a tale of lies and indiscretions secreted monthly on the Web.
(coming next week)
The law can no longer touch me (I don’t think), so I can now safely tell the story of my absolutely irrelevant, self-indulgent, goddamned catastrophic life. There are things I am going to tell you that are truly awe-inspiringly ridiculous—as well as horribly illegal. Sometimes, conjoining the two, the law—in its own idiotic way—exists to save us from our own stupidity--more on that later, though. Good literature, as Freud will tell you, is filled with bare-breasted women as well as bad men with loaded rifles shooting—in an outrageous display of bad manners--at the good guys: in other words: “sex” and “violence.” I promise that I will fill this book with sex and guns and I will, I swear to God, follow the formula of our precious little genre, the American “revenge” story. The story of my life, just like the story of your life, starts out like this: I am white (everyone in America is white, regardless of your ethnicity) I am a cowboy-hatted sheriff--new to town, with a new wife--and, suddenly, I am under threat by the infamous bad guys, Frank Somebody, and his murderous cronies. They come to town and I meet the train and we have a shoot out. The rising action here is that it looks pretty bad for me, terrifying, lots of tension, these guys are real mean. Metaphorically, of course, this can mean struggling with a disease, facing your fear of the dark, or (here’s a great American one:) rising out of your driving poverty and entering the bourgeoisie, whatever. At the end, as you know, as we all know, as we face the final curtain and contemplate our lives, we know in our hearts that (as the center of the universe) we did exactly the right thing. I get the drop on Frank Somebody and shoot the black hat off his head and it blows through the street like some great injustice whirling toward oblivion. The cronies drop their guns and pledge their love to me and only me. Metaphorically, what I mean is that I do exceptionally well at the job and become a captain of industry and stroll through town like John Huston in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: huge, white, and important. The hat, of course, is any problem I’ve ever had—just blowing away. The cronies are the people of the world looking to me with appreciation as I pass on—thanking me for coming and saving them. That is, after all, what we Americans are, each one of us: saviors to the world, saints, we’re all Mormons, we’re all Latter-day Saints—we know it and it makes us happy. We’re all huge, white, and important and we’re all going to die happy because we’re all goddamned saints.
In truth, though--yes, damn it, I will have another drink--I am a failure. Do I contradict myself? So be it, who the fuck cares, I contain multitudes!
As I look back now with the seasoned perspective of several years, I see that many of the things I did as younger man (and, by that, I mean just the other day, too) were pretty stupid. In fact, unlike that lyric in the song “My Way” (“Mistakes? I’ve made a few, but, then, again, too few to mention.”), I see my life now as a series of idiotic misadventures one atop another. I see myself from this gray-bearded historical perspective as an hysterical, maladjusted, thick-headed, hormonally driven psychopath.
I, like all of us, I suppose, am what I am not. By that, I mean that I am constructed—my personality is created—by a complex series of lies.
In an effort to create even more lies, now, I must name this narrator and begin then, the characterization process in this (currently) first-person narrative. Remember, now, that a narrator and an author are two different people. The author is the medium through which the narrator speaks. They are, in no way, related and must be psychically separated (always remember, there is “a rat” in “separate”). The author of this book is not the person I am going to introduce right now. If I were a less intrusive narrator, I would have a character cleverly say my name in a bit of strangely unnecessary dialogue: “ Billy said to me, ‘Byron Hollywood Jones, you get your feets over here!’” But I have chosen not to tell my story that way, so I will introduce myself as if we’re standing together awkwardly trying to figure out what to do with our elbows (w’s are elbows: awkward elbows, jostle, jostle, bump, oops, sorry, etc.) at a party. We’re beside a large beautiful window in a large beautiful apartment, no, condo, overlooking a large beautiful river--the East River! Or, let’s say, the Detroit River, if we’re in Detroit--and you’re holding your thumb over the crack in the impossibly little cup filled with warm Chardonnay. I’m so drunk I have to lean against the wall to steady myself. I hate parties and always get loaded before them. I’m looking at a black shoebox with lights and switches. There is an unbalanced pile of shiny, ultramodern mini-records –78’s, could it be?--rising beside the odd-looking machine. I wonder if that’s a fucking CD player, I’m wondering, as you lick the wine from your thumb and grin stupidly. Goddamn, I’m getting old. Whatever happened to just your basic fucking record? Your good old fashioned Close-and-Play?
“I’m Penny Marshall,” you say, because you’re the actress Penny Marshall right now.
“Really?” I say. I’ve only met one or two rich and famous people before, and then they certainly didn’t introduce themselves—they stayed at a distance and let everybody fawn all over them and whisper about them and then, later—as people became less interested in their (let’s face it, stupid) presence--they got cranky and created grave concern to their handlers.
“Wow, I remember you from The Odd Couple.” You played the zany upstairs neighbor, I think. I haven’t seen any (0) of your movies, though as I stand there feeling even more stupid, I remember that you’ve made a bunch of them. In other words, once again, I’ve fucked up in a delicate social situation. Your zany neighbor character probably wasn’t the highlight of your career.
You sigh, but smile nicely and look out at the river twinkling in the darkness.
“Well, my name’s Byron H. Jones.”
“Nice to meet you.”
I know you could not care less, but I think it is nice of you to appear interested. You take a quick second look at my head. I have an unbelievably large head. I can hear your thoughts.
Penny Marshall is a very nice person, I decide. That thought, and the three bottles of wine I’ve managed to drink by way of the little plastic shot glass the idiot host has provided, embolden me to offer the next line: “That’s not the part of my name that’s interesting to you, though,” I say, sagaciously. “My middle name is…Hollywood.”
I lean into your face expectantly. “Hollywood,” I say, controlling a chuckle. “Your favorite place. Movie—fucking movie land, right?”
“Hollywood!” You say fakely, and this time you want me to know it—at least that’s what I think now as I examine it.
“All your movies,” I say. “It’s not like I don’t know about your movies!”
Jones— James Bond theme— Byron Jones. It’s nice to meet you, I’m Byron Hollywood Cheese. I wonder if I’ve actually said that and then I correct myself: “Jones, I mean. Byron Hollywood Jones.” I laugh at myself and my goofy-ass reflection
grinning across the huge deck of a small (what appears to be) oil tanker. Everything’s orange and purple out there in the watery dusk.
When I look back at you, with the words “You must think I’m an idiot” on my tongue, you’re long gone.