Thursday, May 28, 1998

It's a Horrible Life


GEORGE is in the lotus position. Chanting …

GEORGE: (intoning) I am I. I am my own reality. I create my own reality. I create my own choices. I create what is right for me and what is right for me is what I choose to create. I create my own reality. I create my own...

The door bursts open.

JEFF: You seen the disk?

GEORGE: Please respect my space.

JEFF: You seen the disk?

GEORGE: (repeating -- as if the question is gibberish) Have I seen your disk?

JEFF: (desperately) Have you seen my disk?

GEORGE: What disk?

JEFF: My zip disk. My project disc. It's got all my work on it...

GEORGE: You only made one backup?

JEFF: (starting to lose it) I made ten backups but it's all degaussed...somebody...the hard drive's garbage. Somebody broke in and...

JEFF stops, realizing that, of course, GEORGE is the one who did all that. GEORGE being GEORGE, there is nothing JEFF can possibly do about it.

GEORGE: I'd be happy to help you look for it. Really.

JEFF looks at him for a second then turns red. Shuts the door.

GEORGE: (mimicking) Boohoohoo. What a dick. (shutting eyes, sitting on the floor again, folding up his legs and going back into meditation. Intoning...) I create my own reality. I create my own right and wrong. Good and evil is what I say it is because I am God in my personal universe.

Go to: GEORGE in his car. The same mantra he's been repeating is coming out of his tape/CD player.

JEFF crosses the parking lot. GEORGE studies him.

GEORGE: Hey Jeff. You found the disk yet?

JEFF stops.

GEORGE: Guess what? What if I told you I had it -- in my glove compartment? You wouldn't do anything, about would you? That's because you're a fucking loser, Jeff. You gonna do something? No.

Jeff just stands there

GEORGE: I know what you're thinking Jeff. You want to kill yourself, right? That's why you're standing here. You know something? I think that's a good idea. Kill yourself.

JEFF doesn't say anything, but he's devastated. His face is a wreck of pain.

GEORGE walks up to him.

GEORGE: Kill yourself, you fucking loser. Do it. Do your wife a favor. Do the fucking gene pool a favor. We all have to make choices.

Out of nowhere, CLARENCE, this balding, middle-aged guy, appears and gets between GEORGE and JEFF.

CLARENCE: (sadly) George, George...

GEORGE: Hey, fuck off.

CLARENCE: Actually, I think it's you who should kill yourself.

GEORGE: (turning around, then karate kicking out at him) Fucking FAGGOT!

CLARENCE: Actually, I'm an angel. We have no sexual identity to speak of. You would know that.


CLARENCE: ...if you knew your Origen.


CLARENCE: But of course you don't...

Already out of breath, GEORGE bends down, picks up a lead pipe and begins swinging it in violent arcs through the air where CLARENCE is standing. The pipe, repeatedly, passes through CLARENCE's shimmering form without hurting him. GEORGE, bellowing in rage like an animal, keeps swinging until he exhausts himself, falls to his knees, dropping the pipe on the snow. Clouds of steam come out of his mouth. He's gasping. CLARENCE just calmly stands there. The sound seems muted now. Everything frozen.

CLARENCE: Out of breath already?

GEORGE: Fuh..fuh...ff....

CLARENCE: Your sensei considers you a disappointment. You're aware of that, right?

GEORGE: Why is he just standing there? (shouting to JEFF) Hey, fucker. Fucking jump, you fucking loser.

CLARENCE: Jeff can't hear you. Time has stopped you see.

GEORGE looks around: cross-cutting sequence. Nothing moves, even the smoke coming out of the chimneys across the bridge.

GEORGE: (closing his eyes) This isn't happening.

CLARENCE: Nothing is happening.

GEORGE: It's a momentary lapse of reason.

CLARENCE: No it isn't. And please try to talk without quoting self-help tapes and Pink Floyd.

GEORGE: It's a momentary lapse of fucking reason and you don't fucking exist!

CLARENCE: Or alternate between self-realization jargon and thuggery. Don't don't do that either. That'd be nice, too.

GEORGE: (laughing at the absurdity of it) That’s your opinion?

CLARENCE: That's my opinion.

GEORGE: Well, you don't have a right to an opinion because you don't exist. Fucking hallucination or something.

GEORGE shuts his eyes.

CLARENCE: I exist. Cogito ergo sum and so forth.

GEORGE: You can't exist! I swung that fucking pipe right through you!

CLARENCE: Yes you did, George. Yes, you did. But that really doesn't prove anything. I'm real, but not like you. Insubstantial, and so forth. Like I said, I'm an angel.

GEORGE: (opening eyes) My guardian angel?

CLARENCE: Your guardian angel is dead.


CLARENCE: You murdered him, George. There are casualties in the war in heaven.

GEORGE: Aw, come on. You can't murder angels... Like when was I supposed to...?

CLARENCE: It's that dream where you always wake up screaming -- and that’s really all I'm allowed to tell you. But, to get back to your inquiry, I'm not your guardian angel. I'm the angel assigned to guard the world from you.

GEORGE: From me?

CLARENCE: You, my friend, have bought death into the world.

GEORGE: Fuck you, Mr. Whoever you are. I choose to create my own reality and within that reality I create positive energy and sometimes that means a little death. But it's all leading up to something.

CLARENCE: Yes, I know. You're going to steal a man's life's work and use the money to produce your own martial arts movies starring you. And you're not even very good.

GEARGE: That's what editing's for. It's all be worth it, pal.

CLARENCE: It will?

GEORCE: Yeah, because I'm going to make the world a better fucking place.

CLARENCE: You? With your movies?

GEORGE: Fucking-A. My movies will teach positive fucking values to the kids.


GHORGE: Just say no and be all that you can be. Could we go now? Jump-start time on whatever?

CLARENCE: So, you can talk that man into jumping off the bridge and become an even greater mediocrity than Steven Segal?

GEORGE: So I can achieve my full potential by any means necessary.

CLARENCE: And teach positive values to the kids?

GEORGE: Yeah, fucker, because I'm going to go out there and make a difference and in my reality there are no boundaries and kids need to know that and they will because that's my choice. The world will be a better place because I'm fucking in it. Me and people like me.

CLARENCE: You really think you're making the world a better place?

GEORGE: What did I just say, huh? What did I just say?

CLARENCE: Because you're in it?

GEORGE: Fucking-A.

CLARENCE: Would you like to see what life would be like if you'd never been born?

GEORGE: Whatever.

GEORGE: I was never born -- so the liberals took over. That's what you're telling me?

CLARENCE: Not exactly.

Reality warps, runs together, like wet paint on a spinning disk. It congeals again. Different reality. The future that didn't happen.

GEORGE: Fuck that a monorail? You killed the cars -- that's why it's so fucking quiet.

CLARENCE: The cars run on hydrogen.

GEORGE: W-what's this? Like Disneyworld or something?

CLARENCE: No, George. It's not a ride -- it's reality, or one possible reality, specifically the one in which you were never born. In this timeline, it isn't necessary to confine hope for the future to the realm of nostalgia.

GEORGE: Well, I'll be damned.

CLARENCE: It's a distinct possibility.

GEOREE: What's that doohickey?

CLARENCE: That's a solar energy collecting station, George.

GEORGE: What a load of crap. Solar's not cost-effective.

CLARENCE: Of course not, starting from your assumptions. Remember Jackson DeWald?


CLARENCE: Remember track? Junior High Varsity?

GEORGE: Oh yeah! Dickson. "Dickwad." Skinny little dipshit dick. Tried to pass me up once and I broke his leg for him.

CLARENCE: He never recovered. That spark he had? Gone.

GEORGE: Aw, too bad, boo-hoo. It's called competition, Angel-boy. Maybe you don't play that way in the clouds, but that's how it works down here. You gotta play rough if you hang with the big dogs.

CLARENCE: But in this future he had nothing to recover from. You were never there to break his leg so he continued to run. He went on to become a High School track star, got an athletic scholarship and did quite well in engineering.

GEORGE: Yeah, he always was a dickwad. Your point?

CLARENCE: (pointing) Well, he invented it, George. Your doohickey. See those panels? If you study it up close it would resemble a leopard skin -- nanotechnology, you see? Really very beautiful, if you look at it. If you look closely. A hexagonal pattern. Each cell capable of converting, storing and transmitting...

GEORGE: Boring.

CLARENCE: George...

GEORGE: Fuck you and your nanotechnology. Fuck you any your lizard skin. Ask me if I care: no. Ask me if I give a fuck: no. Fuck, you, fuck you, fuck you. I choose not to listen to you. I choose not to create this reality.

He walks away, disoriented, back across the public square trying to find his car. He finds it -- its tires have been slashed.

GEORGE: Some utopia.

CLARENGE: I never said it was utopia, George...

GHORGE: Get the fuck away from me.

He runs through downtown.

Just enough has changed to make him confused. The closer he gets, the less futuristic it all looks. GEORGE stops seeing the monorails and video displays, and starts seeing the street level details. He slows down, stops running, starts walking, edgy, pulled into himself. The city looks interesting...but not exactly safe.

There are lots more people on the sidewalk -- way too many. Buildings are still standing that had been torn down years ago...and some haven't been painted! There are streetcars and street walkers...too many cars, too many people. GEORGE wanders around sneering, shaking his head, muttering...liberals...fucking liberals. There's a snarl of ugly hand-written signs on the shop widows, ugly, non-uniform newspaper boxes and vendors with sidewalk stands selling you name it, delivery trucks and cars and pedestrian traffic all moving wherever they please -- there’s obviously no code enforcement or aesthetic uniformity, God, no, what's that, even a fucking Laundromat -- all that shit the Downtown Committee cleaned up years ago was back. The Downtown Renaissance Project...

GEORGE had been in on it: he'd been part of the original Committee of Ten that gave birth to the Downtown Renaissance Project, a total downtown makeover, a positive push to clean up and go upscale. The Committee had rallied the downtown merchants behind it whether they liked it or not -- and the drive succeeded. They had created progress and taken bold steps to build the Downtown of the 21st Century by putting in pretty, old timey gaslights and lots of busy brickwork and plantings and remodeling all the buildings to look like Louis XIIV's personal whorehouse. Trey created a business-friendly atmosphere by cutting down on dangerous, freely-moving car traffic and people randomly stopping their cars and shopping at will with median strips, traffic abatement humps and rigid code enforcement; they cut down on those loud, nasty outdoor musicians and shuttered, rowdy outdoor clubs with noise ordinances; cut down on dirty little retail businesses by coversine all the ugly signs over the shops with exactly spherical oak trees and -- most importantly -- cut down on the wrong kind of social element by carving up that huge, dangerous green space in the center of town -- that anachronistic, non-revenue generating space that was at one time called the town square where people sold drugs, got mugger and bums slept on benches -- by turning that space into much needed downtown parking and the equivalent of six football fields of asphalt, which came in handy for the downtown's profitable street fairs. They said it couldn’t be done but the Downtown Renaissance worked. The Committee had done it. They had cleaned up the town....

If only most of the original merchants had remained in business long enough to see it.

But it was all undone now -- fucking liberals! -- as if none of the Committee’s hard work had ever happened, as if none of the city commissioners had ever been paid a nickel under the table...

In isn't all clean anymore. It isn't all the same.

And George walks through the wreckage of his dream muttering liberals, liberals...

There's noise, traffic, confusion, old people, young people on skateboards, dirty people, black people. Downtown still has grocery stores, filling stations and apartment buildings. People still live where they work! The scale seems smaller: less gentrified, less intimidating. It’s not all cleaned up! Nobody's enforcing code to make it all look exactly the same!

GEORGE looks up and can actually see clothes hanging from a line. The city ... is wrong! It all seems more like a European city and he hates it. He passes a newsstand, looks inside...

It's not supposed to be a newsstand.

Years ago it stopped being a newsstand, turned into a card shop that served a thousand varieties of the world's coffee and cigars, America’s three top daily newspapers, the local daily newspaper, GQ and Cigar Aficionado. But now it's a newsstand again, crammed with dirty, yellowing, smudgy newspapers from everywhere...

He looks down through the glass. Squinting.

He sees that there are three daily newspapers in this town alone...

Screams. Runs.

Acting on instinct alone, his feet take him to his favorite cigar bar. He opens the door and walks in and immediately knows there's something wrong -- because the air is full of oxygen. Blinking in confusion, he sees that there are no cigars. He staggers to a table. A waitress comes.

WAITRESS: (vaguely southern accent) Coffee, hon?

GEORGE: Gimme a mochachokayaya mochachino latte frappe. Lite.

WAITRESS: (putting hand on hip) You want a coffee or not, smart guy?

GEORGE: How 'bout a beer?

WAITRESS: (chewing gum) You wanna beer?

GEORGE: Anchor Steam.


GEORGE: Haitian Blackened Voodoo?

WAITRESS: Look...I ain't got all day, hon.

GEORGE: (desperately) Sam Adams?

WAITRESS: Sam Adams don't work here. You wanna beer or not?

GEORGE: Well what do you...

WAITRESS: We got Miller, we ain't got Bud. What's the difference? It's beer.

CLARENCE: (sitting down) Get him a beer.

WAITRESS: You got it. You?

CLARENCE: I'm fine.


GEORGE laughs to himself.

GEORGE: "Hon"...hahahha. (imitating accent) "Hon."

CLARENCE: George...

GEORGE: Some fucking utopia.

CLARENCE: I told you it's not...

GEORGE: Guess what? I like my world. I like my microbreweries.

CLARENCE: There are still microbreweries. Some. It's just not so important...

GEORGE: It is to me. I like my consumer choices. All of them. Every last one.

CLARENCE: Look at her.

GEORGE: That fucking waitress outta Alice? Her?

CLARENCE: In your world she's a homeless person. (gesturing at the people around them) These other people? He's dead; she's in prison; he's on methadone maintenance.


CLARENCE: Jackson DeWald...

GEORGE: We still talking about him?

CLARENCE: Nanotechnology led to cheap solar also led to cheap fusion which had the effect on the late 20th-century that steam did at the beginning of the 19th. Another industrial revolution. Cheap energy led to incredible inventions,amazing creativity...

GEORGE: All because I didn't push Geekson off the track?

CLARENCE: Well, no. Not just because of that. Remember Dan Matthews, RPTC?

GEORGE: Yeah. I remember. He was a fucking kike, man. Real name's Mathias. Changed it, y'know?

CLARENCE: And you set him up for an honor offense.

GEORGE: (righteously) Well...he lied.

CLARENCE: Matthews...or Mathias...went on to become part of Special Forces. The Mossad contacted him during the Iranian hostage crisis.

GEORGE: They all hang together, you know.

CLARENCE: They were able to share their expertise as to the problem of sand in the rotors -- which is the reason Jimmy Carter's abortive attempt to rescue the hostages in 1979 succeeded and Carter went on to a second term.

GEORGE: Drove the economy into the ground and let the Soviets take over the world.

CLARENCE: No. The Soviet Union fell of its own dead weight -- and not because of trillions of dollars of defense spending on unlimited credit. The economy revived as a result of natural business cycles -- without the savings and loan crisis and other benefits of voodoo economics. PAATCO of course win their strike...

GEORGE: Yeah, and I betcha that destroyed the airlines.

CLARENCE: Well, no. Actually they succeeded in upgrading the entire system by 0985. Which paved the way for the beginnings of commercial space flight during the Hart administration.

GEORGE: Hart? Gary Hart?

CLARENCE: Gary Hart.

GEORGE: Hart's a flake.

CLARENCE: In point of fact ,history has proved his ideas to be essentially sound.

GEORGE: That's anti-progress and chances are this whole town is a big liberal fake you rigged up to win me over.

CLARENCE: You mean like a Potemkin Village?

GEORGE: No. I mean like one big phony stage set stocked with actors that's supposed to look good. I'll bet the rest of the country is just a buncha savages sitting in huts and there's no technology, right?

CLARENCE: Wrong. Actually, there's a moon base, a space station, the beginning of a colony on Mars. America is still an industrial giant.

GEORGE: Yeah? Well that's bullshit. You're telling me there’s all this technology but everything looks small and dirty...

CLARENCE: Because there's a lot of energy and a lot of money and a lot of people have it. It isn't that important to look like you’ve got a lot of money.

GEORGE: I'll betcha they put all the conservatives in forced labor camps.

CLARENCE: Kemp won the election in '88 and '92.

GEORGE: Oh, now I get it! And he ran you guys into the camps -- That's what got America back on track.

CLARENCE: No. What did it was the end of the drug war. Kemp had sense enough so do that...

GEORGE: Kemp wouldn't do that!

CLARENCE: Actually, he did...and the heavens didn't fall. As a matter of fact.

GEORGE: I don't need this in my reality! I don’t choose to create this!

He runs, screaming, headed straight for the bad part of town envisioning needles, bloody beatings and dirty, psychotic sex with crack whores -- all the better td blast his way out of this delusional reality by an act of sick, self-destruction. There is no bad part of town. There are prostitutes and drugs -- but none of what he finds is sordid and dirty enough for a decent act of self destruction because that's all legal now.

GEORGE: Fuck no...public transit!

GEOPGE: You fucking liberals! You blew it up! Damn you! Damn you to hell!

CLARENCE: I really do think you should kill yourself now.

GEORGE: Maybe I'll fucking kill you.

CLARENCE: You see what you've done...

GEORGE: Yeah...I made it a better word.

CLARENCE: A better world?

GEORGE: Yeah, for me, fucker, it's better for me -- and fuck you’re fucking dirty crowded city with hydrogen cars, mass transit and no microbreweries and jobs for dicks. Fuck all these working-class shmucks with jobs and factories and a fucking space program. My world is better for me and fuck everybody else. And I am going to kill you, you fucking dick.

CLARENCE: You use that word a lot. 8,789,882 times, to be precise.


CLARENCE: 8,789,483.

GEORGE: I'm gonna kill you...

CLARENCE: You can't.

GEORGE: I killed that other angel. That's what you told me.

He swings, but nothing happens.

CLARENCE: George....

He swings again.

CLARENCE disappears. GEORGE looks around, realizing that he's back on the bridge. Time seems to be moving again. He stands there, gathering himself, looking around -- then does a double take. Sees JEFF, standing at the rail. Walks up, ready to push him over, then thinks twice and steps back.

GEORGE: (softly, to himself -- steam curling out of his mouth) I am God in my own reality. I choose to create my own reality.

Like a magician, GEORGE raises his hands.

GEORGE: Hey Jeff?

JEFF just stands there.

GEORGE: (softly) Kill yourself.

And JEFF, obediently, jumps. Falls towards us...

And, as it always works out in these things, JEFF, of course, is wearing GEORGE's face.

No comments:

Post a Comment