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Kafka and I:

Angst for the Memories


Act III: Hot Tub

Later, in the next scene around noon, I’m riding my bike—a still moment of awareness along the path because I feel a calm in my center, a sense of belonging. I am in the eye of a maelstrom in what is called the personal experience of a man, called so and so’s life and times of—that is, if he’s lucky to get the break, if he’s got good timing, and if he had the faith. Yes, this feeling of despair, this self-pity is utterly boring, necessary, and honest. I can use this emotion in my story.

Negative thoughts cannot exist without positive ones. If only I, in Don Quixotic fashion, could vanquish the duality of nature face to face. Winner takes all. No one asked me, so why should I take up the challenge in the first place? Was my crusade against evil? The torpid sludge of mediocrity was more like it. As others before me, I was trapped, engaged in the battle from the instant I realized I am naked—just another one-man show passing through the Karmic comedy club.

Seeing my nakedness in this script is a positive thing, a beginning toward understanding my self—that is if I’m up to playing hardball with my self-worth, my cherished, well-fed identity.

As with every change, there was a catalyst at work. Once my artist friend in the script helps to strip me of pretense, I begin to choose the garb of life with more style and humility. For the first time in my life I have a focused purpose beyond the mundane. But, in the meantime, despite my training with the master painter, I have let two long years slip away in a deluded rhapsody as if there were a happy resolve lingering far off in the “everything will be okay” corner of my mind.

I allowed precious time to trickle away while tricking my self into believing tomorrow will be better. I wanted to believe Universe would provide; the cosmic judge will give me what I need—as if Universe owed me something.

Just sit back and let things come to you, I thought. Some miracle will save me from my creditors, some divine act will intervene on my behalf, some agent will sell my script. Yes, yes, I reveled in a naive dance, and then everything will be okay.

There was no hiding from the ruse of mere talk. I had to face the reality that my accomplishments were not yet realized? Where were my original ideas? Chatter matters little. To make matters worse, the answer to everything always seemed to be on the tip of my tongue.

Accomplishment is all.

One must back up one’s talent with proof. Someone you respect must vouch for your authenticity.

“Listen,” says the producer, “I know you can rewrite this thing so it’ll . . . shall we say make everyone happy.” Then, he takes a big drag and passes the fat joint to the director who takes a long hit.

“He’s right, you know,” says the director in a rapid I know the score tone. “You, me, the technical people, the actors—we’re all afloat on this ship of fools. So don’t rock the boat. Trust me on this one.”

I say, “Rewrite? Are you crazy? I’ve spent my whole life getting it precisely this way. And now you want me to change it to what you think it should be?” I wanted to leap out of my chair and strangle the producer. I didn’t like the feeling, but it was how I felt.

“It’s in the contract,” says the producer. “I don’t want to pull rank, believe me. I mean you’ve got to do it in any case.”

Why was I giving the producer a hard time? So what if I rewrote the story. I say, “It means going off on an entirely new course; it means changing my meaning; it means changing my story.”

The producer leafs through the script. “Yeah, yeah, here it is. I made notes. Our hero is confused. He doesn’t know what he wants from life. Although he’s had financial success in the business world, working among the stiff suits is living death to him. That’s good, turmoil, problems, inner conflicts. But what’s this crap about glossing over horny Hanna here in the hot tub scene where she and the hero meet this couple? This scene should be steamy, smoldering, really fucking hot . . . get the picture?”

The starlet giggles and jiggles.

“Hanna!” the producer continues. “This girl gives new meaning to getting up in the morning. The audience wants hot stuff. We make dreams come true.”

I couldn’t believe he was talking about films making dreams come true. Were we the same and I just couldn’t admit it?

“Wake up will you—she’s one of your best characters in the script. She’s not interested in intellect or the meaning of life, only in how long she can keep the hero’s dick hard. And if you think about it, you’d be hard-pressed to create life without it. That’s not too far off from reality, is it? And here, in this scene where the artist friend who’s taken our hero as his writing student—yeah, here where the artist has turned our hero’s life into turmoil by showing him the difference between fine art and commercial shit. Here, in this part, where he tells our hero to write something marvelous and soon, otherwise our hero’s a fraud and has no right to call himself a writer—this is good, this is conflict, and I can live with this even if it involves . . . art. But let’s get moving in the next scene where our hero stops shaving and eating. Okay, we get the picture. Don’t beat the audience over the head—don’t moralize, don’t preach. Let him wallow in self-pity all by himself, but not too long. Do I have to say it? Don’t bore us.”

The producer takes another hit, passes the joint to the starlet, and then makes his statement: “Hey, I’m not out of touch with what’s happening. Yeah, I took the est training way back when before Werner Erhard was Hustler’s Asshole of the Month. I know life’s not a dress rehearsal. Yeah, I know all about it.” The producer closes his eyes, looking pretty loaded by now, and says, “This is good, real good, pooh-pooh.”

“Oooooh, this grass makes me hot,” says the starlet. “I feel like, like . . .” Her big boobs heave up and down with each breath. “I feel like I need to . . . I can’t say it . . . I need to . . .”

“Later, babe,” says the producer.

I say, “Look, this is my picture. We don’t need all this sex to sell it.”

“It’s your story sonny boy, but it’s my picture,” says the producer.

“We can shoot the fuck and suck scenes, see how the film plays without them in the dailies. We can add them later. Axel could be right. We never know until it’s cut,” says the director. “Anyway, the budget can take it.”

“Okay, okay, try it. I’m not inflexible. I want this production to be a happy family. But remember, I want this Hanna character exploited—in the best possible sense of the word,” says the producer.

The afternoon sun has turned a burnt orange as it dips toward the Pacific. Inside, the mood has shifted, too. The producer and director engage intensely about some scene while the starlet purrs, content for now to feel her luscious self up while shuddering with each caress.

In this disjointed meeting of mind versus no matter, I am swept away by a wild, swirling creation in my mind’s eye. No one around me is the wiser. I am receptive and the curtain rises. A scene has formed and no one notices that I’m no longer in the producer’s office.

It’s night and drizzling. A full moon is poking through cloudy skies. I’m sure it’s supposed to be the hot tub sex scene with the couple. But Hanna and I are inside an apartment, not outdoors as originally written. How am I going to get past the producer without including an orgy? How am I going to save this scene from this producer, this mogul of mediocrity?

Hanna, who looks amazingly like the buxom starlet, and I are sitting in a living room of new acquaintances, a couple—Harry and Belinda.

Harry has a punk haircut and looks like a Hun. He has a big mouth, but is a wimp at heart. Belinda, whose dark demeanor makes her the ideal mortician’s mistress, is intent on making a man out of Harry, despite his character flaws. There is another problem. Harry can’t quite commit to Belinda because she’s Jewish. His mother hates all men and Jews. The issue has come to a head. Will Harry take Belinda to his mother’s birthday party, not go, or go without her?

This is the soap opera made flesh in my own lifetime.»


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