Friday, November 28, 2008

What's Been Going On In Des Moines Lately, Probably By Gary Britson

Now that summer is over and everyone is back from the Green Day tour, I thought I'd go over some of the stuff that's been happening in Des Moines lately, if you're still interested.

Legal Update: I am pleased to announce that the City Council has finally outlawed Dixieland bands from the County Fair if two or more members of said band are retired accountants. There were just too many of them and they were getting in the way.

My dog Oates: She wasn't really lost. She was just over at the union hall, digging up Jimmy Hoffa again. I didn't mean to worry everyone when I sounded the alarm last spring, but she's just about the only one around here who'll give me the time of day any more since I went on probation.

My brother Earl: Now that he's back from his tour of duty overseas, we're doing just what his doctors told us to do: Keep him supplied with plenty of cold Old Milwaukee and don't make any sudden noises. Let him sit by the TV and sop up the suds and take it easy. Since this is pretty much the way he'd lived before he enlisted, things around here haven't changed all that much. Earl is considering various options, such as furthering his education. Right now he's got it narrowed down to the DeVry Institute and Harvard Divinity School. Depends on which one will give him adequate funding. Personally, I'd go for the technical training, as there isn't much call around here for theologians, now that everyone has cable and can watch Believers Voice of Victory whenever they want.

Besides, we've got old Elmer Rudge down to the Seventh Day Adventists, and like my Dad always said, one Duns Scotus expert in a town is enough. I always liked medieval scholastics, but they do tend to go on a bit.

Thomas Pynchon: He really got everyone's dander up at the County Fair last summer, setting up that autograph booth right next to the ball park and giving free autographed first editions of Gravity's Rainbow just to spite me for not letting him on the softball team, on account of I didn't want him hanging around my sister any more. I just don't think he's a good influence on her. When word got out that he'd be doing a nightly book signing, all those skinny girls from the junior college descended on the town and folks wanting to go to the softball tournament couldn't find a place to park. I'd rather have a shortstop who can't discuss postmodernism than some stuck-up little geek who won't even accept an invitation to appear on Oprah. It's not my fault he can't hit a change-up.

The Nobel Peace Prize: Once again the community has banded together to formally nominate our own Sheriff Roy Albrecht for the Nobel Peace Prize. This year we got it submitted in the right kind of envelope and to the right address. The ladies of the church got together and did the calligraphy and also provided the ribbons. Anyone who can keep the peace five years running at the Zoo Bar deserves some recognition. I know Roy's not as famous as some of those laureates, but I don't see how you can give a Peace Prize to someone who's never even run for sheriff.

Annals of Justice: You probably saw in the paper how our own Ames Nickeslworth got his plumbing lethally ventilated by a blast from the shotgun of his neighbor, Walt Croolly. Walt was convicted of murder one two years ago, as you know, but over the summer the homos on the Iowa Supreme Court said he didn't do it after all and gave him a new trial. Of course, all the real men were out of town for the summer following the Green Day tour and who was left to man the jury? Bunch of socialists and Seventh Day Adventists and kids working at Wal-Mart. I mean, get real. Anyway, Walt got a new trial and they convicted him of manslaughter, a real slap on the wrist. He'll be out of prison in a year or two. Word has it that down to the prison, his dance card has been pretty full the last couple of years.

My Little League Team: We changed our name from the Wildcats to the Badass Mutant Disciples, but we still lost to St. Mary's 21-3. It was closer than it sounds. We'd have made the playoffs if we'd won a game, I'm convinced.

Health issues: Have you noticed that since AIDS came and went, nobody ever talks about getting the clap any more? They used to talk about it all the time, especially Nestor, but I think he was just bragging.

Probation: It's not as bad as you might think. My probation officer is a pleasant lady, but I have to call her Ms. Sanderson and she won't go to the movies with me. She says she'll have me revoked if I ask her again. Women. Go figure.

The arts: The high school production of The Phantom of the Opera hit a snag, on account of they couldn't get the rights. They decided to do it anyway. Shirley and her sister had the album and their Aunt Melanie over in Omaha saw it and remembered a lot of the talk, so they just put their heads together and figured out some stuff to say between songs, but after a couple weeks of rehearsals they got a call from a guy who claimed that the guys who wrote the show would sue our eyeballs out if we sold tickets, on account of the rights hadn't been purchased and are not, in fact, even available. So we wrote him a nice letter saying we'll do Carousel instead, but then we'll go ahead and do The Phantom of the Opera anyway. I personally don't think a bunch of fruits in New York give a rat's wazoo if we do The Phantom of the Opera anyway. They just wanted to get a nice letter. There's nothing much in this world that can't be fixed with a nice letter. It always worked with my Aunt Sally and it will work here, I am sure. Actually, I like Carousel better anyway. My favorite is still Anyone Can Whistle, though, but I have never been able to drum up any interest in it around here, on account of what happened at the gym the last time Steve Sondheim came to town. The less said about that the better, in my opinion.

Meanwhile, pre-production plans for my long-awaited staging of Dialogues of the Carmelites are almost complete. Mindy's doing the sets and Ed is looking for a guillotine. He thinks there's one in his Uncle Lyle's barn. I wouldn't be surprised. Old Lyle has always gotten a funny look in his eye around Bastille Day.

Law: Sheriff Leo was arresting guys for speeding and driving drunk and then they were going downtown and getting the charges dropped on account of the deputy kept forgetting to show up for the trial or the evidence was tainted with suppressions or some such. So Leo hit upon what appears to be a good idea. He arrests a guy and then instead of taking them to Court he just brings them over here and lets Harold give them a good talking to. After five minutes of his admixture of The Synoptic Gospels, Thomas Pynchon (again, that guy just won't go away) and his speech about Hillary, the poor guys always end up paying about what they'd pay in court, only we get to keep the money for beer. I'm thinking about going to law school, but Mom says I have to finish high school first. Between coaching little league, shooting the breeze with my probation officer and keeping Thomas Pynchon away from my sister, I don't have time to go to high school. Life is one thing after another.

Amelia Earhart: She died last month, in case you're interested. She'd lived out to Smiling Cedars Care Facility. She worked there, you know, for about 50 years as a nurse's aide and part-time water-skiing instructor, and then when she took sick she became a patient. She came to town because she had heard that Des Moines was a nice quiet place to write one's memoirs, but what with nursing and water-skiing and what-not, I don't think she ever got around to it. Judge Crater came to the funeral, but hardly anyone else. Don't tell him I told you.

The Maynard Boy: He got back from Iraq in August. Seems fine, except he appears to think he's George C. Scott in the first reel of Patton. Spends most of his time at the Legion Hall, talking about the Battle of El Alamein. He'll be fine after we have a church supper for him next Saturday and he has a double helping of Alice's Chicken Tetrazzini with sauerkraut and beer. Anyone's ever been a little out of touch with reality, that always brings them around. Everybody's welcome, but this may be one of those events that is not suited for family viewing.

The Rossman Boy: He came home from Iraq last Friday. Services will be Tuesday at eleven, with a church supper in the basement after. Edith's making pie.

Monday, November 24, 2008

CEOs May Ditch Jets & Carpool to D.C.

CEOs May Ditch Jets & Carpool to D.C.

The private jets were out. The Detroit auto executives decided to car pool to Washington, D.C., for their next round of beggin-- negotiations. Alan Mulally insisted they drive in a Ford. Rick Wagoner demanded they travel in GM vehicle. Robert Nardelli played peacemaker and suggested they travel in a Nissan. "So nobody can accuse us of using the occasion for free advertising," he explained. The truth was, he couldn't think of a Chrysler product that could make the journey.

After 50 hours of negotiations involving a phalanx of 32 corporate attorneys, it was decided that Rick Wagoner would take the first shift driving. Another two days of negotiations, with 29 lawyers, was needed to determine their route to Washington, D.C. At the end of which, Alan Mulally smilingly said to his CEO brethren, "This is the kind of 'get-er-done' spirit we need to show Congress!" But he had spoken too soon -- it took another three days of intense negotiations to settle on who would ride shotgun first. Mulally won that fight, though Nardelli vowed to take the case to court when they returned.

And so, on November 30th, the "three blind mice" as the blogosphere referred to them, struck out on the road in a Nissan Altima headed for the nation's capital.

About two hours out of Detroit, Robert Nardelli -- sulking in the backseat, arms folded, complaining that he was cold -- sighed for twentieth time and said, "My stomach hurts in a way that means I need to eat some food."

Wagoner and Mulally exchanged looks. "You mean you're hungry?" Mulally said in a mocking tone.

"This is when my P.A. gives me a muffin and a can of red energy drink," Nardelli said.

His statement was met by silence.

"I said, 'This is when my P.A. --'" Nardelli began again, but was cut off by Wagoner: "Well, your P.A.'s not here. What do you want us to do?"

"Gimme my muffin and energy drink!"

"The lawyers hit a stalemate on what snacks we'd bring and who would pay for them," Mulally said. "We don't have anything." What Mulally didn't say was that his P.A. had hidden a cooler containing a lobster meal, a thermos of cognac and a $1,000 cigar in a rest stop MENS room along the way.

"I need something to eat!" Nardelli shouted. Hearing the frayed note in his voice, Wagoner thought it best to appease Nardelli. He figured any person who would kibash employees' health care at Home Depot so that he could walk away with a $210 million severance package, might try to take a bite out of the side of his head.

Wagoner found an exit that led to a strip of fast food restaurants and gas stations. "So, where do you want to go? McDonald's? Taco Bell?"

Mulally said, "He wants a muffin, so we should go to Dunkin' Donuts."

They pulled into a Dunkin' Donuts parking lot. Nardelli didn't move.

"You going to get a muffin, or what?" Mulally said.

"What?" Nardelli said. "Don't they bring them out to us?"

"No," Wagoner said, impatient. "I've seen this on television -- you go in there and tell them what you want."

"Go in?" Nardelli said, uneasy. "The place is filled with Plebeians. They'll see who I am and tackle me, and rob me . . . and perform strange sexual rituals with my penis."

"Neither of us is going in there for you," Wagoner said. "My gawd, man, what're you gonna do when you have to use a rest room?"

Nardelli looked nervously at Wagoner in the rearview mirror. He then reached into a pocket and pulled out a large ziploc baggie. "My P.A. gave me this to go in."

"Are you going to get a muffin, or what?" Mulally said, testy.

"Forget it," Nardelli said, caressing the ziploc baggie. "The place is full of Plebes."

* * *

Soon, it was Mulally's turn to drive, as per the 139-page legal agreement drawn up by the corporate lawyers. His P.A. had briefed him on what "rest stops" were and at which one the cooler with the lobster meal was hidden. If it wasn't for the fact that his P.A. feared for his life every moment he was in his boss's presence, Mulally would have thought his P.A. had been joking about these so-called "rest stops". Could there really be a designated area along an interstate highway equipped with toilets and maps and something called "picnic tables"? Mulally had one of his kids do an Internet search on it and now carried with him a print-out of the Wikipedia page on "Rest Areas." He hoped these were the same thing.

When he pulled into the rest stop, Wagoner and Nardelli looked at Mulally as though he was an astronaut proposing to leave the capsule without putting on a space suit.

"You're going out there?" Nardelli asked, horrified. "What if you catch the AIDS? You'll bring it back here and kill us all!"

"Have you thought this through?" Wagoner said, trying to mask his own dismay. Mulally assured him he had and got out of the car. When he looked back, he saw Nardelli opening the large ziploc baggie -- readying it for use -- and saw Wagoner cringing against the passenger side door, aghast.

As Mulally approached the rest stop MENS room, he made a silent vow to have his P.A. disfigured and then fired. The rest stop was a primitive, box-like structure, and it appeared to have absolutely no security. Mulally would immolate his P.A. for sending him into a place that had no security.

Inside the MENS room, he found the stall with the OUT OF ORDER sign on the door. He went into that stall and found the cooler fastened to the back of the door. He set the lid on the toilet seat and sat down, and then feasted upon lobster and mussells and king crab, sipping cognac from something called a "thermos." When his meal was done, he sat back and lit the $1,000 cigar. What would the gents at the Club think if they could see him now? Just like the pioneers on the wagon trains that discovered America, he thought blowing smoke dollar signs into the air.

* * *

It was only when Nardelli took his turn driving that all three executives learned he could not drive. He weaved all over the highway, alternately flooring the accelerator and jumping onto the brake. A chorus of car horns surrouned them.

"Why are you cranking the steering wheel when all you have to do is go straight?" Mulally shrieked from the back seat.

"I think one of us should take the wheel," Wagoner said.

"No!" Nardelli screamed. "I didn't wrack up thirty-thousand dollars in legal fees over the driving schedule to have you take my turn away from me!"

"But you can't drive!" Wagoner said as Nardelli swung wide around a transport truck, nearly side-swiping a minivan.

"Gawddamned minivans," Nardelli growled.

"If you kill us," Mulally shouted, bracing himself with a hand on one of the back doors and the other on the ceiling, "your ex-wives will get everything!"

It was only then that Nardelli allowed Wagoner to help him steer to the side of the highway to change drivers.

* * *

As night fell, they were hardly halfway through the state of Pennsylvania. By this time, all three executives' stomachs hurt in a way that meant they needed to eat some food. After hours of arguing and rounds of arm-wrestling on the hood of the car at the shoulder of the highway, it was decided Rick Wagoner would incur the cost of calling his P.A. on his cell phone.

"I want some food to eat," Wagoner barked into his phone. His P.A. back in Michigan used a computer to locate Wagoner's position using the GPS chip in his cell phone. When he determined his boss's whereabouts, Wagoner's P.A. ordered a pizza, paying for it with his own credit card.

Half an hour later, headlights appeared behind the Nissan Altima at the side of the highway.

"It's the Plebeians!" Nardelli croaked. "They've tracked us! They're gonna pull us out of this car, strip us naked and mutilate our penises!"

"If they do, it'll be all your fault!" Mulally shouted, unhinged. "Jeezus, man! That Home Depot golden parachute was so gross, it actually embarrassed the rest of us!"

"You're just jealous!" Nardelli shot back. "You're all jealous of me! Everybody is! Everyone wishes they were me and they hate me for it!"

"No, they hate you because you're you," Wagoner said, watching a person get out of the car behind them. The person carried a wide, flat box.

There was a knock on the rear, driver's side window. The three executives gasped with horror. Wagoner's cell phone rang. He pulled the phone out of his pocket with a shaking hand. It was his P.A. telling him his food had arrived.

"What do I do?" Wagoner moaned into the phone.

"Just open the car door and accept the food," the P.A. said.

"Open the door? Are you insane?"

"Then roll down the window. He won't hurt you. It's probably just a teenager."

Deciding in that moment to have his P.A. mangled, regardless if the person outside the car was just a teenager or a crazed murderer, Wagoner said, "OK."

He opened the window and the delivery guy passed a pizza box through. The smell of warm food filled the car immediately, supplanting the rank baseness that permeated Nardelli's well-used ziploc baggie. Wagoner opened the box and shoved pizza into his mouth.

"Hey, pass some up here," Mulally said.

"Fuck you!" Wagoner said around a mouthful of pizza. "This is my food!"

"That's my food!" Nardelli said, who assumed that anything anyone possessed in his presence was, in fact, his. "Gimme my food!"

Mulally and Nardelli pulled at the box. Wagoner leaned back and flailed with his feet. Mulally dove into the backseat and Nardelli followed him. They flattened the pizza as they punched and scratched Wagoner. Soon, the pizza carton was ripped open and all three executives clawed the pizza, shoving handfuls into their mouths, and fighting each other with their free hands.

In the midst of the melee, Nardelli's ziploc bag burst open.

* * *

At Pittsburgh National Airport, three private jets belonging to Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, landed. An army of personal assistants disembarked and hurried into waiting cars, which immediately took off to locate the Nissan Altima containing their chief executive officers.

The corporate leaders were found in a dreadful state: bruised, reeking of human waste, covered with scratches and pizza toppings. Each entourage wrapped their respective executive in a blanket and whisked him off to the nearest Four Seasons Hotel. Each had his own floor reserved so that there was no chance they would run into one another.

The executives were attended by their personal physicians, psychoanalysts, hypnotists and mistresses. After being propped up with duladid, morticians' make-up and cortezone shots, the three blind mice were ready to face Congress. Three lookalikes had been arranged to drive a Nissan Altima into Washington, D.C., feigning completion of the carpool trip. The executives were flown into Dulles International Airport in their respective corporate jets. This time, when questioned by reporters, each flight crew was instructed to say that the plane was, in fact, owned by John Travolta.

* * *

The hearings before Congress opened with Robert Nardelli addressing the legislators, "We come before you a united force ready to harness our synergies and shift the paradigm. We are the corporate leaders who will use this money most wisely."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A visit with The Ice Cream Man

Yesterday, Joel had a two hour meeting about our show En Route with a guy I like to call The Ice Cream Man. I call him that because this guy is like the Good Humor man of scripts. I imagine his office as a cart -- a cart made by Alfa Romeo -- which he wheels through Beverly Hills neighborhoods. Rather than children running and calling after him, waving dollars, screaming for ice cream, it's TV and film executives running on pilates legs, all George-Hamilton-tanned like leather easy chairs at Gardner White Furniture, speed dialing on glinting, titanium cell phones, vying for the best product The Ice Cream Man has percolating within the sleek fuselage of his cart.

Why would the primped and pampered go running after The Ice Cream Man? Because his product is unlike anyone else's.

First, The Ice Cream Man has a connoisseur's eye for the scripts he takes on. And to paraphrase Orson Welles as he once intoned in Gothic television commercials: "The Ice Cream Man will sell no script before its time."

Second, The Ice Cream Man is a skilled editor. He knows what it takes to bring a script in line with industry standard; knows how to craft the work to suit the production audience it's geared toward. Which directors appreciate camera angles and stage directions? Which ones are looking for stripped down shooting scripts? The Ice Cream Man Knows.

Third, The Ice Cream Man knows which neighborhoods to take his script cart. He has connections. He's not chased by dogs. He's never harassed by bargain-shopping cheapskates. He knows the scriptose intolerant streets and avoids them.

Joel sat with him for two hours, who was educated in Michigan. They talked about the Detroit Lions whose woeful losing season served as a handy point of connection for them. Then it was down to business. Our script packet was handed over, and it's now in the reading phase. We should hear back in a week or so, maybe a little longer, whether it will find its way into the sleek fuselage of the Ice Cream Man's Cart.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nobody's Walking in L.A. . . .

. . . they're at home in their beachfront chalets reading the En Route script packets. At least, six producers from various productions are this evening.

In fact, the script packets are printed on paper of such high quality and durable workmanship, they could even be used to smother flames should anyone's home, unfortunately -- knock wood, gawd forbid -- be on fire. The script packets could also be used as an effective fire blanket for anyone who happens to be eight-and-a-half by eleven inches in size. It's California -- you never know.

So now, the waiting game. And what a game it is. No game board. No game pieces. No rule book. No play money. No limits on the number of players. But it's a game that can be played in the living room, by the fire with the television on MUTE. It's a game that I know well. In fact, I practice playing it every time I go to the doctor's office. Except, now it's for real. It's "game on", except there is no waiting-game-court, field, pitch, lane, green, diamond or grid-iron. It's more like a psychological game in which the normal attributes of a game are absent, such as fun, entertainment value, socializing, problem-solving. But there are "winners" and "losers." That's where the game part comes into the "waiting game." Joel and I are now waiting to see if we are winners or losers. Winners -- someone shows interest in our idea/script. Losers -- well, that's harder to determine because we could actually still think the waiting game is being played by the readers of our scripts long after those readers have converted the script packets into doorway hammocks for their schnauzer-doodles.

Part of the waiting game is telling people about it -- like I am right now. Earlier, my wife told my mother that we are now playing the waiting game with the script packets, and my mother reacted as she usually does regarding my creative work: sounds as though I've missed parole -- again. "Oh? That's nice." Joel's family is the same. On the surface this may not appear encouraging, but you have look beneath the shiny veneer of "Oh? That's nice" to see that it's actually a cannon blast of support. You see, if you want to truly encourage something, you should discourage it. In Ireland, for instance, a hundred years ago, speaking Gaelic aloud was not only outlawed, teachers were paid by the British not to teach Gaelic. The result? Gaelic flourishes through Ireland today. There's even an all-Gaelic TV channel. How about religion? Tell a group of people they cannot worship and you'll see that order give birth to an unstoppable tide of underground services and prayer sessions. If educators today were truly interested in promoting reading, they would ban books. Tell kids they can't have them and kids would sneak out at night to congregate in alleys and parks to trade books among themselves.

So, it's clear that our families are behind us 100 percent and want nothing more than to see us continue working on En Route, and do whatever it takes to sell the script. It's so obvious, I'm embarrassed telling you right out like that.

Now for the part of the waiting game where I go and get more green tea . . .

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The New John McCain -- Doesn't Miss a Beat After Losing Election

After losing the federal election, John McCain wasted not a moment re-inventing himself into an entrepreneur that will surely rival George Foreman.

With the economy in desperate trouble, John McCain sought to lead by example and started his own business: The John McCain Signature Candy Apple Maker. Teaming up with life-like sex doll maker, Erot-o-Co., life-like John McCain candy apple stands have been cranked out in the hundreds since the Republican nominee was defeated by Barak Obama.

"My friends," John McCain said to this interviewer after the night's disappointments were brought to a close at the Arizona Biltmore Resort, "the way of the future is candy apples!"

The former Navy pilot and P.O.W. says that The John McCain Signature Candy Apple Maker will hit retail outlets in time for Christmas.