Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bloody Hell. God save that poor, little stooge.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

When I was in college, I had a nightmare in which a cloud of insects swarmed across my face. I woke up screaming, freezing, covered in sweat and hallucinating from low blood sugar. I wrote a poem about it at the time, which I will not share (although I made a hilarious joke at a campus poetry reading, about how I wrote a series of twenty poems, all called "low" and all about having diabetes; I got a good laugh when I read the second poem, and left it at that).

Three years ago, I had a bug problem in my apartment. Little gnat-like fuckers all over my ceilings. I finally tracked the problem to my pantry, in which a bag of potatoes had fed a colony of insects. I pulled out the bag, and was swarmed by the insects. A cloud of insects swarming across my face. Just like my nightmare.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

TOM CRUISE COLLECTS URINE, FINGERNAIL CLIPPINGS

I've heard rumors that Cruise is off some medication, accounting for his odd behaviuor, but I think he's just hit a perfect storm of mid-life crisis and celebrity self-importance. He really amped up the crazy on the Today Show this week, pointlessly lecturing Matt Lauer and America on the evils of pyschiatry.

Even as someone who's been fucked up eight ways to Sunday by the psychiatric profession, I can't get behind Cruise's absurd criticisms. (And by the way, I cannot believe that fucking post. I was way fucked up.) And amusingly, my medication story is followed by my review of Minority Report.

The best part of the interview is when Cruise lectures Matt Lauer on Lauer's responsibilities as a journalist. Cruise, an actor lecturing about psychology.

Throughout the interview, Cruise gives no doubt that he's a bat-shit crazy loonbar. It's really amazing. The look on his face. He's a fucking actor. His opinions are useless. And he's a Scientologist. What a douche bag.


+++

Matt Lauer: Anything at all interesting happening in your life these days?

Tom Cruise: Well, you know, same old, same old.

Lauer: Same old you know what?

Cruise: Same old you know what.

Lauer: How are you handling this? I mean every magazine, every newspaper, and every entertainment show. What's it like for you to be living through this right now?

Cruise: I have to tell you. It's just a great time in my life. I'm really happy. And, you know, I'm engaged. I'm going to be married. I can't restrain myself.

Lauer: It's like you've got two little cords on your mouth and you can't stop smiling. I was thinking about it. On the one hand, it's got to be a little hard to see yourself everywhere, splashed across the pages. Another aspect of this, though, is, how many actors 20-something years into a career can generate this kind of interest still?

Cruise: You know, I just do what I do. I love making movies. And I feel privileged to be able to do that, always. And it's something that — I'm just living my life, you know.

Lauer: We talk about life in a second. Let's talk about the movie, though. Okay, “War of the Worlds.” I mean, I've always been fascinated by this whole concept, the "we are not alone in a big way," concept. Do you remember your first exposure to it, to the story?

Cruise: I remember, I was a kid. And I heard about the Orson Wells radio play. It was my first exposure to this story.

Lauer: This is not just an alien movie. The story breaks down on a lot of different levels. And on one of the levels, your character is a father?

Cruise: Mm-hmm.

Lauer: Not the best father in the world.

Cruise: Mm-hmm.

Lauer: Tell me how that plays into this whole scenario.

Cruise: When we were working on this story three years ago, [director] Steven [Spielberg] and I came up with this idea of making it about a family. And so now, he is forced in these circumstances to rise to the occasion. Will he rise to the occasion? And I just think it's very human. I think the — you know, you're a father.

Lauer: Sure.

Cruise: I'm a father, you know. I always wanted to be a father. Remember when you first held your child? It's like wow, tremendous sense of responsibility.

Lauer: Life-changing.

Cruise: Yeah. And we talk about it. But not until you experience it can you really know it. We wanted to imbue the story with that journey.

Lauer: Is this a scary movie in the traditional sense of Hollywood scary?

Cruise: I think it's Spielbergian scary.

Lauer: Is that a word?

Cruise: It now is. I think, you know, I tease him. 'Cause I say, I know your movies better than you [do]. You know, I studied his edits so many times. I've studied his movies. And having worked with him, it's not analytical. He's just creating. And he has tremendous power because he understands the medium. And he's just that great, great, great storyteller. I think he's the greatest storyteller cinema has ever known.

Lauer: Let’s talk about selling this movie. You've just toured around the world, getting the story of “War of the Worlds” out there. And at the same time, you've got this great thing happening in your personal life that has become the subject of so many headlines and stories.

Cruise: Really?

Lauer: Yeah. From what I've seen. You want to count? Three thousand, four hundred and four.

Cruise: Are you serious?

Lauer: No. Made that up. Is there any fear in your part that what happens personally overshadows the movie?

Cruise: Nah, it never does.

Lauer: Has it helped the movie?

Cruise: I don't know. You know what? It comes down to the movie. It always comes down to the movie.

Lauer: You are being so much more open. You've been on this show in the past at times where you were in other relationships. And I'd kind of broach the subject of a personal life. And you would very gingerly steer it away. That was how we came to know Tom Cruise. And now, you're saying, "You know what? I'm okay with it." So, it does seem like a different guy.

Cruise: Yeah. But they're still writing it. You got to understand. All that stuff, they'd still write it. They'd still talk about it. And the thing is, I still feel I will talk about what I feel, what I want to talk about.

Lauer: Right.

Cruise: And I won't talk about what I don't want to talk about. And it just doesn't matter. It comes down to the movie, you know. And I also feel, Matt, I'm living my life. And I feel fortunate, you know. I feel really fortunate. And I'm excited.

Lauer: You just said something that made me think about something. And if you get out there and talk about it, it kind of takes away a lot of their power to make stuff up. Doesn't it? Because you're telling the real story. Where does it leave them to go?

Cruise: Yeah. But here's the point. I don't even get into that game. I'm just living my life, Matt. It's something that — I mean, I'm living my life. And I'm doing the best that I can, and doing it in a way that I feel is right. I like hearing good news, you know. I like hearing, you know, if something good happens to you, it's nice. I like sitting here talking to you.

Lauer: If you like hearing it, you must want to share it, too.

Cruise: Yeah.

Lauer: So, when you hear the cynics, Mr. Cruise, and you've heard 'em, who say, "This is publicity for a movie, this relationship," or "This is Tom Cruise in his 40s trying to become or stay relevant for a younger audience, and that's why he's out there talking about this relationship with this lovely young lady,” who happens to be sitting right over there. How do you respond to that?

Cruise: You know what? There's always cynics. There always has been. There always will be.

Lauer: You laugh about it, or does it just bug you?

Cruise: No. I have never worried, Matt, about what other people think and what other people say.

Lauer: Katie, close your ears for a second, okay? You have said that Katie is the real thing. She is sensational, she is magnificent. Can you explain to me what she's brought to your life that hasn't been brought to your life in the past?

Cruise: I don't want to compare things. I just say—

Lauer: I know—

Cruise: No, no, no. Because, you know, it — but what it is, it's that thing where you just — in life, when it just happens, Matt. You know? It just — you meet someone. And it's — I can't even describe it.

Lauer: Katie has mentioned that she is embracing, or at least exposing herself and opening herself up to, Scientology. At this stage in your life, could you be with someone who doesn't have an interest?

Cruise: You know, Scientology is something that you don't understand. It's like, you could be a Christian and be a Scientologist, okay. Scientology is something—

Lauer: So, it doesn't replace religion.

Cruise: It is a religion. Because it's dealing with the spirit. You as a spiritual being. It gives you tools you can use to apply to your life.

Cruise: I've never agreed with psychiatry, ever. Before I was a Scientologist I never agreed with psychiatry. And when I started studying the history of psychiatry, I understood more and more why I didn't believe in psychology.

And as far as the Brooke Shields thing, look, you got to understand, I really care about Brooke Shields. I think, here's a wonderful and talented woman. And I want to see her do well. And I know that psychiatry is a pseudo science.

Lauer: But Tom, if she said that this particular thing helped her feel better, whether it was the antidepressants or going to a counselor or psychiatrist, isn't that enough?

Cruise: Matt, you have to understand this. Here we are today, where I talk out against drugs and psychiatric abuses of electric shocking people, okay, against their will, of drugging children with them not knowing the effects of these drugs. Do you know what Aderol is? Do you know Ritalin? Do you know now that Ritalin is a street drug? Do you understand that?

Lauer: The difference is —

Cruise: No, no, Matt.

Lauer: This wasn't against her will, though.

Cruise: Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt —

Lauer: But this wasn't against her will.

Cruise: Matt, I'm asking you a question.

Lauer: I understand there's abuse of all of these things.

Cruise: No, you see. Here's the problem. You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do.

Lauer: Aren't there examples, and might not Brooke Shields be an example, of someone who benefited from one of those drugs?

Cruise: All it does is mask the problem, Matt. And if you understand the history of it, it masks the problem. That's what it does. That's all it does. You're not getting to the reason why. There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance.

Lauer: So, postpartum depression to you is kind of a little psychological gobbledygook —

Cruise: No. I did not say that.

Lauer: I'm just asking what you, what would you call it?

Cruise: No. No. Abso— Matt, now you're talking about two different things.

Lauer: But that's what she went on the antidepressant for.

Cruise: But what happens, the antidepressant, all it does is mask the problem. There's ways, [with] vitamins and through exercise and various things... I'm not saying that that isn't real. That's not what I'm saying. That's an alteration of what I'm saying. I'm saying that drugs aren't the answer, these drugs are very dangerous. They're mind-altering, antipsychotic drugs. And there are ways of doing it without that so that we don't end up in a brave new world. The thing that I'm saying about Brooke is that there's misinformation, okay. And she doesn't understand the history of psychiatry. She doesn't understand in the same way that you don't understand it, Matt.

Lauer: But a little bit of what you're saying Tom is, you say you want people to do well. But you want them do to well by taking the road that you approve of, as opposed to a road that may work for them.

Cruise: No, no, I'm not.

Lauer: Well, if antidepressants work for Brooke Shields, why isn't that okay?

Cruise: I disagree with it. And I think that there's a higher and better quality of life. And I think that, promoting — for me personally, see, you're saying what, I can't discuss what I wanna discuss?

Lauer: No. You absolutely can.

Cruise: I know. But Matt, you're going in and saying that, that I can't discuss this.

Lauer: I'm only asking, isn't there a possibility that — do you examine the possibility that these things do work for some people? That yes, there are abuses. And yes, maybe they've gone too far in certain areas. Maybe there are too many kids on Ritalin. Maybe electric shock —

Cruise: Too many kids on Ritalin? Matt.

Lauer: I'm just saying. But aren't there examples where it works?

Cruise: Matt. Matt, Matt, you don't even — you're glib. You don't even know what Ritalin is. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt, okay? That's what I've done. Then you go and you say where's the medical test? Where's the blood test that says how much Ritalin you're supposed to get?

Lauer: It's very impressive to listen to you. Because clearly, you've done the homework. And you know the subject.

Cruise: And you should. And you should do that also. Because just knowing people who are on Ritalin isn't enough. You should be a little bit more responsible in knowing really —

Lauer: I'm not prescribing Ritalin, Tom. And I'm not asking anyone else to do it. I'm simply saying, I know some people who seem to have been helped by it.

Cruise: But you're saying this is a very important issue.

Lauer: I couldn't agree more.

Cruise: It's very — and you know what? You're here on the "Today" show.

Lauer: Right.

Cruise: And to talk about it in a way of saying, "Well, isn't it okay," and being reasonable about it when you don't know and I do, I think that you should be a little bit more responsible in knowing what it is.

Lauer: But —

Cruise: Because you communicate to people.

Lauer: But you're now telling me that your experiences with the people I know, which are zero, are more important than my experiences.

Cruise: What do you mean by that?

Lauer: You're telling me what's worked for people I know or hasn't worked for people I know. I'm telling you, I’ve lived with these people and they're better.

Cruise: So, you're advocating it.

Lauer: I am not. I'm telling you in their case, in their individual case, it worked. I am not gonna go out and say, "Get your kids on Ritalin. It's the cure-all and the end-all."

Cruise: Matt, but here's the point. What is the ideal scene for life? Okay. The ideal scene is someone not having to take antipsychotic drugs.

Lauer: I would agree.

Cruise: Okay. So, now you look at a departure from that ideal scene, is someone taking drugs, okay. And then you go, okay. What is the theory and the science behind that, that justifies that?

Lauer: Let me take this more general, because I think you and I can go around in circles on this for awhile. And I respect your opinion. Do you want more people to understand Scientology? Would that be a goal of yours?

Cruise: You know what? Absolutely. Of course, you know.

Lauer: How do you go about that?

Cruise: You just communicate about it. And the important thing is, like you and I talk about it, whether it's okay, if I want to know something, I go and find out. Because I don't talk about things that I don't understand. I'll say, you know what? I'm not so sure about that. I'll go find more information about it so I can come to an opinion based on the information that I have.

Lauer: You're so passionate about it.

Cruise: I'm passionate about learning. I'm passionate about life, Matt.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


I'd see this movie. Posted by Hello
I have created a new word.

Reviatixzled.

It means: "not revitalized."

Use.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

IN THE HARSHEST PLACE ON EARTH, LOVE FINDS A WAY

I just saw the trailer for March of the Penguins, an awesome-looking documentary about the mating rituals of penguins.

Awesome trailer here.

I gotta see this!
A lot of times, the rain in Seattle really gets me down. But yesterday and today, the rainfalls have just been beautiful. The rain is falling beautifully, the weather is been warm and there is a pleasant mist hanging in the air.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Awesome story from The Nation about how Mark Felt was in charge of finding Deep Throat. Just like a Philip K. Dick novel.

How Deep Throat Fooled the FBI

by DAVID CORN & JEFF GOLDBERG

[from the Nation, July 4, 2005 issue]

The recent dramatic revelation about W. Mark Felt--the former top FBI man who has confessed to being Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's secret source during the Watergate scandal--has yielded what seems to be the final chapter in the Deep Throat saga, and thus the conclusion to a three-decade-long whodunit rich in detail, psychology and irony.

But Felt's role as the most famous anonymous source in US history was even more complex and intrigue-loaded than the newly revised public account suggests. According to originally confidential FBI documents--some written by Felt--that were obtained by The Nation from the FBI's archives, Felt played another heretofore unknown part in the Watergate tale: He was, at heated moments during the scandal, in charge of finding the source of Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate scoops. In a twist worthy of le Carré, Deep Throat was assigned the mission of unearthing--and stopping--Deep Throat.

This placed Felt, who as the FBI's associate director oversaw the bureau's Watergate probe, in an unusual position. He was essentially in charge of investigating himself. From this vantage point Felt, who had developed espionage skills running FBI counterintelligence operations against German spies in World War II, was able to watch his own back and protect his ability to guide the two reporters whose exposés would help topple the President he served.

Felt at different points became an FBI plumber--in the parlance of the Nixon White House, a "plumber" was an operative who took care of leaks--even though he was the number-one leaker. He was in the perfect spot to deflect any accusations that might implicate him and to misdirect suspicion. And when President Nixon and his top aides became convinced that Felt was a key source for the Washington Post--they still couldn't touch him, because of what he knew about their skulduggery.

The Felt memos do not cover the entire time period (from right after the June 17, 1972, break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters to November 1973) during which Felt assisted Woodward. But when placed alongside the recent disclosure and the previously available accounts--most notably, the Woodward and Bernstein book All the President's Men; Felt's 1979 memoir, The FBI Pyramid (in which he denied he was Deep Throat); and the Nixon White House tapes--these memos (snapshots from inside Felt's world) significantly expand and shift the view that historians and the public now have of the unique, secret space Felt occupied during Watergate.

Immediately after the June break-in, Woodward covered the arraignment of the five burglars. Two days later he called Felt, whom he had been cultivating as a mentor and contact for two years. Woodward had gotten a clue from Watergate burglar Bernard Barker's seized address book that Howard Hunt of the White House might have been involved in the break-in. He was hoping that Felt could confirm his suspicion about Hunt, or steer him off if he was wrong. Felt reported that Hunt was definitely involved in the burglary. He added that things were going to "heat up." Later that day, a nervous Felt assured Woodward that "the FBI regarded Hunt as a prime suspect in the Watergate investigation for many reasons." Thus, Felt had a hand in the first Post front-page story that tied the White House to the break-in.

From June to early September, Woodward and Bernstein produced more than twenty Watergate-related stories based on interviews with a variety of confidential sources. In All the President's Men Woodward and Bernstein are vague about Woodward's meetings with Felt that summer. The two rendezvoused at a parking garage in Rosslyn, Virginia. Felt's guidance was fairly general. At one meeting he said that "the FBI badly wanted to know where the Post was getting its information." He warned Woodward and Bernstein "to take care when using their telephones" and to be aware that they "might be followed." He advised that the White House was very worried.

But in the summer of 1972, the White House already suspected that someone in the bureau was leaking to the Post (though it's unclear whether Felt was providing Woodward the information causing this suspicion). Woodward and Bernstein often cited "sources close to the investigation" or "federal sources" in their stories. White House officials presumed this mainly meant FBI officials, who were the primary investigators. FBI Acting Director L. Patrick Gray--who had been appointed by Nixon immediately after J. Edgar Hoover's sudden death in May--was cooperating with the White House to thwart a full FBI investigation, and the White House was pressuring him to shut off the various leaks to the media. According to FBI records, Gray held a meeting to chastise angrily all of the twenty-seven FBI field agents working on Watergate and told them not to talk to the press.

The Post's stories continued, and Gray, responding to White House pressure, assembled an intimidating FBI inspection team to question these same agents. Felt later wrote: "When that did not stop the leaks, he [Gray] ordered Assistant Director Charles Bates [head of the FBI's criminal division] to personally grill the men under oath." And when Gray was out of town, White House counsel John Dean would call Felt and demand that he stop the leaks. In one instance in late June, Felt, already helping the Post, ordered an investigation of whether any FBI official had leaked information to the Washington Daily News, but that inquiry produced nothing.

Through the summer of 1972, no one at the White House yet suspected Felt, according to the public record; but it was reasonable for him to fear the Nixon team was focusing on him, Bates, their underlings and the agents working on the Watergate case--the people with direct knowledge of the investigation.

On Saturday, September 9, the Post ran a major page-one story by Woodward and Bernstein reporting that federal sources were indicating that the Watergate criminal investigation was now "completed"--"without implicating any present officials of either the White House or the Committee to Re-elect President Nixon." FBI agents, the story added, were not being allowed to investigate allegations involving illegal campaign contributions to Nixon. (In All the President's Men there is no indication that Woodward spoke to Felt while preparing this story.) Two days later, in response to that article, Felt wrote a one-page memo to Assistant Director Bates that had at least two purposes. One was to make sure that senior officials inside the bureau understood that the FBI's investigation, despite the Post's claim, was not finished. The other was to suggest that Woodward and Bernstein might have been receiving secret FBI information from someone outside the FBI. Deep Throat was shrewdly taking this opportunity to direct suspicion toward another Woodward and Bernstein leaker.

In the September 11, 1972, memo, Felt noted that the county prosecutor in Miami, Richard Gerstein, might be the Post's main source. Gerstein was investigating how a $25,000 check from Nixon's campaign had ended up in the account of a Watergate burglar. Felt wrote: "It appears that much of the information which has been leaked to the press may have come from [Dade] County Prosecutor Gerstein in Florida." To search for the Post's leaker(s), Felt instructed the FBI's Special Agent-in-Charge (SAC) in Miami to interview every FBI official who had been in contact with Gerstein. Felt also expressed concern in the memo that the Post reporters had obtained information directly from an FBI report (called a "302") based on an official interview with a Watergate conspirator. Felt wrote, "I personally contacted [Washington] SAC [Robert] Kunkel [who was supervising the agents probing Watergate] to point out that it appeared the Washington Post or at least a reporter had access to the...302. I told him he should forcibly remind all agents of the need to be most circumspect in talking about this case with anyone outside the Bureau."

In retrospect, Felt's memo looks like an attempt to convince Pat Gray and other senior officials at the bureau that he was on top of the leak issue. But the leak probe he had triggered in Miami was a wild goose chase. A county prosecutor could not be the type to supply inside information to Woodward and Bernstein about the FBI's Watergate probe. (In late July Bernstein had obtained information from Gerstein about the suspicious bank transactions, but nothing about the federal investigations in Washington.) No FBI leakers were ever found via the Miami inquiry Felt orchestrated.

In the week after he wrote that memo, Felt broke his own admonition about discussing the investigation with people outside the bureau. According to All the President's Men, in two phone calls with Woodward he confirmed that two top campaign aides to former Attorney General John Mitchell (Nixon's close confidant who had suddenly resigned as his campaign manager on July 1) had been in charge of the campaign money that financed the Watergate break-in, that these funds also supported "other intelligence-gathering activities" and that these same aides had seen wiretap logs from the Watergate bugging. So while the FBI officials in Miami, spurred on by Felt, were busy trying to plug the supposed leak to the Post with a going-nowhere investigation, Felt was handing page-one information to Woodward. He was not just a high-level leaker or undercover whistleblower. He was a master manipulator. (Whether Felt had accomplices within the FBI, as has been alleged recently by former FBI agent Paul Daly, remains a matter of speculation, especially since the main suspects--Kunkel, Bates and another assistant director--are dead.)

At one point (probably in the early phase of Watergate), Felt even met officially with Woodward--in what appears to have been another move to cover himself. In his 1979 memoir--in which he declared, "I never leaked information to Woodward and Bernstein or to anyone else!"--Felt noted that he spoke to Woodward "on one occasion." He claimed that after Woodward requested an interview, he agreed to see him; Felt then asked his assistant, Wason Campbell, a senior-level, twenty-five-year-veteran FBI agent, to be present "to make sure what I said would not be misquoted." In this account, Woodward "was not looking for information." He "simply wanted" Felt to confirm information he and Bernstein already had obtained. "I declined to cooperate with him in this manner," Felt wrote, "and that was that." It now seems obvious that Felt (probably with Woodward's cooperation) staged this meeting to make it look as if Felt was not assisting Woodward. (Perhaps Woodward will explain this in his forthcoming book on Deep Throat.)

Today Campbell, retired since 1974, is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's and has no memory of those days. His wife, Mary, told The Nation that whenever the subject of Felt and Deep Throat came up in the post-Watergate years, her husband never indicated he believed Felt could have been this source. "I am sure that Wason never knew it," she says. "He's not that good an actor. Mark was able to keep this a secret from his assistant."

Unbeknownst to Felt, Nixon and his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, began talking about him in the White House weeks after Felt wrote that September 11, 1972, memo. In a taped conversation on October 19, Nixon complained to Haldeman that Gray could not stop the media leaks. Haldeman told Nixon that Felt had been identified as the primary leaker--but they could not do anything about it. Haldeman explained: "If we move on him, he'll go out and unload everything. He knows everything that's to be known in the FBI."

Continuing the conversation, Nixon asked, "What would you do with Felt?" Haldeman replied that he had been advised by Dean that Felt could not be prosecuted. "The bastard," Nixon called him. Later that afternoon, Nixon asked, "What's the conveyor belt for Felt?" "The Post," Haldeman replied. He explained that an unnamed "legal guy" for the Post, who formerly worked at the Justice Department or FBI, had contacted an official in Nixon's Justice Department because he was "deeply concerned" about the FBI leaks to Woodward and Bernstein, and this person maintained that Felt was leaking to the Post. The Justice Department official slipped the information to Dean, who told Haldeman. The next day, Nixon told Haldeman he was most worried because Felt knew all about the incriminating clandestine operations that senior aide John Ehrlichman had supervised for the White House. The Nixon gang had in a way pegged Felt as a leaker. But years after All the President's Men was published, in 1974, and the character Deep Throat was created, Haldeman instead mistakenly fingered Fred Fielding, Dean's assistant, as Deep Throat, and Dean proposed a variety of candidates other than Felt. "It was right under our nose," Dean sighed to The Nation.

Felt continued to assist Woodward during the last three months of 1972; they met four times in the garage in Rosslyn and spoke once on the phone. In those conversations, Felt provided extensive information on Nixon's "dirty tricks" campaign--which went beyond Watergate--and the cover-up, and he urged Woodward on. In early January Gray confronted Felt with the first direct accusation that Felt was the Post's covert source. As Felt wrote in his memoir, Gray warned him that Attorney General Richard Kleindienst, a Nixon loyalist who had replaced John Mitchell, had said to Gray that Felt might have to be fired. The reason, Gray explained, was that Kleindienst "says White House staff members are convinced that you are the FBI source of leaks to Woodward and Bernstein." Felt wrote that he replied, "Pat, I haven't leaked anything to anybody. They are wrong!" Gray responded that he believed Felt, "but the White House doesn't." Gray, according to Felt, stood up for Felt, telling Kleindienst that Felt was "very competent" and "completely loyal," and that he was not going to remove him. A few weeks later Nixon complained to Gray that Felt had to be removed because he was still suspected of leaking. He told Gray to have Felt "take a lie detector test." Gray countered that Felt was the innocent victim of a "gossip mill" at the FBI. Subsequently, Gray never ordered Felt to be polygraphed; he remained loyal to his number two. Felt had dodged a bullet.

Meanwhile, in late January, when Felt met Woodward again late at night in the parking garage, he revealed that the FBI had confirmed that Charles Colson, Nixon's special counsel, had played an "active" role in the burglars' illegal activities. "Colson and Mitchell were behind the Watergate operation," Felt said. Afterward, Woodward and Bernstein debated whether to publish a story. Bernstein was eager, but Woodward wanted to wait until they could better document the information.

Then, on February 21, Woodward and Bernstein wrote a page-one story linking Colson to the operations of the so-called "plumbers"--the secret White House/Nixon campaign team specializing in targeting leaks and spying, bugging and break-ins. In that article, Woodward and Bernstein cited "sources close to the Watergate investigation," "Department of Justice sources," "Federal sources," "Republican sources" and Colson's secret testimony given to "federal investigators" (meaning the FBI).

Responding to a request from Attorney General Kleindienst, Gray ordered another investigation to uncover Woodward and Bernstein's sources. And he handed the job to Felt. This was a bizarre decision, given Kleindienst's and Nixon's earlier fears that Felt was leaking. Once more, Felt was on his own trail. He wrote a memo to his subordinate ordering a full and immediate investigation. Given Felt's secret role as Deep Throat, his memorandum was full of irony and dissembling:

As you know, Woodward and Bernstein have written numerous articles about Watergate. While their stories have contained much fiction and half truths, they have frequently set forth information which they attribute to Federal investigators, Department of Justice sources, and FBI sources. We know that they were playing games with the case agent in the Washington Field Office trying to trick him into giving them bits of information. On balance and despite the fiction, there is no question that they have access to sources either in the FBI or in the Department of Justice.

Acting Director Gray, Felt wrote, "has instructed that you immediately institute an analysis of this article to determine those portions which could have come from FBI sources and in such instances to set forth the persons having access to that particular bit of information."

Felt was going through the appropriate motions. Did he wonder if such an analysis would point to him? Was he confident that his underlings wouldn't catch on or that they wouldn't dare suspect--or cast suspicion upon--their boss? Did he have a plan for what to do if the net closed in?

Later that same day, a detailed four-page reply was sent to Felt that reviewed all the Post article's possible sources. It concluded there were alternative sources, besides FBI personnel, for everything reported. The analysis did not mention any FBI sources as potential leakers. Felt routinely forwarded this analysis to Gray. Two days later, Gray sent a memo to Kleindienst suggesting that possible sources for the leak were the US Attorney's office in Washington and a White House official. The inquiry Felt launched ended up leading not to Felt but to possible leakers at the Justice Department and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

No sooner was the latest leak investigation finished than Felt was again feeding information to Woodward. On February 25, Felt and Woodward met in a bar. Felt cautioned Woodward to be careful and patient, noting that the White House was now very concerned that the full story would soon come out. Inside the White House, meanwhile, Nixon and his men were indeed worrying that Felt could on his own bring them down. In a taped conversation on February 28, Nixon asked Dean what would happen if "Felt comes out and unwraps the whole thing." Then Nixon answered himself: "Everybody would treat him like a pariah." Dean agreed: "He can't do it."

Woodward and Felt spoke briefly by phone twice in April, with Felt giving advance warning of the bombshell announcement that Dean and Haldeman would soon resign. (Ehrlichman and Kleindienst left with them.) And on April 27 Gray resigned from the FBI after disastrous confirmation hearings (and after the press reported he had burned Hunt's secret office papers at the behest of Ehrlichman and Dean). Nixon quickly named William Ruckelshaus, then head of the Environmental Protection Agency, to be the new acting FBI director.

Ruckelshaus, who wanted to reform the bureau, and Felt, the leader of the pro-Hoover faction at headquarters, clashed immediately. Meanwhile, Nixon was still fretting about Felt. On May 11 Nixon, who was now politically wounded by Watergate, expressed his frustration to his new chief of staff, Alexander Haig. They believed Felt had leaked damaging information, but they could not expose him. "We've got to be careful as to when to cut his nuts off," Haig said. Nixon responded: "He's bad." The next day Nixon told Haig that Felt was a "goddamn traitor." "Just watch him damned carefully," Nixon added. He said that he would let the "new man"--Ruckelshaus--"clean house" at the FBI. Presumably, that would take care of the Felt problem.

On May 16 Felt and Woodward met briefly in the garage; it was the night before the Senate Watergate hearings were to begin. Felt hurriedly delivered an apocalyptic message full of new allegations and warnings: "everyone's life is in danger"; watch out for "electronic surveillance" by the CIA; Nixon had threatened Dean with jail; the list of Mitchell's illegal activities was "longer than anyone could imagine"; Nixon had been blackmailed by Hunt; Nixon ordered the CIA to cover-up Watergate; the cover-up had cost about $1 million; Dean has detailed documents; and much more. Woodward departed stunned.

After further conflict with Ruckelshaus--during which the new director accused Felt of leaking to the press to undermine Ruckelshaus and to position himself to become director--Felt left the bureau on June 22, 1973, ending thirty-two years with the FBI. According to the book FBI by Sanford Ungar, he retired to a home boasting an elaborate collection of Hoover memorabilia, and he went on to lecture at colleges, where he would decry Gray's mishandling of the Watergate investigation. He was also subjected to an FBI investigation looking for inside-the-bureau leakers. But that endeavor did not amount to much; Felt dismissed it as a "tempest in a teapot."

By Woodward's account, Felt met with the reporter only one more time during Watergate, in early November 1973, when Felt told Woodward there were "deliberate erasures" on the White House tapes.

Woodward and Felt kept Felt's identity as Deep Throat a secret for more than three decades. The pre-revelation account of Deep Throat's derring-do (All the President's Men) and the recent stories about Felt's days as Deep Throat do not convey all that Felt had to do to survive during Watergate. He was much more than a secret sharer. He was an operator. Nixon, Dean, Haldeman, Mitchell, Kleindienst and Haig--they were all dead-on correct in suspecting Felt of being a chief source for Woodward and Bernstein. But he actively engaged in bureaucratic ploys so he could come across as the loyal soldier and cover his tracks. His cunning worked. He fooled Pat Gray. Nixon never came after him. And this clever bureaucrat continued to do exactly what Nixon feared: tell Woodward and Bernstein secrets that would help destroy a presidency.
LOVEABLE SCAMP MAULED BY PIT BULLS

Mother of mauling victim feared family dog
Shut boy in basement while she ran errands

Monday, June 13, 2005 Posted: 2:43 AM EDT (0643 GMT)

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- The mother of a 12-year-old boy killed in his own home by one of the family's two pit bulls says she had been so concerned about one of the dogs that she shut her son in the basement to protect him.

Maureen Faibish said she ordered Nicholas to stay in the basement while she did errands on June 3, the day he was attacked by one or both of the dogs.

She said she was worried about the male dog, Rex, who was acting possessive because the female, Ella, was in heat.

"I put him down there, with a shovel on the door," Faibish said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. "And I told him: 'Stay down there until I come back.' Typical Nicky, he wouldn't listen to me."

Nicholas apparently found a way to open the basement door.

Despite her concerns about Rex that day, Faibish told the newspaper: "My kids got along great with (the dogs). We were never seeing any kind of violent tendencies."

Faibish found her son's body in a bedroom. He was covered in blood from several wounds, including a major head injury.

No charges have been filed.

"It's Nicky's time to go," she said in the interview. "When you're born you're destined to go and this was his time."

Ella was shot to death by a police officer the day of the attack.

Rex was taken to a shelter, but Faibish said she wanted him put down.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

I WILL FIGHT PREJUDICE ON EVERY MESSAGE BOARD

As part of my new role as guardian of public civility, I take on the casual use of racial epithets on the message board of a prominent comic book creator.

Enjoy the self-righteousness of my developing social concience!
You know how it is. You're out at night, looking for kicks, and someone’s passing around the weaponized hallucinogens.

Friday, June 17, 2005

JEB BUSH: I AM A CORRUPT, OPPORTUNIST ASSHOLE

Probe Sought in Terri Schiavo 911 Call

By JACKIE HALLIFAX
The Associated Press
Friday, June 17, 2005; 1:11 PM

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday that a prosecutor has agreed to investigate why Terri Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago, citing an alleged time gap between when her husband found her and when he called 911.

Bush said his request for the probe was not meant to suggest wrongdoing by Michael Schiavo.

"It's a significant question that during this ordeal was never brought up," Bush told reporters.

Michael Schiavo's attorney has said his client called for help right away.

In a letter faxed to Pinellas-Pasco County State Attorney Bernie McCabe, the governor said Michael Schiavo testified in a 1992 medical malpractice trial that he found his wife collapsed at 5 a.m. on Feb. 25, 1990, and he said in a 2003 television interview that he found her about 4:30 a.m. He called 911 at 5:40 a.m.

"Between 40 and 70 minutes elapsed before the call was made, and I am aware of no explanation for the delay," Bush wrote. "In light of this new information, I urge you to take a fresh look at this case without any preconceptions as to the outcome."

McCabe was out of state Friday and couldn't immediately be reached for comment, but Bush said McCabe has agreed to his request.

Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment from The Associated Press. But on Wednesday he said his client didn't wait to call for help and has conceded that he confuses dates and times.

Felos has said that if Michael Schiavo had not called 911 immediately, as Bush and others allege, Terri Schiavo would have died that day.

"There is no hour gap or other gap to the point Michael heard Terri fall and called 911," Felos said. "We've seen the baseless allegations in this case fall by the wayside one by one ... That's what I would call it, a baseless claim to perpetuate a controversy that in fact doesn't exist."

Terri Schiavo died March 31 from dehydration after her feeding tube was disconnected at her husband's request, despite years of efforts by her parents, Bush and others to keep her alive.

The governor's request followed the release Wednesday of an autopsy concluding that Terri Schiavo had been in a persistent vegetative state and revealed no evidence that she was strangled or otherwise abused before she collapsed.

It left unanswered the question of why Terri Schiavo's heart stopped, cutting oxygen off from her brain. The autopsy showed she suffered irreversible brain damage and her brain had shrunk to half the normal size for her age.

Bobby Schindler, Schiavo's brother, said Friday his family believes more questions were raised than answered by the autopsy report and that a new legal review is appropriate.

"Anything that can shed some light on the cause of Terri's collapse is going to be welcomed by our family," he said from Bloomington, Minn., where the family is speaking at an anti-abortion convention.

But the request was immediately criticized by some lawmakers.

"Enough is enough," said Democratic Sen. Ron Klein. "I don't want to see it on TV any more, I don't want to hear politicians talk about it. Let her be at peace."

Bush acknowledged in his letter that an investigation may be difficult.

"I understand that these events took place many years ago, and that you may not be able to collect all the relevant records and physical evidence. However, Mrs. Schiavo's family deserves to know anything that can be done to determine the cause and circumstances of her collapse 15 years ago," Bush wrote. "The unanswered questions may be unanswerable, but the attempt should be made."

Monday, June 13, 2005

DAVE TV

So this panel I was on at the Seattle International Film Festival was taped and broadcast on the Seattle Channel. A full, long, tedious video can be seen here, third from the Bottom (The Art of Film Financing). You need RealPlayer, a sucky player full of spyware.

I look fat, and I'm babbling like a moron. Next time I do something like that, my demands will include no cameras or live recording, nobody allowed to address me directly or make eye contact, and all questons submitted in advance and vetted by my personal representatives.
Rumors about that the Bush Administration is preparing to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, the prison is a viscous degradation of the American ideal. The United States should not keep secret prisons.

On the other, what if this appeases critics of the secret detention, and removes the prisoners, still anonymous, into brutal custody of some of our client states, as has been done before? While these prisoners remain in American jurisdiction, there remains a chance that we can restore openness, a point that will be rendered moot if the prison is closed. And it seems better to me that the prisoners remain under what I pray is more civilized American standards, rather than scattered secretly to parts unknown for more abuse, abuse ultimately unanswerable to American justice.

It seems like such a gimmee for the Bush Administration that for once I'm grateful for W's intransigence.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Don't Follow the Money
By FRANK RICH

THE morning the Deep Throat story broke, the voice on my answering machine was as raspy as Hal Holbrook's. "I just want you to remember that I wrote 'Follow the money,' " said my caller. "I want to know if anybody will give me credit. Watch for the accuracy of the media!"

The voice belonged to my friend William Goldman, who wrote the movie "All the President's Men." His words proved more than a little prescient. As if on cue, journalists everywhere - from The New York Times to The Economist to The Washington Post itself - would soon start attributing this classic line of dialogue to the newly unmasked Deep Throat, W. Mark Felt. But the line was not in Woodward and Bernstein's book or in The Post's Watergate reportage or in Bob Woodward's contemporaneous notes. It was the invention of the author of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "Marathon Man" and "The Princess Bride."

This confusion of Hollywood's version of history with the genuine article would quickly prove symptomatic of the overall unreality of the Deep Throat coverage. Was Mr. Felt a hero or a villain? Should he "follow the money" into a book deal, and if so, how would a 91-year-old showing signs of dementia either write a book or schmooze about it with Larry King? How did Vanity Fair scoop The Post? How does Robert Redford feel about it all? Such were the questions that killed time for a nation awaiting the much-heralded feature mediathon, the Michael Jackson verdict.

Richard Nixon and Watergate itself, meanwhile, were often reduced to footnotes. Three years ago, on Watergate's 30th anniversary, an ABC News poll found that two-thirds of Americans couldn't explain what the scandal was, and no one was racing to enlighten them this time around. Vanity Fair may have taken the trouble to remind us that Watergate was a web of crime yielding the convictions and guilty pleas of more than 30 White House and Nixon campaign officials, but few others did. Watergate has gone back to being the "third-rate burglary" of Nixon administration spin. It is once again being covered up.

Not without reason. Had the scandal been vividly resuscitated as the long national nightmare it actually was, it would dampen all the Felt fun by casting harsh light on our own present nightmare. "The fundamental right of Americans, through our free press, to penetrate and criticize the workings of our government is under attack as never before" was how the former Nixon speech writer William Safire put it on this page almost nine months ago. The current administration, a second-term imperial presidency that outstrips Nixon's in hubris by the day, leads the attack, trying to intimidate and snuff out any Woodwards or Bernsteins that might challenge it, any media proprietor like Katharine Graham or editor like Ben Bradlee who might support them and any anonymous source like Deep Throat who might enable them to find what Carl Bernstein calls "the best obtainable version of the truth."

The attacks continue to be so successful that even now, long after many news organizations, including The Times, have been found guilty of failing to puncture the administration's prewar W.M.D. hype, new details on that same story are still being ignored or left uninvestigated. The July 2002 "Downing Street memo," the minutes of a meeting in which Tony Blair and his advisers learned of a White House effort to fix "the intelligence and facts" to justify the war in Iraq, was published by The London Sunday Times on May 1. Yet in the 19 daily Scott McClellan briefings that followed, the memo was the subject of only 2 out of the approximately 940 questions asked by the White House press corps, according to Eric Boehlert of Salon.

This is the kind of lapdog news media the Nixon White House cherished. To foster it, Nixon's special counsel, Charles W. Colson, embarked on a ruthless program of intimidation that included threatening antitrust action against the networks if they didn't run pro-Nixon stories. Watergate tapes and memos make Mr. Colson, who boasted of "destroying the old establishment," sound like the founding father of today's blogging lynch mobs. He exulted in bullying CBS to cut back its Watergate reports before the '72 election. He enlisted NBC in pro-administration propaganda by browbeating it to repackage 10-day-old coverage of Tricia Nixon's wedding as a prime-time special. It was the Colson office as well that compiled a White House enemies list that included journalists who had the audacity to question administration policies.

Such is the equivalently supine state of much of the news media today that Mr. Colson was repeatedly trotted out, without irony, to pass moral judgment on Mr. Felt - and not just on Fox News, the cable channel that is actually run by the former Nixon media maven, Roger Ailes. "I want kids to look up to heroes," Mr. Colson said, oh so sorrowfully, on NBC's "Today" show, condemning Mr. Felt for dishonoring "the confidence of the president of the United States." Never mind that Mr. Colson dishonored the law, proposed bombing the Brookings Institution and went to prison for his role in the break-in to steal the psychiatric records of The Times's Deep Throat on Vietnam, Daniel Ellsberg. The "Today" host, Matt Lauer, didn't mention any of this - or even that his guest had done jail time. None of the other TV anchors who interviewed Mr. Colson - and he was ubiquitous - ever specified his criminal actions in the Nixon years. Some identified him onscreen only as a "former White House counsel."

Had anyone been so rude (or professional) as to recount Mr. Colson's sordid past, or to raise the question of whether he was a hero or a traitor, the genealogical line between his Watergate-era machinations and those of his present-day successors would have been all too painfully clear. The main difference is that in the Nixon White House, the president's men plotted behind closed doors. The current administration is now so brazen it does its dirty work in plain sight.

In the most recent example, all the president's men slimed and intimidated Newsweek by accusing it of being an accessory to 17 deaths for its errant Koran story; led by Scott McClellan, they said it was unthinkable that any American guard could be disrespectful of Islam's holy book. These neo-Colsons easily drowned out Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, both of whom said that the riots that led to the 17 deaths were unrelated to Newsweek. Then came the pièce de résistance of Nixon mimicry: a Pentagon report certifying desecrations of the Koran by American guards was released two weeks after the Newsweek imbroglio, at 7:15 p.m. on a Friday, to assure it would miss the evening newscasts and be buried in the Memorial Day weekend's little-read papers.

At other times the new Colsons top the old one. Though Nixon aspired to punish public broadcasting by cutting its funding, he never imagined that his apparatchiks could seize the top executive positions at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Nor did he come up with the brilliant ideas of putting journalists covertly on the administration payroll and of hiring an outside P.R. firm (Ketchum) to codify an enemies list by ranking news organizations and individual reporters on the basis of how favorably they cover a specific administration policy (No Child Left Behind). President Bush has even succeeded in emasculating the post-Watergate reform that was supposed to help curb Nixonian secrecy, the Presidential Records Act of 1978.

THE journalists who do note the resonances of now with then rarely get to connect those dots on the news media's center stage of television. You are more likely to hear instead of how Watergate inspired too much "gotcha" journalism. That's a rather absurd premise given that no "gotcha" journalist got the goods on the biggest story of our time: the false intimations of incipient mushroom clouds peddled by American officials to sell a war that now threatens to match the unpopularity and marathon length of Vietnam.

Only once during the Deep Throat rollout did I see a palpable, if perhaps unconscious, effort to link the White House of 1972 with that of 2005. It occurred at the start, when ABC News, with the first comprehensive report on Vanity Fair's scoop, interrupted President Bush's post-Memorial Day Rose Garden news conference to break the story. Suddenly the image of the current president blathering on about how hunky-dory everything is in Iraq was usurped by repeated showings of the scene in which the newly resigned Nixon walked across the adjacent White House lawn to the helicopter that would carry him into exile.

But in the days that followed, Nixon and his history and the long shadows they cast largely vanished from the TV screen. In their place were constant nostalgic replays of young Redford and flinty Holbrook. Follow the bait-and-switch.

Friday, June 10, 2005

I've always wanted to know more about this. I am intrigued that they are hiring...

COOKIE MASTER

As a vice-president at Wonton Food, Inc., in Long Island City, Donald Lau manages the company’s accounts payable and receivable, negotiates with insurers, and, somewhat incidentally, composes the fortunes that go inside the fortune cookies, of which Wonton is the world’s largest manufacturer. Each day, Wonton’s factory churns out four million Golden Bowl-brand cookies, which are sold to several hundred venders, who, in turn, sell them to most of the forty thousand Chinese restaurants across the country. Wonton’s primacy in the industry and, for that matter, in the gambler’s imagination is such that when, in March, five of six lucky numbers printed on a fortune happened to coincide with the winning picks for the Powerball lottery, a hundred and ten people, instead of the usual handful, came forward to claim prizes of around a hundred thousand dollars. Lottery officials suspected a scam until they traced the sequence to a fortune printed with the digits “22-28-32-33-39-40” and Donald Lau’s prediction: “All the preparation you’ve done will finally be paying off.”

“We’ve had winners before, but never this many,” Lau said the other day, in his East Williamsburg office, which is furnished with stacks of financial reports and “A Dictionary of American Proverbs.” “A computer picks the numbers, not me. If only a computer could also write the fortunes.” Lau never expected to become a fortune-cookie writer. After graduating from Columbia with degrees in engineering and business, he joined Bank of America, then ran a company that exported logs from the Pacific Northwest to China. In the early eighties, he was hired by a Chinatown noodle manufacturer, which eventually expanded into fortune cookies. The firm bought the Long Island City plant, and it soon became apparent that its antiquated catalogue of fortunes would have to be updated. (“Find someone as gay as you are,” one leftover from the nineteen-forties read.) “We knew we needed to add new sayings,” Lau said. “I was chosen because my English was the best of the group, not because I’m a poet.”

At first, the writing came easily. Finding inspiration in sources ranging from the I Ching to the Post, Lau cranked out three or four maxims a day, between scrutinizing spreadsheets and monitoring the company’s inventory of chow mein. “I’d be on the subway and look up at the signs and think, Hey, that would make a great fortune,” he said. (One such adage: “Beware of odors from unfamiliar sources.”) “I’d keep a small notebook and jot down whatever came to me. I don’t think I ever sat in front of the computer and said, ‘I am going to write ten fortunes right now.’ It has to come naturally.”

Love, riches, power: there is a limited range of experience that can be expressed in one sentence, and, about eleven years into his tenure, Lau began to run out of ideas. He leaned increasingly on traditional Chinese sayings, which offer insight (along the lines of “True gold fears no fire”) but not foresight (“Your income will increase”), and in 1995 he gave up altogether. “I’ve written thousands of fortunes, but the inspiration is gone,” Lau said. “Have you heard of writer’s block? That is what happened to me.”

These days, he cycles selections from his vast oeuvre in and out of circulation. He is worried that readers will notice that the cookies are in reruns, which might result in Wonton’s losing its edge on the competition. (This is unlikely. Although there are about forty fortune-cookie companies in the United States, few have Wonton’s manufacturing capabilities.) So Lau has decided to bring in new blood. The company will soon advertise for a new fortune writer, and Lau will make the transition to editor. “Maybe when I retire I’ll write again—perhaps a book about writing fortunes,” he said. Returning to form, he summarized the thrust of the book with two simple axioms. “Don’t have too complicated a mind,” he said. “Think in ten-word sentences.”

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Thursday, June 02, 2005

DEEP THROAT: SEPARATED AT BIRTH?

You decide:


Mark Felt


Hal Holbrook


Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst
SEVEN DAYS IN L.A.

The true story of a writer, a church, a gun, an HBO deal that never existed and a pretty girl with wavering eyes.

Special Guest Blog by David N. Donihue

Tuesday night. Around 10 p.m.

When he handed me the pistol in a parking lot just off Hollywood, I wondered how I was going to give out hugs in the Bible study room without anyone noticing that there was a forty- five in my pocket. His eyes looked unsteady. They always do. Sadly, I know where the guy’s coming from. If things could just slow down, I could get my bearings. But my life is mine, and never really slow. Except when around a few solitary friends.

Justine is one of them. That super cute platonic friend that you can wrestle with and be made fun of by, and you both know exactly where everything stands. No confusion, just straight up love and understanding. She calls me every day just to check in; I dig that shit. I’m lucky to know her. We keep each other in check.

“Take it easy” she said the other night. She reassured me of my talents and good looks and I talked to her about her endless crush on my brilliant space case of a friend Noel, who can’t seem to figure out where he’s coming from or what to do with her. Matters of the heart seem to put more panic in us than matters of guns and finances.

Jumping back to about 8 p.m. I’m at church. Tonight, as part of the young adult Bible study, we’re tested on spiritual gifts. This is an odd one. A series of tests that show what areas you are gifted in and what areas you suck at. I score high on Prophecy, Wisdom and Intercession. Low on Speaking In Tongues and Celibacy. Go figure. Midway through the test, he shows up. I don’t know him well. His name is Eric. He’s good looking, charming, and seems like a bit of a loose cannon. I met him the first time about a month ago. Justine had told me about him, how his brother had passed away recently and she knew he was in need of someone to talk to, but feared spending time with him as he obviously had a thing for her.

“Don’t worry about it. Have dinner with the guy at a public place and just listen to him talk. It’ll be good.”

Well, he had charmed her, and she brought him to my birthday party, I suspect to make Noel jealous. He gave me a cigar and told us all about having to trek across the country to deal with a D.U.I. I wasn’t shocked. Something about the way he moved seemed familiar; not so much “from liquor or drugs,” though that wouldn’t surprise me. More, he seemed to be shifting in his shoes but playing it off as party star energy. Masking his depression and anxiety with an enthusiasm for small talk and sheik brattiness. Respectable. Sad.

That was also the first time I saw Kara again.

Kara is a beautiful girl. She’s tall and rail thin with cool loose dark blonde curls and huge amazing eyes that seem to shift between the sophistication of an ambitious and confident young woman, and that of a “wow – holy shit world” 10-year-old kid. I went to her birthday party not long ago. She looked stunning in a long black dress. I found myself stumbling for words. Cute girls never make me stumble for words.

I know very little of her, but what I do impressive. She’s a flautist. Not always the center of attention, yet gravitates towards the stage. She holds herself at a distance as if she’s consistently careful not to give off any wrong impressions.

She turned her back on the Catholic church as a kid because they wouldn’t let her be an altar boy anymore. She must have looked adorable, the outfit, the hair pulled back.

She’s had started her own summer program for kids. She’s twenty seven, and a take charge of your own destiny type. She’s remarkable.

Her eyes constantly dart off into the distance in thought, and then revert back to pick up wherever the conversation was headed. But her face and eyes can’t hide what her mouth often doesn’t say.

“I’ll bet you’re a shitty liar,” I say.

“Yeah, I’m terrible at it.”

She might not always be forthcoming about her thoughts, but when she is, they are genuine, and I have nothing but respect for that sort of self-preservation-honesty mix.

Thursday 9pm. Kara and I sit down for Indian food.

I’ve been a bit whip lashed lately by life, but par for the course. Money is quickly deteriorating in my world, as the company I work for still hasn’t paid any of us writers.

I’ve lived in LA for two and a half years, have been making my meager living entirely off of my writing, have seen one film produced, a war-type epic I co-wrote, and have been struggling along as a screenwriter for hire, choosing only projects I believe in.

A producer, Wayne, and Jesper, a creative consultant, wanted to meet with me in regard to a mini-series on ancient Rome, knowing my background in writing on topics of politics, war and religion.

I met them at a Starbucks in Encino. Jesper was from Denmark. Looked around forty, blonde hair with a touch of grey. Clean cut. Wayne had a Roman style mustache and goatee, and was apparently a Roman expert. They were blue collar fellows, and it made me trust them more.

In a town like LA, often the real movers and shakers are in jeans in t-shirts, while bullshit middle men take the time to manicure, put on silk and drive small penis automobiles. They were friendly, warm, and spent a good hour and a half drilling me on how I write and work with others, and whether or not I can meet their stringent network deadlines.

I read them some samples, and they hired me on the spot. $3,477 per week for 13 weeks to co-write on a mini-series for HBO. I would be one of a team of six writers who would come together with a staff of researchers to whip out some brilliance, as HBO apparently had a production called ROME that was experiencing delays, and they would need a teaser to quench the audience’s thirst. That’s where we would come in.

THE REAL ROME, you know kinda like Real Sports or Real Sex, would be a docu-drama, three episodes, small budget of 4 mil per. The last few months of my life were filled with family tragedy, death and the ever-present holiday inspired lack of work. I was dead broke, and getting broker. Needless to say, this was the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

The group consisted of quite the talented mix. Anna, a brilliant writer and script consultant, who I was partnered with. She’s fifty, funny, warm, and not afraid to flip you shit. She has a remarkable list of work under her belt, doing script consulting for some major writers and producers. I forgive her hippie nature on account of her kick ass personality.

Jeff K., a former stage and commercial actor slash Roman buff from Toronto with a wife and kids. He’s a straight man who likes Broadway.

Jeff B., an ambitious 23-year-old writer who had moved here with his wife just after his father-in-law’s death, to take on this job and crank their lives into some form of positivity amidst the grief.

Don, an East Coast indie filmmaker with a constant smile and a real life to him. Husky and fresh faced, Don is a real sweetheart. He gets excited when the others pitch stories of Roman castrations and 100,000 people getting impaled.

And there’s Patrick, a talented former sci-fi writer with short silvering hair, good looks and a zest for action stories. He has a very fast paced, high energy personality that could either be brilliance, dementia, or substance abuse, God bless him.

We got passes to eat lunch at the commissary on the CBS lot. We started mapping out the series. We were told Glenn A. Larson, a hot shot TV producer, was partnering on all of Wayne’s projects and he would be joining the gang shortly, as would be Jim Caviezel, on a project with Wayne as well. I had visions of asking him to turn the bottled water into Merlot, but we didn’t have any.

Things were moving fast. A man by the name of John was introduced to us as a producer from HBO, who we told our pitches to. He seemed impressed, thought he was quickly out the door to his next order of business.

Bobbi, a costume designer, apparently recommended by the studio was sent over, along with a director of photography. We took a tour of Western Costumes and saw a room already set up, with HBO / THE REAL ROME on the door and costumes already being made, collected, and ordered for mass production somewhere in India.

Wayne called a meeting. The order for three episodes has been pushed to six. We would now be employed for 26 weeks guaranteed. All of us immediately started making calls, canceling other employment, thanking former Latin instructors, looking at new cars online, etc. There’s only one problem. There’s a three week delay in payroll. Peripheral conversations of borrowing money from family and friends occur.

Justine keeps calling to ask if I’ve met Jesus yet. “No, and I don’t think it’s really him, he just played him on TV…”

The creativity and research goes blasting into high gear. Wayne continues to feed us scenes from his vast knowledge of Rome, much of them involving penises. Wayne is one of those truck driver gay men. The type who get busted hooking up at Park & Rides and Highway Rest Stops. Most of his Roman knowledge seems to center around sexual practice, with the researchers having yet to confirm any of his tidbits.

Synopses are handed to wardrobe and production designers. John the producer, continues to be seen coming and going from Wayne’s office, presumably checking in on our progress.

Nearly two weeks ago, we were told very suddenly we were moving offices from CBS to either Sunset Gower or Universal. That HBO had pulled us from our current location due to a problem with the lease being too short-term.

We’ve spent the last two weeks working from home, and stressing about when we’re going to see a check, as we are continually told that there is just another glitch in payroll.

The costume department has been paid, and now as of Thursday, we’ve been there six weeks and not seen a dime. By contract, we are all already owed an enormous amount of money. Last week, the writers started speaking of going to the guild with this issue. This would bring our employer under scrutiny by HBO, and it’s almost certain that when that happens, some middle management producer from the studio is bound to step in and “save the project from chaos” by replacing the staff with all of his friends. This is what Wayne tells us, in his very calm and gentle nature.

Wayne admits to being new to the producing game. Online, he has no producer credits, but there are some legitimate articles from legitimate press on how he’s donated a million dollars to give fire engines in his home state of Alabama

I tried to keep the other writers from doing anything rash.

This job is everything I have been working towards, and the thought of failure, even if it’s not my fault, sends shivers down my spine like no other. I’m embarrassed to even admit the unsteadiness of the present situation.

My mother keeps floating back to my mind. My grandfather died a week back, and that – combined with my brother’s passing in August – has her in one of those “Was I good mother, was I a good daughter?” sort of states.

My grandfather is still in a freezer somewhere, as no one can find his 35-year-old bitch of a wife who married him several years back, took him for everything he was worth, and is now impossible to reach as a signature from her is needed to complete his request of having his ashes sprinkled along with my grandmother’s over Mt. Rainier.

So I’m sitting across from Kara, Thursday night, and all this is on my mind, and I’m trying to stay engaged in the conversation, not come off to heavy.

Writer’s syndrome. I wonder for a moment if I’ve forgotten how to speak. If I have fallen so far into being human that I’ve left the human fold entirely. The human fold is guarded and jaded and disconnected from anything that is human. Even those white girl eastern philosophy bitches who shift their furniture around to feel more in touch with themselves would condemn me on accounts of emotional instability.

You see, I have nothing to say that isn’t too heavy or too light. Everything you say is a product of your experiences, and if all you are currently seeing is shit, than your just going to say a bunch of shit that seems to bring on more shitty experiences that causes you to say a bunch more of shit.

Everyone that I’ve ever known who has wanted to kill themselves were motivated by the thought that they had nothing left to offer that would be positively received. I find it interesting that some of the people with the most love to give had the most self-hatred because no one wanted to receive it. The purest of emotions can be seen as a threat by those who are conditioned by this jaded little spectacle we call life. I can’t believe I just wrote that dumb ass line. Why does anyone ever pay me for this shit?

Now, obviously, this tangent has drifted away from the autobiographical. I have more people in my life who love me and depend on my love and words of support than I know what to do with. I have a zest for life and a passion for the minutia of all types of personalities that borders on habitual. And I rock it too. I still find massive excuses to laugh and be irreverent and silly and just enjoy the ridiculousness of our little ball o’ dirt, but there are some days, when you can’t force yourself into that mind set.

Something lightens inside of me when I see her shift from her sophisticated stance to her uncomfortable moments of weighing things out in her head. I don’t know why, but I find it really charming. Kara has a boyfriend who recently cruised to somewhere in the middle of the country to do something. I forget what. Work and family I think. She had mentioned possibly cutting it off.

I know she loves him, so I had resigned to being nothing more than a friend to her while still being massively drawn to knowing as much as I possibly could about who she is as a person. Through my thorough study and research of the creature that is her, I came to the scientific conclusion that she fucking rules. So, whatever the nature of our relationship is, I’m cool with it. I think I caught her checking me out in the club lights one night.

For a moment, I showed my hand of cards stretched across my face when she mentioned she was leaving town to go see him. The boyfriend.

I managed to utter “How’s that going?” and the moment became built more on what wasn’t being said than what was.

“It’s going well. I’ll be there for four days.”

“That’s awesome.”

I was actually genuine when I said that. You see, Kara’s cool. I have no desire to bring confusion into her life. I’m just stoked to get to know her.

Monday was her actual birthday, which I am suppose to spend with her. The weekend is spent going out to see a show with them, me working and stressing about the absence of my check and three day pay or vacate notice I got on my door.

Monday. 7pm. East Hollywood.

The writers were up in arms. My mother calling to ask if I wanted my dead grandmother’s bedsheets that were still in the package, the woman still hoarding away mounds of odds and ends ten years after her death. That takes talent. And Wayne, who currently owes me an enormous amount of money, was supposed to at the very least bring petty cash down to appease a few of my bills as he had been promising all weekend to throw me a couple grand until the checks arrived.

Patrick, our beloved hot headed paranoid, allegedly “coke-addicted” writer had suffered a burst appendix a few days prior, his fear of ever never getting paid or the project going bust guiding him through the operation. Now, back on his feet, he had spent the day looking for the new offices that we had yet to move into on Lankershim out of fear he was being fired, going from building to building trying to find Wayne. He can’t even get addiction right. He should be just going into the same building over and over and over. But, in any case, his deranged idiocy delayed my boss in meeting with me and giving me any cash. His writing partner has grown weary of him as well, as Wayne seems to be trying to find a way to let him go without any disturbance, continuing to ask us all if we see any signs of drug use.

Too embarrassed to tell my new friends I am too broke to go out and realizing once again how this unstable career can utterly destroy my best of intentions in my personal life, I am a lame ass. I finally called Kara, telling her I’m going to be able to make it out at all.

My phone is still ringing off the hook as I try to ease everyone’s panic, as I am balancing momentary thoughts of feeling like a total freaking loser. All I feel like doing is buying my friend a birthday drink. Grabbing her some birthday flowers. She had consumed much of my mind over the weekend, wanting to see her, but too broke to go out and to proud to admit it.

My mind is racing with fears of failure. I had recently abandoned those fears. I stopped caring about where my career was heading right before it started soaring full speed ahead. Not financially, but things were falling into place. People were noticing a particular style, I guess.

Seneca said “Cease to hope and you will cease to fear…” There’s some truth in it. The constant string of jobs and pats on the back brought some hope into the mix. The other writers and delayed checks brought the fear.

Monday. 10pm.

I’m pacing back and forth down the street trying to make sense of all the work chaos, as Anna pep talked me, strangely. That’s not her style as much.

“I want the career your friend Robert has,” I say, as I suddenly feel annoyed with my ambitious side taking precedence over the craft itself.

“He was 38 and ready to call it quits when it finally clicked. Now he makes millions. It just took a long time.” She says.

I’m 31 and have written over forty feature scripts and plays. Part of me feels like an old vet while the other part of me still fresh faced inexperienced kid.

“You see David, there is a problem with your work.”

Great. She’s about to add insult to injury.

“Your work has a voice. It’s exactly what you think and feel, which will make it a nightmare at first, but trust me, there will be rewards because of the way you do things in the long run...”

Coming from her, the words settled me. My phone beeped again as I was walking back into my apartment. It was Kara again. Inviting me over. We partook in small talk with her roommate and classical guitarist friend whose masculinity momentarily slipped away when he admitted to liking Titanic. I didn’t ask him what he thought of that Celine Dion song, I couldn’t bear to hear the answer. He’s one of my favorite people I’ve met recently. He’s from Toronto, and has a strange mix of East Coast hard edge and northern “I could give a fuck” passivity. Rather impressive stories to tell as well.

Which brings us back to Tuesday. And the gun. And Justine. And Eric. And the spiritual gifts exercise. Prophecy, Intercession. As I take the quiz, knowing it would be retarded to put much stake into its answers, Eric wanders into the room, looking high as a kite. It’s likely he’s here looking for Justine, who has been avoiding his calls after his romantic persistence made her feel uncomfortable. Damn, he really looks high.

I fucking hate how substances attach themselves to those who are the most sensitive. I only get around to a night of real drinking maybe once a month, so therefore, with my tolerance low but thirst for nothing more than hydration high, it’s easy to stupidly consume to much and find yourself speaking in ways that would have helped me score higher on the “:speaking in tongues” portion of the test.

Eric stammers around, loudly makes fun of the quiz and seems to make most in the room both humored and uncomfortable. I can’t tell if this is a substance or crippling anxiety-prone depression, but something doesn’t seem right, as I sit here with the results of the quiz in fingertips, feeling proud that I scored low on Celibacy. My mind is flying high with work. My family. And strangely, amidst it all, a girl.

Yet, as he shifts all over the room, needing to charm those who seem somewhat concerned about his current mental state, I feel the need to pull him away and find out what this guy is all about. I notice the way his body was working to shut off his mind and heart, and I really feel for him.

“I’m going for a cigarette. Walk with me,” I say.

He follows. He looks paranoid when a cop drives by, and tells me he has a gun across the street in his car, that he had been to the shooting range earlier and was driving on a suspended license due to a D.U.I., so if he got pulled over, they would search and he’d be fucked. I ignore it. And I start hammering him with questions. You can tell me anything. Nothing fazes me.

And he lets’ loose. The stories of his fist fights, heroin and coke addictions of yesteryear, never admitting to even having so much as a beer in the present day, are unsurprisingly followed by stories of an abusive childhood, his brother’s death. And how just after the night I first met him, just as Justine had turned him down, he had to catch a flight back home to see his grandma.

Scared shitless of facing a past that he rarely connects with, he had stalled just before getting in his friend’s car to head to the airport. “I left something upstairs.” He tried to tell them. They wouldn’t accept that and shoved him in the car.

“I was planning on going back upstairs, pulling the gun out of my closet, and blowing my brains out.” He says to me as we sit down on a planter next to church’s entrance, and I ask if I can pray for him. I don’t know if it will do much good. I’m no pastor. I’m no missionary. I’m just a guy who’s seen a bunch of shit and come out the other side as a generally happy camper who really loves people. But we pray. For a long time. Lord, let the sins others have placed on him not turn him to self-destruction. Let him see how his gifts of charm and humor can help the world around him. Let him find a peace through knowing that he doesn’t have to be a product of his environment, his environment can be a product of him. Let him realize that the sick feeling beneath his skin is the result of others, that he isn’t innately born feeling this way, and that you can bring him back to the core of who he is. Lord, this world has really fucked him over, don’t let him fuck himself over as a result. Lord, let him forgive the people who have hurt him, forgive himself for the way he has reacted to it all, and lift that weight.

We hug hard. I have no idea if I’ve reached him, but having just lost a friend to suicide months prior, I was really praying that this would work. I’m sick of people dying who were dealt a shitty hand, people thriving who shit all over everyone else, and me feeling helpless when I get the phone calls after the fact.

It actually takes a bit of work to ask him for it. “I don’t think you are in a state where you should have a gun in your possession.”

He immediately offers it, using reasons of not wanting to get pulled over with it. Thank God. We walk across the street to his car. It isn’t loaded. The clip lies next to it.

“It’s clean,” he says. “Make sure it stays that way.”

If it was clean, he hadn’t been to the shooting range earlier that day. There was a reason it was in his car, and fear swept over me for his safety and others.

I put it in my pocket and we walk back into the church together. The bulge is huge, but luckily, I am wearing my longer green checkered polyester jacket with my black Fubu jeans. The jeans have deep pockets. The jacket covers the majority of the bulge. I suddenly realized how handy this particular combination would be to gangs across America. Visions of Crips, Bloods and L.A. Locos in plaid polyester sweep through my mind, and I feel happier than I’ve been in the last two weeks.

I hug a few friends goodbye and start the long trek home, being careful not to jaywalk and get stopped. I had lost my I.D. a few days back, and being without any identification with a forty-five in your pocket wouldn’t look good to Officer Friendly. It crosses my mind if Kara would return my calls if she were to drive by and see me in handcuffs with a forty-five lying on the front of a cop car. Hey, these things happen.

I suddenly wonder where the gun has been, and I immediately dial Justine, to reaffirm that she is not to answer his calls. I don’t think he’d harm her, he doesn’t seem to be a danger to others. I think with some tight friendships, this kid could come out the other side of it all.

Justine doesn’t answer her phone at first. Ten minutes pass by as I continue home, suddenly getting really scared for her. This girl is one of the best friends you find in this city. We tell each other everything. I’ve never gotten bored talking to Justine. Never waiting for her to finish a sentence so I could start one. She is an example of a nearly perfect, selfless person. I would never forgive this world if it harmed her.

I walk up the steps. Finally the phone rings. It’s Justine. We talk for hours. She needs to know it isn’t her fault he is this way. She did the best she can. He needs guy friends. Not a girl. No girl can save a man from treating himself poopy.

Wednesday Morning.

I woke up early this morning and took a long walk.

I fucking hate guns. I can’t stand the fact that the no-good piece of scrap metal is buried in the back of my closet, even though it has no bullets. I have no intention of giving it back to him anytime soon, and my friend Mason who leads the Bible study kindly declined via phone this morning to take it, even though he loves shooting ranges.

I thought long and hard about Eric. How easy it would be for anyone to get smacked around by life’s circumstances and fall into that frame of mind. About how much he wants to give love right now, and how his instability makes it impossible for someone to want to receive it, which makes it impossible for him to get stable. The viscous circles of life. The fact that he carried a gun. So tragic, his life circumstances inspiring such fear. The desperate need for control. I suddenly feel more tenderness towards Republicans.

As I sit in front of my computer, wondering if work is going to blow up in my face, if I’m going to lose my job, not see a check in time, get evicted, and look like an idiot in front of everyone, all I feel like doing is typing about a pretty girl with wavering eyes.

Wednesday 8:55 p.m.

I have no cell minutes left. Kara calls. I tell her I’d call her back. After nine, cell time is free. It crosses my mind how many relationships have been destroyed due to delays in expressing emotions during anytime minutes.

9 p.m. I call Anna.

“David, I have bad news… As bad as it can get.”

“What?”

“It doesn’t exist. None of it exists. HBO has never heard of our employer. There is no tie between us and them. There is no money.”

I went into denial. I hung up and called Kara back. She told me “I just wanted to thank you for coming out on Monday night…”

She seemed so formal. So calculated. The sophistication had morphed into over-diplomacy. I figured I’d go for broke. Share it all. Let her know I’m a loser and she’s amazing yet guarded and I’m honest, yet my world is falling apart.

So, I read her what you just read. No joke. I read it all to her. I had just found out five minutes prior that I had lost a $90,000 contract, had not a dime to my name, was on the verge of eviction, and now suddenly realizing, that I was destroying a friendship with someone I was really enamored with.

She hung up the phone within sixty seconds of the completion of the reading. Obviously, she wasn’t impressed. My level of honesty isn’t good for anyone. Once again, too human for the human fold.

The truth sets in. My life is fucked. All of my connections know about this job. With my reputation trashed, my crush quite possibly looking into restraining orders, my career over, and my family once again destined to see me as a letdown, I thought about the gun in my closet.

It was as if God took it out of Eric’s hands, and the devil put it into mine. However, for some reason, I still didn’t want to die. The seratonin-dopamine fight or flight phenomena had even failed me a way out.

I got on the phone with Justine. We talked for a long time as I walked back and forth down Hollywood Boulevard. It didn’t matter what she said. Just the sound of her voice. It didn’t just calm me. It made me feel really good. She made me laugh.

“It’s hard to be upset for too long when I’m talking to you… It doesn’t matter what happens, when I talk to you…”

It was so true. Somehow, I related to this girl’s love for others, lack of self-preservation, and irreverent humor amidst the evils of this world. For a second, I felt like an asshole for pursuing Kara, who I couldn’t even talk to, when the person I wanted to share everything with was right there. There was only one problem. It’s not that way between her and I. Both of us, chasing after those we can’t fully talk to. I wish God had never created bodies, just spirits that choose what they project.

The phone rings again. “Dave, we found his house. You’ll never fucking believe it.” Patrick says “We’re gonna make sure these guys don’t try to go anywhere tonight. Do you want to come take turns keeping watch?”

Three of the writers had spent the last couple hours looking for the producer’s assistant’s car, who was rumored to be staying with him somewhere near the CBS lot.

“We’re gonna get these mother fuckers…” Patrick says to me.

Thursday. 10 am.

We are all gathered at a diner near the CBS lot and my mind is already racing with ideas on a script I had put on hold before this all had started. It isn’t over, but my mind is ready to move on.

At the table is John, the supposed HBO producer, all the writers, the costume designer, and the art director that has brought some of the most impressive designs with him that I have ever seen. Incredible really, the minds and talents in the room.

The truth comes out. John isn’t from HBO. We were told he was. He was told that we were. The costume woman wasn’t recommended by HBO, even though her credentials were far beyond needing that. She was referred to Wayne by Western Costume. She hasn’t been paid a dime. Wayne had convinced John that HBO was slow on a wire transfer, and John convinced the line producer he hired to put up about five grand to get things rolling in the art department. Petty cash.

Jesper is here, having known Wayne off and on for 17 years, looking shell shocked, claiming he lost seventy grand of his fiancée’s money to the whole thing, believing Wayne had a deal the whole time fronting the cash.

John relates his end of the story. He finally calls HBO. They’d never heard of Light Force Entertainment, Wayne, or any project called The Real Rome. Why would anyone do this? You would have to be insane. Fucking insane! Wayne probably believed that he could string us along for long enough to get some amazing pages, go into pre-production, get his deal and become unstoppable.

Now, all in all, John and his line producer friend are out the cash. Writers and researchers aren’t going to see any of the money (none of us having worked elsewhere for nine weeks and canceling upcoming gigs), the costume lady is screwed and the art department just plain baffled.

This all on top of Jeff B’s research, finding out the fire stations were required to hire new employees in order to comply with Wayne’s requests, and have yet to see the million dollar vehicles promised by Light Force Entertainment. Jeff B. looks at me and says “Wayne told me his first sexual experience was in a fire station.”

I had thoughts of Rosebud.

I am facing eviction. Have nowhere to go. Jeff B. and his young bride have nothing and a six month lease, wishing they could just go back to Ohio. I hear vague conversations about Bush making it harder to file bankruptcy in the background.

And Patrick, the paranoid coke head, wasn’t paranoid or even on coke. He was right all along. It was a sham..

He puts his hand on my shoulder. “I hate to say I told you so..”

I laughed, holding back my tears. “I’m sorry for you man. I know this hits hard,” he says. He was so genuine. He even turned out to be a damn fine writer.

Now, we just had to find Wayne. And our contracts, w4’s, the researchers’ hundreds of dollars’ worth of library books, you name it.

We got in the car and trekked over to where Wayne, Brent and Jesper were staying. Wayne wasn’t there. We later found out he was in court at the time on Indecent Exposure / Lewd Conduct charges, filed in Pasadena, for crying out loud.

When we got there, the true horror set in. They had been staying in a converted garage out behind a little old ladies house. Wayne and his assistant in one room, Jesper in the other. The poor woman had been giving them free rent, as they had promised she would be working as a production coordinator on the HBO series.

My gawd, how did he pull it all off?

How did this guy, without any cash to his name, get us on the CBS lot, a rented bungalow office, a new lease signed on Lankershim, a costume department employed and put into high gear, an art director, six writers, two researchers and two office assistants all working full-time, and all of this he masterminded out of a little old ladies garage?

I am impressed, to say the least. I get him on the phone. We’re all standing in the woman’s front yard, as she looks traumatized by the news, that this lovely man could do such a thing. “I was counting on that job, since I wasn’t getting any money from them for rent of the back house,” she said, looking as if she was going to cry.

Patrick is yelling “Fuck you Wayne” over and over, flipping off the phone that is currently up to my ear.

“Wayne, we know there is no deal between you and HBO,” I say.

“Well, that’s news to me,” he says.

“Wayne, how could you do this to us? This is sick.”

“So, the writers are going on strike then? Maybe it would help if we showed HBO some of the pages,” he says.

“Wayne, HBO has never heard of you. Sam, the woman at HBO has never heard of you. There is no Light Force Productions. Wayne, you need help. I’m going to pray for you brother. You really need help.”

I believe that Wayne actually believed he had a deal. That to con us, he had conned himself. We were dealing with what seems to be, a total fucking sociopath. God bless America.

It’s been ten minutes, and Patrick is still jumping up and down and cursing the phone in the background, as the rest of the writers sing “Liar, liar pants on fire.” I feel like my heads going to explode as I hand the phone over to someone else, and lament the fact that I’m sure to be homeless in the matter of days.

The little old lady announces that Wayne won’t be staying with her anymore, and that I am more than welcome to the spare room in the garage if I need a place to stay.

I suddenly realized that for me, the worsening of life circumstances had only begun.

While this was happening, my phone ran out of minutes. Shut off. No contact with the outside world. No way to have known that Justine’s mother was in the hospital due to an irregular heart beat. No way to check up on Eric, who I was really worried for, and suddenly felt as if there was no way I could reach out to him while dealing with my own dire needs, and a family to whom I owe money, and have suddenly no way of being supportive of, as my dead grandfather is still hanging out in a freezer somewhere outside of Sumner, Washington.

The ripple affect of this unstable career is showing its instantaneous power. Plus, I still have yet to find a way to get rid of that fucking gun, and I know Eric wants it back.

What’s funny, the biggest lesson from all of this, was how I felt that night that Justine talked to me on the phone. The sound of her voice. The way she didn’t judge my failure. The way she listened and made me laugh.

I still feel so humiliated.

Life comes bashing away at full speed even without the help of something as unbelievable as all this. People die all around you. They kick the shit out of each other and lie to each other. Desire and depression mold some into creatures of compassion and humor, like Justine. Some into bottles of escapism, anxiety and self-destruction, like Eric. Some into guarded diplomacy, like Kara, and some into brilliant sociopaths who run a fraud that leaves over a dozen workers screwed for hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages, not to mention the humiliation and feeling of a career headed towards doom.

Even having tested high on Prophecy, I never saw any of this coming. My test scores on Intercession aren’t seeming to be of much help either.

But I’m still off to pray. Pray for Justine’s mom. Pray for my co-workers. Pray for Eric. Pray for family. Pray for that bitch that is responsible for the fact that my grandfather is still in need of thawing. Pray for Wayne. And pray that I can sell this story overnight and get enough money to keep from getting evicted, losing my mind, and finding myself living in a little old ladies garage near the CBS lot, promising my elderly landlady a job on a project that only exists in my head.

Written by David N. Donihue. ©opyright 2005.