Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Conversation Number Two - Interview With The Last Of The Mohicans'

For my second "conversational" outing, I decided on an experiment in prevarication.  I don't know why.  I stink at that.  Maybe it was the challenge.  Anyway, here it is.


INTERVIEWER:  Today, we are fortunate to have with us a, literally, unique human being.  The last of the Mohicans.  Mr. -- I’m sorry, I don’t know what to call you.

LAST:  Call me ‘Last.’ 

INTERVIEWER:  But you do have a name.

LAST:  I have a Mohican name.

INTERVIEWER:  Okay...

LAST:  But I can’t pronounce it.

INTERVIEWER:  You can’t pronounce your own name?
   
LAST:  Pathetic, isn’t it?

INTERVIEWER:  Isn’t there someone who can tell you...

LAST:  I’m the last of the Mohicans.  Who am I going to ask?

INTERVIEWER:  Okay, then.  ‘Last’ it is.  Speaking of your name, you probably know there’s a book called ‘The Last of the Mohicans.’

LAST:  Cooper.

INTERVIEWER:  Yes, by James Fenimore Cooper.

LAST:  It’s a fake.

INTERVIEWER:  The book?

LAST:  The book, I never read.  The title’s a fake. 

INTERVIEWER:  Because he wasn’t the last of the Mohicans.

LAST: Obviously.

INTERVIEWER: Then, why did they call it...

LAST:  Marketing.  Who’d buy a book called ‘Pretty Close to the Last of the Mohicans’?  

INTERVIEWER:  Does it bother you that they...?

LAST:  Hey, everyone’s gotta make a living.  But I felt I deserved a cut, you know, for expropriating my distinction.  So I went looking for this Fenimore guy.  Turns out, he’s been dead since, like, 1823.

INTERVIEWER:  Actually, Cooper died in...

LAST:  I really don’t care.  ‘Last of the Mohicans.’  Can you believe that?  The guy was off by over two hundred years.

INTERVIEWER:  Speaking of believing, some people may have trouble believing you are actually who you say you are.

LAST: You mean, like you.

INTERVIEWER:  Well, I do have some reservations...

LAST:  Why would I pretend a thing like that?  It’s not like it gets me a better table in restaurants.  ‘Hey, Wolfgang, some Mohican wants to eat here.’  ‘Great!  Cancel the Katzenberg party.’  It gets me nothing.  Maybe in Mohican restaurants it might have some cachet, but, you know, there aren’t any.  You can’t make a business out of one customer.  Less than one.  Sometimes I like to eat other things.

INTERVIEWER
:  It might bolster your credibility if you filled in some details.  For instance, is there a story in how you found out you were the last of the Mohicans?

LAST:  Not really.  One day, my parents sat me down and said, ‘Son, you’re the last of the Mohicans.’  Not very colorful, but they weren’t very colorful people, except for their skin, which had a reddish tint.

INTERVIEWER:  Unlike your own.

LAST:  Right.  I’m a light-skinned Mohican. 

INTERVIEWER:  I see.

LAST:  You’re not buying this, are you?

INTERVIEWER:  No, no….

LAST:  I’m noticing a skeptical tone.

INTERVIEWER:  May if you told me some more.

LAST:  All right, let’s see.  My father was the second last of the Mohicans, and my mother was the third.  They’d fight about that all the time.  She’d say, ‘I’m younger, so I’m the second last.’  And Dad would scream, ‘It has nothing to do with when you were born; it’s the order in which you die!’  And she’d yell, ‘Who said I’m dying first?’  It’d go on like that for hours.  And it escalated – they’d throw pottery at each other.  Can you imagine what that stuff would be worth today?  Authentic Mohican pottery?  I have some shards, but they tell me they’re worthless.   

INTERVIEWER:  So as far as you’re concerned, there’s absolutely no doubt...

LAST:  Excuse me, is there a draft in here?

INTERVIEWER:  I don’t think so...

LAST:  I’m the last of the Mohicans, you know.  I have to take care of my health.

INTERVIEWER:  I underst...

LAST:  Got to protect the franchise.

INTERVIEWER:  Of course.

LAST:  Because when I go, that’s it.  You can close the book on the Mohicans. 

INTERVIEWER:  I take it you’re not married.

LAST:  I play the field.

INTERVIEWER:  But if you wanted to extend your lineage, why not marry and have a child?

LAST:  They’d only be half a Mohican.

INTERVIEWER:  Half a Mohican is better than none.

LAST:  Catchy, but untrue.  Nobody cares about the last of the semi-Mohicans.

INTERVIEWER:  I suppose.  Do you mind if I throw you a hypothetical?

LAST:  Fire away.

INTERVIEWER:  Let’s say, hypothetically, that you’re not the last of the Mohicans?  What if you made it all up?

LAST:  Is this how you treat a guest?  I am deeply offended.  If you interview the president, do you say, ‘Let’s say you’re not the president’?  He is the president!  And I’m the last of the Mohicans.

INTERVIEWER:  I was just being theoretical.

LAST:  I thought we were being hypothetical.  Make up your mind.

INTERVIEWER:  You’re acting kind of defensive...

LAST:  Defensive?  No.  I have nothing to hide. 

INTERVIEWER:  You have to understand my position.  A man walks into our studio claiming to be the last of the Mohicans.  It could be totally fabricated.  There is precedent for that. 

LAST:  Somebody else said they were the last of the Mohicans?

INTERVIEWER:  No…

LAST:  Then actually there isn’t.

INTERVIEWER:  People have misrepresented themselves in other ways.  Writing memoirs that were completely made up.

LAST:  Terrible.  People like that make it harder for everyone.           
INTERVIEWER:  So you understand my reservations…

LAST:  You know, you’ve said ‘reservations’ to me twice.  Do you use that word when you’re not talking to Indians?  Maybe that’s proof that I’m exactly who I say I am, did you ever think of that?  You sense I’m an Indian, and if I am – one more step – I’m the last of the Mohicans.

INTERVIEWER:  Or you’re not.

LAST:  Which brings us full circle.  ‘I’m not who I say I am.  Who am I?’

INTERVIEWER:  Exactly.  Who are you?

A BEAT.

LAST:  I’m a nobody.  A ‘never was’ and ‘never will be.’  I invent a persona, and for the first time in my life, people notice me.  Suddenly, I’m a somebody – I’m the last of the Mohicans.  People crave my company.  They’ll even pay for it.  I’m invited to rodeos, pow-wows, I cut the ribbon at shopping mall openings.  I’m important.  And I’m happy.  Then someone exposes me as a fraud, and the party’s over.  The question is, ‘Is it worth it?’  Is it worth sacrificing another man’s happiness for some meaningless ‘scoop’?  It comes down to this: A man’s fate lies in another man’s hands.  Does he send him back to oblivion, or does he act from the heart, and leave things the way they are? 

INTERVIEWER:  That was very moving.

LAST:  Thank you.  Any other questions?

INTERVIEWER:  I think we’ll leave it at that.  Our guest today has been the last of the Mohicans. 

LAST:  (TOUCHED)  Really?

INTERVIEWER:  Thank you for coming. 

LAST:  Na-mee-chee-ka.

INTERVIEWER:  Is that Mohican?

LAST:  As Mohican as I am.

INTERVIEWER:  That’s good enough for me.

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Conversation Number One - Interview With A Giraffe"

As previously mentioned, as a result of my lengthy departure, I have decided to supplement my original blog posts with some selected oldies from the past.  I have pinpointed a particular sub-genre for this week's re-offerings (or unread offerings if you have not been here since the beginning.)  

I hope you enjoy them.  

Without question, my most enjoyable form of blog writing is "The Conversation" - two or three characters simply talking to each other, like regular people, only they're made up, or at least their dialogue is made up, and occasionally, they're animals.

One of the earliest incarnations of these conversation is my "Interview With A Giraffe"  I first  performed a version this piece on a Canadian television variety show back in the mid-seventies.  I played the giraffe. Without costume, and without makeup.  When I was asked where my spots were, I replied, "I'm on my day off."

Before "Madagascar" and its sequels, I portrayed an animal who was terrified of the "wild."

The following is his only recorded interview.

Imagine a radio station where they interview human beings, but sometimes they don’t.  The following is an interview conducted at that station.

INTERVIEWER: Today, as a change of pace from interviewing human beings, I have as my guest a giraffe, direct from the wildest plains of Africa.  Mr. Giraffe, welcome.

GIRAFFE:  Hello, hi.  It’s good to be here.  And you can forget the ‘Mister.’  We animals don’t stand on ceremony.  Except for lions.  You know lions.  They got a mane, they think it’s a crown.  On the other hand, horses have manes and they’re fine, so go figure.

INTERVIEWER:  Uh-huh. 

GIRAFFE:  Am I jabbering?  I’m jabbering, aren’t I?

INTERVIEWER:  That’s all right.

GIRAFFE:  It’s just so good to open up.  In the wild, we’re not allowed to talk.

INTERVIEWER:   For safety reasons, I suppose.

GIRAFFE:  A lot of good that does us.  Okay, so we’re quiet giraffes.  The predators can’t hear us.  But, please, we’re twenty feet tall.  They can SEE US!  Being quiet only protects us from blind predators.  Like they’re a big problem.

INTERVIEWER:  Well, you can relax.  You’re quite safe here.

GIRAFFE:  Yes, I can sense that.  Speaking of ‘safe’, can you get me into a zoo?

INTERVIEWER:  You want to live in a zoo?

GIRAFFE:  I’d prefer it greatly, yes.

INTERVIEWER:  That’s kind of surprising.  A lot of people think animals shouldn’t be in zoos.

GIRAFFE:  Has anyone asked the animals?  Let’s see.  Zoos.  They feed you, they clean up your ‘habitat’, you get first class medical care, including dental, and you’re completely protected from predators who want to rip you to pieces and eat you.  Oh, yeah. Zoos are the worst.  The Circle of Life, that’s good.  It’s good in Disney movies!

INTERVIEWER:  You wouldn’t miss your freedom?

GIRAFFE:  In the wilds of Africa, we have this saying: “Freedom’s just another word for running for your life.”  Which reminds me, do we have time for a quick story?

INTERVIEWER:  Sure.

GIRAFFE:  This goes way back.  I’m a baby, six, maybe, seven feet tall.  I’m standing in the river with a bunch of other giraffes and we’re slaking our thirst, which is a fancy way of saying we’re drinking some water.  Suddenly, giraffe ears prick up, noses start to twitch – something’s going on.

INTERVIEWER:  Something dangerous.

GIRAFFE:  No, the ice cream truck is coming.  Of course, dangerous.

INTERVIEWER:  What’s the strategy in these situations?

GIRAFFE:  Our strategy is you run like crazy and, I know this isn’t nice, but you hope that they catch a different giraffe.

INTERVIEWER:  So you ran.

GIRAFFE:  They ran.  The other giraffes.  I was young and thirsty and I missed the signals.  I look up, everyone’s gone.

INTERVIEWER:  Oh, dear.

GIRAFFE:  ‘Oh dear’ is right.  ‘What’s going on?’, I’m thinking.  Then I look around, and there he is.  A lion.  It was the first one I’d ever seen, but you know, just looking at him, you know it’s not good.

INTERVIEWER:  You must have been terrified.

GIRAFFE:  To put it delicately, a lot of water went back into the river.

INTERVIEWER:  What did you do?

GIRAFFE:   Okay.  At this point, I have to reveal a confidence.  A secret no animal has ever revealed on the radio or anywhere else.  Are you interested in a ‘scoop’?

INTERVIEWER:  Of course. 

GIRAFFE:  You got it.  And I’m hoping – no quid pro quo, or anything – but, you know, if you want to be nice, in exchange for the ‘scoop’, that maybe you can help me…

INTERVIEWER:  …get into a zoo.

GIRAFFE:  Enough said – wink-wink.  Okay, here’s the ‘scoop,’ the fact that animals have kept to themselves since the beginning of time.  Are you ready?

INTERVIEWER:  I’m all ears.

GIRAFFE:  Okay.  In the jungle, every animal has, secreted, somewhere on his or her person, a book.

INTERVIEWER:  A book.

GIRAFFE:  It’s very small.  We have excellent eyesight.

INTERVIEWER:  I’ve never heard this before.

GIRAFFE:  Of course not, it’s a secret!  Were you not listening?

INTERVIEWER:  I’m sorry.  How have you kept it a secret so long?

GIRAFFE:  Animals are extremely disciplined.  Also, just before they die, animals are instructed to swallow the book.  Look in their mouths.  Tiny pages.

INTERVIEWER:  Does the book have a name?

GIRAFFE:  Yes.  The book is called Who Eats Who?  It’s a picture book, because, you know…

INTERVIEWER:  Animals can’t read.

GIRAFFE:  And don’t think it hasn’t held us back.  Here’s how it works.  You’re in the wild, and you spot an animal skulking in your proximity.  Strange animal, you’ve never seen it before.  Right away, you pull out your Who Eats Who? and you locate the picture in the book that matches the animal you’re looking at.  Now, underneath that picture, below the identifying name, you will find one of two arrows – an arrow pointing toward the animal, which means you run after him and eat him; or an arrow pointing away from the animal, which means, ‘Get the heck out of there before he eats you.’ 

INTERVIEWER:  Sounds like a very important book.

GIRAFFE:  It’s essential!  You lose that book, and before you know it, you’re a sandwich without the bread.  Okay, back to the story.  The lion starts heading my way.  I don’t know what he is, so I whip out my Who Eats Who?, I match him with the picture.

INTERVIEWER:  And you run away.

GIRAFFE:  That’s what I should have done.  But at that moment, I was so nervous, I misread the arrow and I thought that we ate them.

INTERVIEWER:  Oh, no.  So you…

GIRAFFE:  I a\ttacked the lion.  Was he surprised!  I mean, I get there and I start chewing on his leg with my leaf-eating teeth, and he’s just standing there.  Staring at me.  I mean, the guy couldn’t believe his eyes.  A giraffe is eating a lion.

INTERVIEWER:  Whoa.

GIRAFFE:  ‘Whoa’ is right!  The guy’s standing there in shock.  And before you know it, I ate him all up!

INTERVIEWER:  Incredible.

GIRAFFE:  But true.  I’ll never forget the last thing he said just before I ate his mouth.

INTERVIEWER:  What did he say?

GIRAFFE:  We eat you!’ 

INTERVIEWER:  Well.  That is truly an unforgettable story.

GIRAFFE:  Isn’t it?

INTERVIEWER:  Thank you for telling it.

GIRAFFE:  My absolute pleasure.  So you’ll get me into a zoo?

INTERVIEWER:  I’m sorry, I can’t.

GIRAFFE:  But we had an agreement.

INTERVIEWER:  I don’t believe we did.

GIRAFFE:  There was an unspoken assumption.  I’m certain of it.

INTERVIEWER:  Thank you for being with us. 

GIRAFFE:  This is so unfair!

INTERVIEWER:  Our guest today has been a giraffe, who will now go back where he came from.

GIRAFFE:  I have joint problems.  I’m not going to last.

Friday, October 17, 2014

"Hanging By A Thread"



When I was working, there was a surfeit of drama in my life (hoping that “surfeit” means an overwhelming amount.)  Even so, there were times when I imagined even more. 

“What’s more than a ‘surfeit’?”

I have no idea.

Once, years ago, on a Sunday evening, I decided to walk to the ocean from my West Los Angeles apartment, along a boulevarded street called San Vicente, a walk of approximately two miles – each way – in distance.  (This may be the definition of having “a lot of time on my hands.”)

When I got to the Pacific, having no particular reason to be there, I immediately turned around and I started back home.  Only to discover, on my return journey that I had walked too far for my abilities, and I was now entirely out of gas.  And not halfway back either.  I was, like, two blocks from the ocean.  And I was barely able to proceed.

Suddenly, I found myself thrust into a drama.  A “Desert Drama”, to be exact.  I now imagined myself trudging – every step an effort – uphill in the endless Sahara – alone, lost, exhausted and entirely out of water. 

Except that I was actually walking on a sidewalk beside a busy street, and there were cars passing by.  In a way, this reality, made things even worse.  People could see me.  But they did not know what I was going through.  (Dangerously sunburned, with a mouth full of sand.)

I was not sure I could make it.  It was Sunday.  No buses on San Vicente.  And you do not hail cabs in Los Angeles.  They just hide somewhere until they’re dispatched.

The situation seemed hopeless.  (Although I did purchase an ice cream at the half-way point in my desperate journey, which I mention in parentheses, so as not to undermine the scenario.  Besides, when I continued my trek, I could still barely move.  I just had some “Pistachio” in me, that’s all.)

Spoiler Alert:  I made it.  (Which you already know because I am writing this.  So you can forget about looking for my ‘remains’ on San Vicente, which, for some reason is pronounced, “San Vicenny.”)

FAST FORWARD TO LAST TUESDAY.

But first…

I do not trust… drawstring pants.  (Which, without mentioning it, includes drawstring shorts.)

For me to feel entirely secure, I need to have the strings that you pull tight and tie in a bow, plus an additional elastic waistband.  Otherwise, I have little to no faith that those drawstrings will stay up.

An unfounded paranoia? 

Not so fast.

I am entering our kitchen, wearing drawstring shorts.  Our magnificent housekeeper Connie (of more than thirty years impeccable service) is washing the dishes, her back to my arrival.  Suddenly, I let out a surprised “Oh!”

My drawstring shorts have just dropped to the floor.  (Revealing some colorful boxers beneath.)  This was no gradual, “sliding drop” situation.  The descending drawstrings zipped straight to the hardwood.

I do not know if my exclamation of surprise caused Connie to turn around.  I was too busy retrieving my drawstring shorts and returning them to their appropriate position.  It was admittedly quite a noisy “Oh!”  But when I looked back, she was still washing the dishes. 

My guess is she saw.  But, to allow things to remain comfortable, she simply turned back to the sink and pretended she didn’t.  I think, is what happened.

Anyway, the next morning, I am preparing for my Wednesday mile or so walk to Groundwork for some “Venice Blend” coffee and some accompanying exercise. 

For no reason, other than to inject some deliberate drama into my life,

I determine to wear those same drawstring shorts.  Outside.  Risking their falling down – as they once already had – but this time, in public.

I know.  I’m a daredevil.

I am determined to take all precautions.  To conscientiously lighten the load, I take a single five-dollar bill – for payment at Groundwork – instead of my entire wallet.  And instead of three keys and a keychain, I slip the house key alone off of the chain, and I insert it into my pocket.  I consider a single sheet of Kleenex in case of a sneeze, but I decide not to chance it.  Don’t want to weigh down the drawstrings.

I depart the house.  Concerned, but inwardly excited.  And justifiably so.  I am leaving with loose pants.

As I proceed, like a gunslinger practicing his fast draw, I simulate a series of lightning-quick moves towards my midsection, hoping to manually intervene at the first sign of a problem.  Lord knows what the people passing me on the street were thinking.  But I didn’t care.  I wanted to be ready.  To avoid embarrassment and a possible uncomfortable visit from an L.A.-based SVU unit, the “U”, in this case, standing for underpants.

I find myself behind a man walking his poodle.  You know how they say that animals can anticipate natural disasters, like an earthquake.  Well, this poodle kept turning around and staring at me, as if the dog were somehow prescient and it could already visualize the drawstrings around my ankles.

The poodle gives me the creeps.  So I cross to the other side of the street.

I make it to Groundwork without incident, although I did sense some worrisome “movement” from time to time, leading me to preemptively adjust my gait – slower, and with my legs pressed closer together, so, should an “accident” occur, I can clamp them together, intercepting the dropping drawstrings on their way to the ground.

The “return trip” offers a unique difficulty.  I am now holding a cup of coffee.  Leaving me but one hand at my disposal. 

I begin to experience disturbing feelings of “déjà vu.”  It was on the “return trip” that my San Vicente stroll nightmared into a Kalahari Death March.  (From a disaster standpoint, all deserts are the same.)  Perhaps, once again, the big trouble will occur on the way back home.  Still, inexplicably, I momentarily lose focus, composing elements of this blog post rather than staying ever vigilant to the telltale indicators of imminent pants droppage.

Fortunately, however,

I made it. 

I do not know why my pants “went south” in the kitchen but remained securely in place throughout my walk; I had tied the same kind of knot both times.  Not that I wanted my pants to fall down in a public area.  I am not an exhibitionist.  Other, perhaps, than a verbal one.

So why did I do it?  I guess I just needed the excitement. 

Some people turn to bullfighting.

I wear unreliable drawstrings on the street.