Jimmy and I have not spoken for several days. His Superman flick is really picking up steam. Penelope Cruz has signed on with the only condition being she and Starlett Johannson perform a pseudo-quasi-hardcore sex scene to be choreographed by their lawyers. Every time Jimmy walks by me in the apartment I feel like kicking him in the balls. Really, really hard.
Perhaps I am jealous. Yes, the thought has entered my mind. Hey, I’m happy for him. I once considered him my best friend. But, the question here–and I don’t think I’m out of line–is why the fuck should all this great stuff be happening to him?
But, mainly, I think it’s his attitude. He’s got this this look on his face now like he’s smarter than everyone else even though everyone else knows his brain is made of mouse turds and stale marshmallows. Actually, he’s starting to look and smell like a Republican.
This morning he was sitting in my chair drinking out of my coffee cup when he finally broke the silence. “The limo’s downstairs. I’m leaving in 10 minutes.”
“Oh,” I said, not looking up. “That’s too bad.”
“I see you’re going to be a jerk all the way up to the last second.”
When I said nothing Jimmy drained my coffee cup and set it down. “Fine,” he stated. “Since I’m clearly a bigger man than you I’m going to swallow my pride, ignore your jealousy and turn you on to something before I split.” He flicked the newspaper at me.
“Read that,” he said, jabbing his finger at an article in the NY Times. It was one of 239 pieces that appeared this week lamenting the Sad and Sorry State of Independent Film.
“I read it already, ” I snapped.
“Yeah?” Jimmy returned, pushing the paper in my face. “Did you read this paragraph?”
“I said I read it!” I said and shoved the paper back at him.
Jimmy’s laugh again struck me as eerily McCainish–dry and scaly like an old, blind cockroach running up a wall. “I don’t know why I bother,” he said. “But I guess deep down inside I still care.”
He leaned closer, tapping the paragraph with slow, steady importance. “Everyone wants to know what’s happened to Independent Film. Well, here it is spelled out in black and white; tattoos, bangs and a vintage dress.”
That made me sit up. “Wait a second. Real ones?”
Jimmy nodded. “Yeah, dude. Real tats.”
“No, I meant the bangs.”
“What about them?”
“They were real too?”
“Of course they were! See what I’m saying?! She wore bangs to the Oscars!”
Jimmy gazed back at the article, his smile broadening in clear admiration. “It’s hip and Hollywood at the same time. That’s the secret. She’s got both games goin’. That’s how you win. You morph; you adapt.”
“Wow,” I murmured. “You’re talking about something like Hollydent, or Indiewood?”
“Now you’re gettin’ it,” Jimmy grinned. “See that? It’s the attraction of opposites; the yin and yang. And look; she wore a vintage dress too.”
If I was getting it, it was only for a moment. “That’s where I’m a little confused,” I said. “It doesn’t say ‘vintage’ dress. It says ‘vintage-looking’ dress.”
Jimmy’s eyes quickly hardened. “What’s your point.”
“Well, some vintage-looking dresses cost a lot of money. Would that still qualify Ms. Diabldoll as hip and indie?”
Jimmy’s lip lifted in a tight sneer. “That’s your problem right there, man.”
“Hey, I’m serious. I saw a cool shirt in a vintage store in LA but it cost 450 bucks. I’d have to direct three Iron Mans to afford that kind of life style.”
Jimmy got up. “Yeah, but you never would, would you? You’re just just too damn stupid to play the game.”
I stood too. “That’s kind of a mean thing to say.”
“Stupid,” Jimmy repeated.
Things got a little crazy just then. Jimmy sort of accidentally knocked over my guitar and I sort of intentionally hit him in the teeth with my coffee cup. He fell to the floor. I helped him over to the couch, taking care to make sure his head was tilted so the blood dripped on his shirt instead of the cushions.
I sat down next to him. “You keep mentioning the word ‘game’, Jimmy. But, where’s the joy in playing it? And what do you win?”
Jimmy didn’t answer. I guess it wasn’t fair to ask him questions since he wasn’t quite conscious yet. So I just kept talking.
“See, independent film used to be just that–independent. Outside the system. That’s where the joy was; making a film against all odds. Making a film that said ‘fuck you’ to all the restrictions of Hollywood. Making a film for no money because then you could make the film exactly the way you wanted. That’s where the kick was. You were free. You weren’t governed by anything except your lunatic obsession to make a film.”
I peered closer at him. “Do you know what I mean, Jimmy?” I thought I saw his lip twitch which encouraged me to continue.
“That’s why Hollywood and Independent don’t go together. They don’t morph. If it’s really Hollywood, and it’s really Independent they cancel each other out. In fact they poison each other. It’s like Church and State; Britney and KFed–both are better off when they’re legally separated. Otherwise everything gets very confused and reviews start appearing about the “indie edginess” of action figure flicks that gross 200 million dollars. Independent once meant free from the money; free from the System. Now, it means fighting like meth-freaks to get into the System. It means doing whatever it takes to win the approval of the Suits, to make them happy, to make them Money. The real joy was in breaking all the rules, not playing by them.”
I smiled at Jimmy as memories came flooding back. “Remember when we first started? Remember that guy down in Alphabet City who sold raw film stock for nothing? It was damaged shit that studio films were throwing out but we bought it and every inch of film that ran through our camera was a fuckin’ victory for us.”
I nudged Jimmy’s leg, catching him when he started to fall over. “Hey, remember that girl who projected her first feature on the wall in that bar down on St. Marks Place? It was all shot on super 8 but it was a feature and we were in awe. Remember that, Jimmy?”
Jimmy stared at me, a flicker of some emotion struggling in his eyes. Just then the intercom buzzed. We both stood.
“That’s my driver,” Jimmy said finally. “I’m lettin’ him in. He used to work for Vin Diesel. He’s gonna come in here and kick your ass.”
I looked at Jimmy for a long moment and felt an immense heaviness weighing down on me. “Alright then,” I said. And I kicked Jimmy in the balls. As hard as I could. But, as he fell his finger found the intercom button.
A moment later my front door opened and Dr. Owen walked in. He stood staring at me with a strained, wary smile.
“Hello, Tom,” he said. “It’s been quite a while.”
“Yes, it has,” I said. “It certainly has.”
I was glad to see him. It was a good opportunity to finally introduce him to Jimmy. But when I turned Jimmy was no longer lying on the floor behind me. All that remained was the faint shadow of a tattoo, some bangs and a vintage-looking dress.