands up to the real thing.
I’m walking across the floor; not paying attention to what I’m doing, as usual. I walk right in front of a guy who’s throwing darts. He pulls his throw in time and mutters, “asshole” under his breath. It would have been more fitting if he’d called me a twit, but the guy sounded like he’d come down from the Bronx. The only Brit in the place is the owner/bartender.
I see my friends waiting for me at a table in the back. I go to the bar and order Dos Equis Dark, just to piss off the bartender. When he informs me they don’t carry it, I ask for a few more international brews that originate at least a thousand miles away from any of the British Isles. I finally let him off the hook and order a black and tan.
I join my friends. Neil Gaimin is sitting across from me. To my left is Wil Wheaton. To my right, Charlie Kaufman. I ask Neil how it’s hanging and he gives me a dirty look. Don’t ask me why. I ask Wil how his latest book signing went and he tells us that, “it really didn’t suck. Big time!” It always amazes me how surprised he is when he doesn’t bomb. I remind him that he deserves the success and the respect he’s been getting. I try not to giggle every time I see a little bit of Wesley’s lack of confidence creeping into Wil’s alternate universe.
That’s the common thread we all share. Our alternate universes. Neil paints the most vivid works of art, but Charlie wins hands down when it comes to twisted weirdness. Wil’s universes are more normal. Like mine. The Career Universe. The Family Universe. The Universe of the Self. Sometimes we feel like the Raspyni Brothers. It’s too bad we’re always busy trying to flit back and forth between our universes, never really having the time to feel like a complete success in any of them. The Universe of the Self usually loses out the most.
It reminds me that I’d recently done something cool for myself. I do do that, from time to time. This time, I’d bought a new cell phone. I traded SIM cards between my broken Motorola and my crappy Nokia. I gave Terrible T the Nokia and bought a new Motorola. Text messages. Camera. Color screen. Cool. I show them the new phone, but no one seems as impressed as I am.
Charlie says, “I’m surprised you bought a Motorola, considering they laid you off after 21 years of loyal servitude.”
“I bought it because they make good phones. I try not to be too judgmental. Like those people who still think Wil is an asshole because they hated Wesley. Too bad you and Neil weren’t Next Gen writers.”
“That’s a scary thought,” says Neil.
The conversation wanders from ant infestations to two hours and 33 takes for what should have been 3 minutes of voicework.
I get a strange thought and share it. “Charlie, you oughta write a movie about us. I can see it now. The four of us are sitting in a pub just bullshitting and then talking about making a movie. Of course, you’d be the one to script it. I know,” I protest as I see that Charlie is about to interrupt me with the obvious, “I know it’s similar, but you’ll come up with something new. But we’d have to get Nick to play you, again. Sorta like a sequel. I don’t think anybody’d buy it with anyone else. And Wil could play himself. And Edward Norton could play Neil!”
“But who would play you?” asks Ed.
“Don’t know. Maybe Joe Pesci? No. Too New York. Too old. Who’s in their 40s? Hey. Maybe Bruce Willis. Except he’d have to wear a hairpiece.”
“A grey one,” sniggers Nick.
Ed informs us that he has to go siphon the python and I hear the sound system playing “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba. Shit. Now I’m gonna hear that tune swim around my neurons for the next five hours.
Nick is sitting there holding his glass full of ice left over from his vodka tonic like someone’s gonna try and steal it from him. He sucking on a cube and I can tell that his motor is running. I’ve planted a seed that’s likely to turn into something only remotely close to what I’ve suggested, but that’s okay. I know he’s going to ask me to play myself. And if we can get Spike to direct it, I probably will.
Wil reminds us that he’s taking the kids to a ball game tomorrow, gulps down what’s left of his Guinness, and heads for his minivan. “Night, Nick. Night, Bruce. Tell Ed I’m sorry I couldn’t wait.”
“Say, ‘Hi,’ to Nolan and Ryan. From Marc, “ I say.
Ed returns a few minutes later with similar sentiments. “I’ve got to take my kid to one of those hideous birthday parties. Fucks up the whole day, really.”
“Really,” I say, trying in vain to make fun of Ed who’d said it with an English accent. Just for practice. Just in case.
“Night, Bruce. Nick.” Ed heads for his Audi. I’ve tried to convince him to get one of those new hybrids. He says he’s considering it. I keep reminding him that he’s an actor, and has to keep up appearances. Fans are friendly to environmental friendly celebs. He’s almost falling for it.
“Guess I’m in the same fix,” I tell Nick. “Alex has karate class in the morning. Give me a call, tomorrow. Let me know what you’ve cooked up. I can give Spike the call, if you want. Just a scenario. That’s all I’ll need.”
“Night, Bruce.”
“Night.”
I walk out to my pick-up, laughing belatedly at a joke that Wil had made. I realize that I have no idea what Nick is driving. I was considering playing a practical joke. Leaving a nasty note on his car.
I drive home, writing one of my movie scripts in my head.
“I get knocked down, but I get up again...” NOW STOP THAT!
I go back to script writing. Not the sci-fi one or the fantasy about the accountant from an alternate universe. The one about the 45 year old corporate instructor who goes to a training conference intent on having an affair. I imagine Jim Carrey playing the guy and Sandra Bullock playing his coworker/confidant/secret unrequited lover. I think that Frances McDormand will play his wife. She deserves more than ten minutes of screen time, but she’d add a needed bit of reality to what amounts to a screwball comedy.
I think I’ll have another drink when I get home.





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