Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The movie version

of my life will almost certainly have to feature this scene, so I hope I can do it justice.

Cast of characters:

Grigorio, ~43: composer, pianist, Arts Circle director. Spindly, stoop-shouldered, ingenuous, intense; mop of untidy curls in prescribed composer style; slightly over-dressed for any occasion.

Crank, ~47: hippie/mystic of indeterminate profession; suspected of still living with his parents. Carries chess board at all times. Bad teeth, smoker, not necessarily an alcoholic but certainly plenty drunk on this occasion. Stained clothing, too many bags. Closely resembles any given homeless person, in fact.

J.R., ~65: entrepreneur, CEO, mystic, populist. Plotting 25-billion-dollar deal to transform Governor's Island into a World Paradise of Art and Culture. Could be a lunatic and a bounder for all we know.

Serena, 37: painter, healer, blonde. Wearing, on this occasion, poufy yellow skirt, black athletic shoes, and black cut-off T-shirt reading "Brooklyn: Where the Weak Are Killed and Eaten."

Scene 1: Friday evening, 8 PM, The American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. It is Free Night and jazz music wafts through the giant glass globe of the north atrium.

Security guard: Nice shirt.

S: Thanks. (encountering G. on stairs) Sorry I'm late.

G: Sorry, what for? Guess what--Crank is DRUNK. I don't know how much we'll be able to accomplish.

S: Ah, well. (We enter jazz atrium via cloakroom and roped-off area containing private party, full of wealthy donors eating cánapés and drinking martinis.)

G: Crank asked me to guard his bags and chess board while he went out for a smoke. Can you imagine? I refused. I'm not a chess board babysitter.

S: How do you do? I'm Serena.

G: You two haven't met?

Crank (to Me): You've almost got it. You're only lacking the littlest bit.

S: Can I get a drink around here?

G: They're overpriced. Crank brought beer in his bag.

S: I'll wait.

C: Do you play chess?

S: Not really.

C: I have a system worked out where I teach kids to play chess, only I'm teaching them the Truth, because they and I are equal to the other kid and them, and the universe, and it's all one and we are brothers. You know.

S: Yes, I do know.

G: I like to go through strange magazines, here, for ideas; look at this, and this, and this...

C: J.R. has a penthouse up the street from here. (Gets out cell phone and dials.)

C: We can go over to J.R.'s, like, now.

S: Are you SURE?

G: We only stay half an hour, tops.

C: Half an hour, it's cool, man. I'm gonna pee. (Exit.)

G: Can you BELIEVE he asked me to babysit all this stuff? Look at all this. I'm gonna stand here while he smokes, right.

(We look at magazines and listen to jazz.)

C: (returns after long interval, bearing fake long-stemmed rose.)

S: For me? Did you meet a Mexican in the bathroom?

C: No, a black lady. (Looks around at empty hall, beerily confused) Is it over?

Us: YES. We need to go now.

C: Sure they're not just taking a break?

Us: NO. It's over. We're getting kicked out. (We depart, bearing rose, bags, magazines, chess board.)

C: Do you believe in telepathy?

S: Of course.

C: We could look into each other's eyes and know that I am you and you are me, and all is one.

S: Or not.

C: You're my sister, and I'm your brother, and maybe, maybe not. Sure you don't play chess?

S: Not really.

C: (to G) Serena is the sexual chi of this project, but she's not quite there yet.

S: I channel through all SEVEN chakras, thank you very much.

G: How far is it? Should we take a bus, or a cab?

C: This is a very important evening. You, me, Serena, and J.R. are the four core elements of this project. We have everything we need. Big things are happening.

G: What about Lolita, and Archimedes, and Horatio...

Me: What is "this project," anyway?

C: We could split a cab. Seriously, my life is brighter knowing that you exist.

(Cut to front of J.R.'s building.)

G: Who paid for the cab?

S: I did. You guys can buy me a beer.

Us: We're here to see J.R.

Security guard: Penthouse. Go right on up.

S: This J.R. is obviously a friendly guy.

Scene 2: J.R.'s penthouse. Rambling set of rooms crammed to the gills with books, good art, bad art, collections of glass and marble eggs, seashells, VHS tapes, china, dead plants, live plants, Persian rugs, antique furniture, fire irons, grand piano. Wrapped on three sides by a terrace overlooking Manhattan, now covered in scaffolding. Smells like great-grandparent's library.

S: Thank you for inviting us. What a lovely place.

J. R. I share with a 91-year-old man who has lived here for 65 years. Rent-controlled. I came for dinner 10 years ago and never left. He's in Fire Island for five months. Sorry about the scaffolding.

C: (grabbing Serena by the neck) Trust me.

S: (tense, standing mid-room) I'm a massage therapist. Find the bad spot, I'm testing you. No, you missed it.

G: The piano is calling to me and I must play Beethoven. But here I have a list of four important issues, which I must preface with an overview, because I'm the sort of person who likes to summarize first. Bullets, one, two, three.

J.R. Yes.

C: (interrupting) This is a very important evening; here we have the four core elements of this project. We can put together a radio program, the four of us in this room, we can revitalize WGBI, I have contacts. This is a vision.

J.R. What?

C: You've heard of WGBI?

G: The four of us? What about Lolita, Archimides, Horatio...

C: And I'm working on getting a website, AC dot IC dot org. Intentional Community dot org, they're not exactly but I know...

G: There's the question of standards, quality versus quantity, perhaps we have levels of membership...

J.R. Excuse me, one thing at a time.

C: I'm going to go smoke.

G: (continues at great length regarding logistics)

J.R. I was drawn to your project; it's what we're trying to accomplish. I take orders from the Man Above. You (pointing at S.'s "Brooklyn" T-shirt) are crucial to us.

Crank: (returning) Serena is the sexual chi of this project.

S: I SAID, all SEVEN chakras, thank you.

Crank: (maundering) Out of all projects, Serena chose this one. She chose us. And...

G: Excuse me, I'm almost finished. (goes on at great length)

S: What we need is a software engineer and a librarian.

J.R. And who is Serena L.?

S: I am the voice of efficiency and serenity. It's time to go.

G: But first I must play Beethoven. (Fade on G. playing schmaltz, J.R. tired, C. drunk, S. impatient and embarrassed.)

Scene 3: Interior of Mexican dive restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue. Very hot, no A.C. or fan. We are the only English-speaking patrons.

G: Is there a waitress?

S: Let me explain about Mexican waiters.

C: (handing S. a beer) You have to promise me a game of chess.

S: I used to play Socratic chess.

C.: (interrupting) You see, it's more than just chess, it's the chink in the mind that needs completing.

(S. takes a sip of beer. C. takes it back and drinks. S. orders own beer.)

G: Do you understand what he's talking about?

S: I've got his number.

C: I like to think I'm unique.

S: I've known a lot of Cranks. The last one was named Clarissa; she visited me last Christmas. Blonde, gorgeous, hairdresser, insane. We're not speaking.

C: I'm sorry you've been hurt.

S: It's not like that.

G: Excuse me is there some sort of budding romance going on here?

S: No, Crank is just being obstreperous.

C: Hey, I want to look into your eyes and know that I am you and you are me and all is one. It doesn't HAVE to be sexual.

S: Back off. I am Not Available.

G: Oho!

C: (cut to the quick) Hey, I know TEN guys like J.R. I could finance your project in a heartbeat.

Scene 4: train station. C. in state of devastated melodrama. G. and S. discussing metaphysics with great energy.

S: You see, none of this exists. It's a projection of the Mind.

G: What do you mean? Of course this exists. Here, (touches arm) this proves it.

S: No, this is merely a perception. Perceived reality is a hologram.

G: This is scientific terminology. Explain.

S: Are you familiar with the new quantum physics? A particle is only a particle when it is observed; when you look away, it's a wave.

G: (insists on detailed explanation)

S: Okay, let's say you have a bowling ball and some sand. You roll the ball in the sand, and it leaves a track like this. Only then you look away for a second, and when you look back, there is the ball, but the sand is going like this (makes wave pattern with hand).

G: I don't understand.

S: Okay, you have a bowling ball...

(Train arrives. Conversation on metaphysics continues while C. stalks off to rear car and sets up chess board.)

G: What is up with Crank?

S: He's not my type; he stinks, he's got bad teeth, he's drunk and insane. Maybe he's reading my aura, maybe he's telepathic, but he's still RUDE.

(S.'s cell phone rings)

C: My life is brighter knowing that you exist.


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