In March of 2004, You Learned:
HOW TO FLY BLIND.
If you can see this – because I can't – try to imagine me standing wide-legged, flipping the double-bird to my web hosting service, Dreamhost. For an Internet service provider, they have had an embarrassingly a spotty record of keeping my site, and many others, afloat at all times. They do, however, write the most adorable apology emails after my service has been down for hours, even days, at a time. I would love to complain to them personally, but their customer service site is down. Nice!
HOW TO APPRECIATE YOUR FORMER SILENCE.
Uh oh! Kevin "Silent Bob" Smith made another poopie. This one is called Jersey Girl (because it takes place in jersey and there's a girl in it! a real girl! it is a play on words!) and stars America's favorite leading man, George Carlin. It also stars Ben Affleck, who occupies the space in pop culture formerly held by Ethan Hawke – the male celebrity most men irrationally hate, and most women appreciate. (the female equivalent of this is martha stewart.)
Taking a pre-emptively self-deprecating page from Dave Eggers' book, Kevin Smith has been very vocal about the obstacles he believes his film will face at the box office. On his own web site, he cites the disaster of Gigli and "Hurriane Bennifer" as two factors, among many, that will likely hurt the opening weekend ticket sales of his film. He also goes to great lengths to predict which newspapers and magazines will critically headbutt the film. With each paragraph Kevin builds a compelling argument, and in the process sets up a great "little film that could" story in case the film succeeds despite what he seems determined to convince us are nearly insurmountably unfavorable odds. (he conveniently forgets to mention that his daring little film has had a huge marketing campaign on its side, as well as access to every major talk show in america, all of which will surely feature a certain chubby filmmaker in his baggy jeans, chuck taylors, and hoodie sweatshirt, in the coming weeks. these avenues of self-promotion are slightly more credible and dignified than handing out fliers on the steps of The Angelika Theater.)
But Kevin Smith leaves out one extremely important argument for his film's imminent failure. No, I'm not talking about the fact that it looks like a self-conscious, pandering, manipulative piece of trash and a hasty bit of reconstructive surgery for both his image and Ben Affleck's – the film equivalent of George Bush kissing an old black lady on the lips in front of a swarm of press photographers. And no, I'm not speaking of a knee-jerk reaction to the Jersey Girl commercials that makes me want to enroll those smug child actors in the toughest public school in Detroit. (my friend, Evany, would categorize them as "Welch's" kids – the kind of kids who get cast in commercials for Welch's Grape Juice. they usually have only one type of emotion at their disposal – something called "Up With People.") What will hurt Jersey Girl the most, particularly on opening weekend, is its inability to connect with Kevin Smith's core audience of super-fans: 18-34 year-old single guys who own, operate, or just spend most of their free time in comic book stores.
The borderline-retarded small-talk disguised as philosophical musings in Kevin Smith's films somehow works best on guys who own talking Austin Powers collectible figures and a framed, signed and numbered Frank Frazetta print. These are guys who would argue that the best Batman film is the animated Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and would then make you sit through a DVD viewing to enforce that argument.
As such, Kevin Smith's core fans tend to not relate to themes like "fatherhood", "emotional sacrifice" "mutually satisfying relationships" and "success." And unless Jersey Girl has a blowjob-on-a-toilet joke or a pot-smoking shit demon sequence that has somehow eluded the edit for the film's trailers and commercials, there just might not be much in here for Smith's fans. And that could really hurt his opening box office.
So what's up with Kevin Smith? Is he apologizing for his film? Is he covering his ass? Or is this just another bout of tremendous hubristic misdirection on his part, shifting the focus from his film's real potential problems to a loose bundle of nonessential external obstacles? I do know this: even if I hadn't seen Kevin Smith's name attached to the film – and I'm doing nothing to disguise that seeing his name attached to any film produces in me the same physical reaction as seeing the words "Directed by Leni Riefenstahl" – I would still rather spend Jersey Girl's opening night in another theater, watching zombies bite pregnant ladies on the face. In that respect, I probably have a lot in common with Kevin Smith's biggest fans.
HOW TO PURGE BAD MATERIAL.
Last night I told a joke for the first and last time. For one thing, the topic is sort of timely - it's about the new HBO cowboy drama, "Deadwood" – and I try not to write jokes about current events because there are other people who are much better suited for that, and much better at it. The other reason I will never tell the joke again is that it is possibly one of the dumbest jokes I've ever written in my entire life. But you're lucky, because now it will live shamefully FOREVER on this site.
The show "Deadwood" could be just as easily named "The High Falutin' Adventures of the Cursing Cowboys." Every other word of dialogue on this show is "titfucker", "cock-gobbler", and "pussy-grabber" – and that's just the horses talking. (pause for deafening silence, followed by the rustle of arms folding across chests and the faint hum of indignation.)
The concept is really interesting. The creators have taken a real, historical Old West town and populated it with just about every legendary cowboy figure ever created, whether they were residents of that town or not. In the first episode alone, we get to meet Wild Bill Hickock, Charlie Utter, Calamity Jane, Doc Holliday, The Lone Ranger, Ricochet Rabbit, and Waffle-O Bill. (wait patiently as 70% of audience exits theater. drink nervously from volvic water bottle, and continue...)
It seems the show's creators have taken a lot of liberties with both history and the public perception of some of its more colorful characters. I just cannot believe how much they all swear, women and men alike. For instance, I am not a scholar of Old West history, but I'm almost positive that the Lone Ranger never actually said, "Heigh-ho, Jizzbag!" (grimace apologetically after uttering that last line. sensing a disapproving, almost hostile silence, think quick on your feet. after 17 years of tough road work, you know there's one sure way to win back a distracted crowd. realizing this, you take a step back and execute a perfect chinese split. the crowd erupts in applause and carries you out of the theater on their shoulders, not even bothering to wait for your "retarded meteorologist" bit.)
[I will admit something here that I wish I had admitted last night after telling this horrible joke. I know it's bad but as I was writing it I kept thinking, "it's pretty amazing that as a grown adult man I can write down the words "heigh-ho, Jizzbag," and then, less than two hours later, present them to a live audience as my "art". It just seemed like such an amazing privilege. This is probably why I need to quit performing comedy right this very minute.]
HOW TO GET CLOSER TO CRAZY.
The weather last Saturday night – does anyone remember back that far anymore? – was at once insulting and gorgeous. To celebrate the first day of spring and the first day of her menstrual cycle at the same time, Mother Nature chilled the sidewalk just above freezing and twisted the precipitation knob to "hostile, unrelenting spray." As I made my way to the subway, I chose Joy Division's Permanent on my iPod because I have a great weakness for the dramatic, and the weather was art directed perfectly for a dramatic evening; it just needed the right soundtrack.
I've been making an effort to travel late at night by subway more often. It is a symbolic gesture in my largely failing plan to become fiscally responsible, particularly on evenings when I won't have to pay for an extra 45 minutes of waiting and MTA travel the next day for lack of sleep. It's also very quiet on the subway platforms at the hours between midnight and six a.m. (and this was one of those hours) so I had extra time to think...to think about how horrible it was waiting for a subway when I could have been home, on my couch, chasing an oil tanker with a speeding motorcycle and a flame thrower.
When a suitable train finally did arrive, it was about half-empty (which is, ironically, the optimist's take on subway car occupancy) and I settled into one of those rare two-seaters that face the exits instead of facing the ends of the car. Because of the hand-hold on my left side and a wall on my right, it already felt like a tight fit just by myself. So, when we reached the next stop and a giant of a man decided to ignore the bounty of open seats and squeeze in alongside me instead, it seemed to me an odd choice.
His hands were filthy and tremendous – each one nearly the size of the CRACK'D magazine I was reading. Every time he shifted in his seat, which was constantly, his quilted down jacket sighed great dusty clouds of stale smoke from down-market brand cigarettes. I couldn't see his face, since he had a sweatshirt hood pulled over his head and its sides acted as blinders, but it wasn't long before I did the mathematics and realized his size, nervousness, mystery, and smells added up to only one thing: HE WAS SUPER-CRAZY.
In all my years living here I've been in the approximate company of many, many crazy people. However, I think this was the closest I'd ever actually been to one – at least to my knowledge. Think about it: how close do you usually let yourself get to insane, twitchy giants? Sometimes I'll see a commuter reading his paper or correcting students' papers, seated right next to a sleeping, creeping homeless guy and I'll think, Now there is a commuter deeply entrenched in his own denial. I realize they're sitting next to madness out of necessity, but it's strange how they always pretend everything is cool – "What? Oh ha ha. No, I was not aware that there was a mean seated next to me, good sir. And what's that you say? He is shouting to everyone on the train that he is under attack by invisible draculas and the only way to defeat them is to expose his scrotum through his zipper? Well, I'll be. You could have fooled me! What a colorful city. Now if you'll excuse me..."
I, however, had a choice. There were plenty of other seats available. If I were to move seats out of discomfort, I could just choose one of them. And, of course, if I wanted to change seats out of pure cowardice – something I've done many times – I could just pretend to get off at the next stop and then slip low into the car directly behind this one.
But here's where a funny thing happened. I decided I wanted to ride it out, just to see what would happen. His face was inches from mine, his hands even closer. At one point, one of his hands loomed extremely large in my peripheral vision and I could see all the areas an orange stick might lend assistance. He was mumbling and fiddling and while I didn't ignore it, I certainly recorded it. I actually remember thinking – and this will, again, sound very dramatic I'm sure – it would be interesting to know how it felt to be so close to being crazy.
HOW TO CATCH UP.
It has been a weird week. I have felt out of my skin each and every day, and that disoriented feeling was only compounded by a two-day prison sentence in a corporate park in White Plains, an awkward family-reunion-via-family-death, and a dramatic shift in weather that should be classified as a Hate Crime.
So, in an effort to right myself, I'm cataloguing things I love very much right now. I think this is one of the many documented steps in the grieving process, but I cannot be sure because I have not read that pamphlet. Whether it is or not, rest assured that I love:
Because, really, what's not to love about Ketchup? Specifically, I like the deep redness of Heinz ketchup, because it is less sweet than most brands of Ketchup and the resultant taste is good enough to chug directly from the bottle and the texture is thick enough to cling assuredly to a French fry suspended in space or to enjoy on its own with a large slotted spoon. I had a turkey burger last night and I wanted to fill the space between its every molecule with ketchup. I didn't, but only because science won't let me. (p.s. i put ketchup on potato chips. please avoid passing judgment until you've tried it. thanks.)
- New albums by Kanye West, Califone, Joyzipper, and Destroyer
The South by Southwest Music Festival is like the first sighting of a robin; a harbinger of something better just around the corner. The November - February music lull is officially over and good things are happening in record stores. The Kanye album, in particular, gets better with every listen. I cannot believe it was released on Jay-Z's label, Roc-A-Fella, when it contains lyrics like "a man can love a man and still be manly." Damn, Kanye! (it's also nice to see that kanye's traditional streetwear includes a wool blazer at a time when even ja rule, hip-hop's skinniest mc, is glowering on the cover of the source, shirtless, oiled, and super-flexing his baby muscles hard enough to rupture an o-ring.)
- How to Kick People
I realize that sounds like an obvious plug, and it is, but I really do love this show. It's hard to explain, but for a very long time I've felt like as a performer I straddled this weird place between comedy and literature. I love to write, but I guess I haven't warmed myself up to many other writers. I'm not a huge supporter of literary readings, either, for various reasons I will only explain to you on a person-to-person basis, and only after being plied with bourbon. I tend to run in circles with stand-up comics and comedy writers, and I can't think of any single "group" of people I like more. As such, I've had some really great opportunities to perform in front of stand-up audiences, but I've never felt perfectly right reading my material in front of them. It's probably me projecting expectations on the audience, but I think for many stand-up audiences reading off a page lacks the immediacy of, say, cruising around the stage on rollerskates and then hitting a watermelon with a giant mallet. So I've always felt a little bit out of place in that scene, too. How to Kick People has provided this really excellent middle-space, and that's the chief reason I love it. I also love being able to ask people I respect and even admire to read with Bob and me, and having some of them say 'yes, ok.' And I love that audiences clearly get what we're doing and seem to like the show almost as much as I do. And I hope this continues. So there's your plug. Sorry for queering up the list.
- Blog Bragging
this should be the it online activity right now. It's no secret that bloggers love to hear about themselves, online or off. And, fortunately, people are talking and this creates a wonderfully fertile ground for subtle bragging. It's harmless, and it's delicious. One of my favorite examples is posting a head count - or even photos! - for a previous evening's party, down to exact numbers, as if guests were clicked in through the door. It's a perfect brag for the medium because it reflects the great vice of online journals, which is measuring oneself by page views / visitors / comments / trackbacks / referers / links in and out / allegiance to a more successful (?) web site. It's really good shit.
- This photograph
It was taken by a friend during her recent visit to Paris and I dare you to not care.
- The Office 2-Part Holiday Reunion Special
The mere mention of this probably falls into another category of blog bragging – hinting at one's attendance of a private or secret event, or detailing access to some type of media that is not readily accessible – but I don't really count it since anyone with access to file-sharing software can see this same bit of television I've seen. That said, it's perhaps the most moving 90 minutes of television I've ever seen. One advantage of making a show that is naturalistic to the point of discomfort is that when it creates a genuinely touching moment you are right there in its crosshairs, feeling something very close to the joy or pain of the show's characters. This episode had me in hysterics, both kinds. I haven't cried so much since Kathy Ireland kicked the winning field goal in Necessary Roughness. (wait. never mind. there was that other time i bumped my testicles on a turnstile. i cried a lot that day.)
- Vaginal Sex
Even after all these years, I still think hands-down this is the best kind of sex available. It's the only kind of sex I enjoy almost equally as an audience, participant, or production assistant.
And I think the most beautiful thing I'll ever see in my whole life is a disembodied female hand with long, elegant fingers, dangling a cigarette out of the backseat window of a passing taxi cab on a late weekend night. I mean it. I guess that's while I'm still stuck in this tough titty city.
HOW TO HAVE FUN.
Today, on my way back from the gym (brag) with a large chicken, black bean, and melted cheese sandwich tucked under my arm (previous brag undone!), I passed some zany store that sells items for very young children. Colorful socks, froggy slippers, and gigantic painful-looking electric suction cups that attach to mommy's nipples. (because why should babies have all the fun?)
The shop was closed but something in the storefront display caught my eye. Featured prominently in the window, behind an adorably hard steel security gate, was some sort of activity book for kids. It was titled, "HERE'S FUN!!". That's quite a promise. It made me pause for a moment because I couldn't help thinking, Man, I wish I had that kind of confidence. Then I waddled home, tearfully, and ate my whole sandwich in one fat asshole bite.
HOW TO WRITE AN INSIDE JOKE.
Last night I had a dream that I was walking through the Museum of Metropolitan Art, giving every single work of art the finger. I wasn't even speaking, or expressing anger. Just giving some art the finger. For hours. It struck me as the funniest thing in the whole world.
(i think this dream was inspired by watching my friend, andres, perform on monday night. in a minute of stage time, he made a captive audience wait 50 seconds while he fumbled through his pockets for something. that "something" turned out to be two middle fingers, which he flashed at the crowd for the remaining 10 seconds of his set.)
p.s. In case you were wondering, the second funniest thing in the whole world would be a snapshot of six impeccably costumed Goth adults riding a log flume. (now with pictures! thanks, lauren, for making my dream a reality.)
HOW TO LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP.
March 10-16th marks the eleventh New York Underground Film Festival or, as I like to call it, 200 Hours of Film I Will Never See. Every year I get excited about the return of this NYUFF, right up until I get my hands on the festival program. This year the disappointment was palpable as I quickly thumbed through 87 pages of experimental video shorts, hand-held documentaries, and film descriptions that begin "A meteorologist ponders escape…" I found myself turning the pages too quickly, almost tearing them, as I, myself, pondered escape from many of the festival's highlights. From my experience attending screenings at previous NYUFF's, and in the interest of helping others avoid the mistakes I've made, below is a key to understanding some of the language used to describe the festival's dozens of scheduled films.
"The frame is divided into three vertical sections which were exposed at different speeds"
The first thing you should do, when reading a description like this, is search frantically for the running time. If that running time exceeds 45 seconds, the next thing you should do is stab out your eyes so you have a bulletproof excuse when your girlfriend, who must have directed this film because oh my god why else are you even contemplating attending its screening, asks you to hold her hand at the premiere. "Sorry, I gots no eyes," might get you a free pass. Unfortunately, it's not going to be enough to get you out of attending one of her spoken-word "soundscape" performances on a Saturday afternoon at the Bowery Club. Think: Q-Tip accident.
"…an ode to lights and color"
"Even my closest friends and family will have second thoughts about attending this film."
"…exaggerates the clichés of femininity and men in power."
Get ready for 75 minutes of women throwing up and the men who constantly try to rape them. And isn't a cliché – if presented without sufficient context – already something of an exaggeration of the truth, anyway? If not by definition, then by implication? Aw forget it. If watching an extended, unedited monologue from a woman with poorly applied black eye makeup is your idea of a good time, have at it.
Additionally, there is a 70% chance of unenthusiastic sex in this film.
"…a freeform documentary…"
If this film has an "editor" in its credits, it is probably a lie. My parents' home movies of me riding the caterpillar at Hoffman's Play Land are technically "freeform documentary."
"a movie poem…"
Almost as promising as a "whisky enema."
"Nutria are a large, odd looking rodent from Argentina…"
HOLY SHIT DO NOT MISS THIS FILM!!!
"A reclamation of flower-power…"
Did someone forcibly take flower-power away? I think, more likely, everyone just dropped it at once, shouting "not it!" in unison. If you are interested in reclaiming flower-power, watching – or making – this film is entirely unnecessary. Just rent The Banger Sisters and watch it with a carton of Cherry Garcia® ice cream in your lap.
[aside: to the owners of "Funky Monkey" the new shop that just opened on 7th avenue in park slope, brooklyn, we need to talk. i suppose you are also trying to reclaim flower-power by determining that the one thing our neighborhood needs is a retail store modeled after the success of "Shop Therapy" – one-stop shopping for tie-dyed t-shirts, mushroom-shaped incense holders, lefty bumper stickers, and pewter gnomes. you could not be more wrong. in fact, i am so confident about this, i am willing to bet Funky Monkey will just barely outlast that store that sold AIDS-scented candles.]
"Vice Magazine presents:…"
Be prepared to laugh the meanest, most self-righteous laughs possible for about six minutes, and then hate yourself for the remaining 54 minutes.
"Dogs and jelly: who knew?"[from the description of the video short, "Lick My Pussy, Dog"]
Well, for starters, you did. But then you made your big mistake, which was assuming other people needed to know. What you do with your video camera in the privacy of your own home is between you, your wife, your dog, the ASPCA, and the Smucker's Corporation. Leave us out of it.
"Will Stryper reunite?"
No. Asking the question is implies the answer. People will still likely attend this, both for irony points and because it provides them with another opportunity to watch Christianity fail.
"Last year, for reasons unknown, Creased Comics artist Brad Neely was compelled to create his own gravelly-voiced narration to the first Harry Potter movie…We guarantee a full two-and-a-half hours of pants-peeing, soft-drink-through-the-nose-spewing hilarity."
Let's be reasonable about this. There are likely some very funny moments to be found within the alternate commentary track that will be played over a 35mm print of the first Harry Potter film. That's great, but there's a very important detail that should not be overlooked: YOU WILL BE SITTING THROUGH THIS FOR TWO-AND-A-HALF HOURS. Personally, I cannot even sit through the entire Harry Potter movie, with its original plot and audio track firmly in place. What are the chances one person's unedited riff on the film will make this marathon enjoyable, or even bearable? Even the Christopher Guest films, which are carefully edited experiments featuring actors with many, many years of experience in improvisational comedy, run under two hours and, while funny, also contain a fair measure of dead space. And if you're thinking, "well, I'll just get high," remember this: Pink Floyd laser light shows are under 60 minutes in length.
Here is most likely what will happen. People will attend this and, afterwards, talk about the six really funny things that happened over the course of the grueling 2.5 hours they spent in stupid, unfulfilled anticipation. Those six funny things will be universally recognized by the audience, and at least two of them will become inside jokes among certain groups of friends. They will manifest themselves as phrases shouted in Brad Neely's coarse voice whenever very specific and pre-determined moments arise, or during long stretches of silence on road trips. The need to create this extension of entertainment is like a survivor's instinct. People need to pretend what they just put themselves through was for some greater common good. Those people are wrong.
"A Few Good Dykes" [documentary title]
I can't handle the truth.
HOW TO PUT A TIGER ON YOUR TANK.
As a kid, I knew very little about clothing – even less than I do now. I went shopping for clothes once a year with my parents, just before returning to school. I always treated this single shopping trip as an awful chore, made tolerable only by the luxury of choosing back to school sneakers and t-shirt iron-ons. For most of my wardrobe, my parents would take me to SEARS or DENBY'S, a department store that employed my father at one time – doing what, I cannot be sure. I hated SEARS. It was all Garanimals and Osh Kosh (b'gosh!) and NFL® brand clothing and Tuffskins corduroys in unappetizing colors like "rust" or "feces."
Denby's wasn't as horrible, although my affection was limited to about 5% of the store's physical retail space. When we pushed through the swinging doors, I would rush past the "clothing for well-behaved boys" section – matching denim suit sets and colorful snap-front shirts with western collars and double-stitched bible pockets – and proceed straight to the small area in the rear of the store devoted to boys who would soon chip their teeth on fists and be tossed from school for lighting smoke bombs in the boys' room or flipping a hall monitor the double-bird. This unspeakable section of Denby's contained only four things, to my memory: belt buckles, novelty t-shirts, denim jeans and jackets, and a rack of embroidered patches to adhere to one's denim jeans and jacket.
My favorite t-shirts leaned toward the comic and absurd. One of my greatest prizes was an acquisition I made in fourth grade – a heather blue ringer T with rubber stamp iron on letters spelling out the words, "FACTORY REJECT." The phrase was not punctuated with a giant comic exclamation point, though the exclamation point was absolutely implied. I wore the shit out of that one, sometimes coupling it with my The Empire Strikes Back belt buckle. (ok, in retrospect, i cannot name a single juvenile delinquent in my school who, upon being led from the school building and shoved into a squad car, shouted, "hey! easy on the belt buckle, pig! you're gonna scratch Yoda! and hey, what are all you squares looking at? that's right – i'm a factory reject, see, just as my t-shirt unironically states. even the factory don't want me. what'd you expect from me? my destiny was already written, right on my chest.")
The t-shirts were find, but the embroidered patches were the most coveted item in the whole store. The designs ranged from junior pothead sloganeering ("keep on trucking" made absolutely no sense to me then and, with time, has continued to make absolutely no sense to me.) to Age-Inappropriate Machismo. Those were the best: coiled cobras, screaming eagles with fresh blood in their talons, crossed ninja swords, flaming skulls, and black panthers. (whenever i'd point to a black panther patch and cry, "please!!!" my mother would just shake her head and ask, "why would you want to wear a picture of huey b. newton on your knee? she did not get me.)
Every once in a while, Denby's would carry an embroidered patch with a highly politicized message. During the Iran hostage crisis, they stocked a patch depicting Mickey Mouse giving the finger. Underneath his smug pose, was the inscription, "HEY IRAN!!"
My mother absolutely REFUSED to buy me any of these patches, fearing they would just ruin my "nice" clothes. I couldn't even convince her to buy one for practical purposes, such as mending a blown out knee on a pair of jeans. Instead, she would employ an unassuming square of dark blue fabric that came with her sewing kit. It was stiff, ugly fabric, completely without personality. With one of her gigantic patches inserted inside my jeans, cut far too large for the hole it was intended to cover, I could barely bend my knee; it was like wearing a polio brace.
Even if I saved up my allowance, it was fruitless to imagine spending that money on an embroidered patch. My mom did all the sewing and ironing. I could barely brush my own hair once it started changing texture in fourth grade. There was no way I was getting anywhere near an iron. So, instead, I would just spend 10 minutes or so at the embroidered patch rounder, turning it slowly and lovingly, examining the patches the way someone else would study an impressionist painting. I was young, and they were out of reach.
Well, guess what? I'm not young anymore. IN YOUR FACE, MOM! WHO'S THE FACTORY REJECT NOW????? (answer: me)
HOW TO DISGRACE YOURSELF ON FILM.
Like all things, last night's Academy Awards presentation reminded me of my own life. In fact, it loosened up a memory I've long repressed, of one of the worst bits of behavior of my entire adolescence.
When I was 18, on break between college semesters, I reunited with a small group of male high school friends. We wanted so badly to lead each other down the new avenues of sophistication and intellectual pursuit we'd been exploring at university, so we mutually decided upon the most efficient vehicle possible: we would shotgun beers while one of us filmed the entire thing.
This, of course, turned into four of us piling into a Jeep Cherokee – my parents' mini-van was not availabl – and proceeded to film ourselves doing at least 15 other idiotic things, fueled by the 18 (well-documented) beers we'd just consumed in rapid succession. The evening began typically enough; we drove to a supermarket parking lot, late at night, and played shopping cart ten-pin. During this sequence none of our faces were visible on camera, except the occasional volunteer whose job it was to line up a cart in front of the Cherokee so we could lock it in place. Instead, our presence was established by a symphony of girlish titters as the Cherokee, kissing a lone shopping cart, picked up speed. Then, as our wheel man slammed on the breaks, the video soundtrack includes four young men swearing excitedly – oh shit oh shit oh shit – as the cart is launched from the Jeep's grill. The audio took several directions from there, depending on what happened next. More or less, here were the possibilities, matrixed by cart-trajectory outcome:
CART FLIES OFF FAST, JUMPS OFF TO SIDE, AND PERFORMS SEVERAL FLIPS BEFORE LANDING ON ITS SIDE: "Check it out! Check it out! NICE!!"
CART FLIES OFF FAST, HITS EMBANKMENT, GAINS ALTITUDE, THEN CRASHES INTO OTHER CARTS: "That's it! Ohhhhhhhhhh FUCK! [giggles, high-fives]. Good one."
CART GETS LOOSE TOO SOON, ROLLS AWAY, SLOWS DOWN, AND IS STOPPED EVENTUALLY BY GRAVITY/GENTLE CURB: "Oh maaaan. That sucked. Quick. Someone else drive."
CART FLIES OFF, AND SMASHES INTO PARK CARS: "Oh shit! Oh fuck! Oh shit! Oh holy shit!!!! Let's go!! [insane giggles, tires squealing, engine gunning.]"
And then, somehow, the night got dumber. One of us, possibly me, got the idea that it would be awesome to interview homeless people on camera. Our interactions would be priceless because we are extremely droll, and homeless people are drunk or crazy. And what was the nature of these interactions? We would roll up to homeless people, pointing the camera out of the window and ask them, "Who do you think will win the Oscar for best supporting actress this year?"
We thought it was perfectly absurd. It was like asking a starving person about his favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and WE LOVED IT. Of course, it wasn't especially difficult to find a couple of obliging homeless people but as soon as we turned the camera on them and asked that question, the process was painful and sobering. We were too stupid to abandon the project but with each long, meandering monologue our spirits sank a bit more and the alcoholic buzz leaked slowly from our pores. I think the most telling moment in the video comes after we interview one homeless man who claims the last movie he'd seen on the screen was Gone with the Wind. After he explains how shocked the nation was when Clark Gable said, "Frankly Scarlet, fuck you and the horse you rode in on [sic]," the camera lingers on his face for a moment and the sounds of a couple of embarrassed, ashamed post-adolescents can be heard saying, "Oh God, this is just terrible. We're going to hell." Then, from the camera man's first-person perspective, a hand darts forward with a pile of bills and change – a collection from the vehicle's occupants – and they're pressed into the homeless man's hand. "Thank you. Please stay warm, and God bless," the camera says. No one was giggling, until about five minutes later, when we were a safe distance away. Ah, youth!