Friday, November 27, 2015


Here's a movie no one has thought of in many years: JACKNIFE (that's how they spell it - I've checked repeatedly, in denial and disbelief). I've never seen it. I have no idea what it's about. But it rushed into my mind. And I'll tell you why. You know what came on last night? THE DEER HUNTER. And there was Robert De Niro in a baseball cap. Okay. So. In the 1980s I was "laid off" (fired) from my job at an advertising agency, and my friend Tony and I decided to drive across the country once I had accumulated enough unemployment checks. I remember a few things about it. Washing the car in a scary, desolate, crudely slapped together facility in Gallup, New Mexico. Slipping and sliding on the concrete because it was freezing cold and the water turned to ice almost as soon as it left the hose. When we got to Los Angeles we went to a live taping of the sitcom DESIGNING WOMEN. Afterward, I asked Linda Bloodworth-Thomason (a creator of the show) if I could have a job and she said no. But I didn't care. Because I was on unemployment, I had to write down a certain number of people on my card each week, people I had asked for a job. That's how you got money in the old days! You wrote things down on a piece of cardboard with a pencil. As I recall, it had to be in pencil. All of this is likely wrong. So I wrote "Linda Bloodworth-Thomason" on my card. Mission accomplished! The suckers at the unemployment office bought it! What am I saying? It was legit. And Linda Bloodworth-Thomason was nice and patient and gave me a lot of writing advice... more than I wanted, really. I remember this: Tony and I drove up a mountain. These were the days when there were only paper maps. And I screwed up. I neglected to tell Tony to turn, so we drove all the way up a mountain. On a treacherous road. Nobody was going up the mountain. It got dark. There was occasionally some daredevil speeding DOWN the mountain (barely enough room for two cars) and giving us a nice heart attack. At some point we were like, "Uh... does it look like we're going up? It's really dark now. Should we be going up? We're going UP." We were running out of gas. Tony was mad at me. Understandably. Once we found a place to turn around (a nightmarishly difficult process) we started back down the mountain, hoping not to run out of gas, but thinking - praying - maybe we could coast if it came to that. We went around a curve and saw an elk in the road. We stopped the car and stared at the majestic elk. So it was kind of worth it. The radio static turned, at last, into a feed from a local TV station. Which seemed unusual. But THE GOLDEN GIRLS was on, which took us some time to fathom, because it should not have been on the radio and also we were in a general state of shock. I guess I have never been so happy as when that shining vestige of civilization THE GOLDEN GIRLS manifested itself. We were laughing in hysterical relief at the stale jokes of THE GOLDEN GIRLS. We made it to a cheap Chinese restaurant in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and I suppose no food has ever tasted so good. Just moments earlier we thought we were going to die on a mountaintop! But where was I? In Los Angeles, we went on a tour. As we bounced along on the Universal Studios tram I saw some dude with long, greasy hair in a baseball cap walking through the lot with a sense of purpose and wondered whether he might be an actor. Back in Mobile, I went to the movies and saw the preview for JACKNIFE and thought, "Hey! That's the same dude I saw in Los Angeles." Obviously, it wasn't. There are countless holes in that theory. "Look at that baseball cap and that greasy hair!" I exulted, however, as I enjoyed the no-doubt suspenseful preview for JACKNIFE, which I no longer recall. I do recall that on our trip Tony and I stopped at a restaurant in Beaumont, Texas, where everyone was cold and silent as the grave. That was the quietest restaurant I've ever been in, filled with the stoniest, least communicative families of Texas. Upon our return I went back to the ad agency that had fired me (I can't remember why - to pick up one last check?) and they had a new receptionist who was so cute I asked her on a date. And she turned out to be from Beaumont, Texas! Yeah, that went nowhere. Even though I was able to say, "I've just been to Beaumont, Texas!" As I recall, I drove her around the city of Mobile and environs with no destination in mind. I seemed to think that's what a "date" was. I want to say we ended up in a bleak, rusted-out industrial area. I was probably lost. And certainly broke. I wonder why she never took my calls after that. I was probably like, "I don't have any money but I can show you the world!" As I recall, Tony and I walked all the way down into Walnut Canyon (Arizona?) and for the first time in my life I realized how much harder it was to walk up out of a canyon than to walk down into a canyon. That hadn't occurred to me somehow. I was sheltered as a lad. Boy, it hurts walking up and out of a canyon.