Tag Archives: phone calls

The Coffee Rule

One morning ten years ago, I attempted to have a phone conversation before having had a cup of coffee.

John Fucile was on the other end of the conversation. Unable to piece together most of what I was uttering, John suggested that I never answer the telephone without first having had a cup of coffee at some point during the day.

I have abided by this rule ever since.

Here’s to another ten years. Hip! Hip!

33 Feet From The Middle of The Road

It was 4:34 in the morning. Streaks of indigo were reaching from beyond the Eastern horizon to mix with the midnight blue still hanging over the Pacific. Two magpies were atop the neighborhood’s trees, calling out their morning duties. There was no snooze button to make them stop.

Freddy was sheltered from the natural alarm, inside his small dim bedroom, his body stretched out under two thick duvets, his head softly surrounded by four pillows, unconscious, dreaming of a message he would forget as soon as…

The phone rang.

James, Freddy’s roommate, would not answer the phone. James always disconnected his phone from its jack before going to bed.

In his dream, Freddy had been in the produce section at Rock’n’Roll Ralph’s, 7257 Sunset Blvd., tolling the number of pretty girls, when suddenly a head of lettuce began ringing. He looked at it strangely; he’d never heard lettuce ring before. He reached for the head of lettuce and suddenly found himself…

Awake, naked, standing at his desk, halfway between night and day, with a phone in his hand.

“Hello?” came a recognizable voice from the other end of the line.

“Hey,” Freddy replied, wiping the crust from his right eye. There was a pause.

“What the fuck are you doing?” It was Max.

“Hey, I was… uh… sleeping.” Another pause.

“Oh. What time is it there?”

“Four-thirty. Where are you?” The conversation ran at an octogenarian pace, as satellite communicated with satellite over the Atlantic Ocean and into two different sets of civilization.

“I’m at Heathrow.”

“Oh ya, you’re… in Britain, right?”

“Not for much longer, thank God. I fly into Kennedy today.”

“What’s wrong? You don’t like the rain?”

“No, I don’t like the cops.”

“Bobbies got you down?” Freddy asked, wiping the salt from his left eye.

“No, man, the friggin’ parking cops. Lemme tell you –”

“Hold on,” Freddy said, laying the receiver down on the desk, grabbing yesterday’s underwear from the floor and hoisting them up around his crotch.

He sat down on his wonky office chair, pulled a cigarette from the pack on the desk, lit it and returned to the long distance call.

“Go,” he told Max.

“So I’m here for four weeks, right? The production puts me up in this flat in Stepney, really nice place. Jacuzzi bathtub, a little balcony, great view, and, I was told by the production co-ordinator, I had parking so if I wanted to rent a car –”

“Right,” Freddy blurted in mid-satellite transmission.

“I could. And they would pay for it,” Max finished.

Freddy yawned. “So what’d you get?”

“An MG.”

“Nice,” Freddy commented.

“They were paying for it,” Max continued, “so I figured, ‘What the hell? I’ll go all out.’ Now this parking space is actually a pad, y’know, a little area in front of the flat. Used to be grass and dirt, now it’s interlocking bricks.”

“Yeah, I know what a parking pad is.”

“Okay, so I’ve got the MG parked down there and the second day I have it, I go down to drive to set and I got a ticket. They call them Penalty Charge Notices. The infraction says I was parked on the boulevard.”

“Were you?”

“No, the pad is small but the car fits. I wasn’t blocking anything. It’s not even a fucking boulevard; it’s a road. So I figured the ticket weasel made a mistake for some reason, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s in his nature. Anyways, I go to work, come back, go to sleep, wake up, next day, I got another ticket. Same infraction: parking on boulevard.”

“What the –”

“I’m like ‘What the fuck? I’m not on the boulevard. I’m on my parking pad.’ I go to work, come home, I leave a note for the prick on the dashboard: ‘Warden Gupta, Stop giving me tickets for parking in my parking space. Your truly, Max Rasche, Resident, 49 Old Church Road.'”

“Did it work?”

“Yeah for about a week. Then I get another ticket for parking on the boulevard; this time it’s from Warden Smythe-Roy. They switch them up, huh? To keep it fresh.”

Freddy ran his hand over his face, seeing where circumstance was taking his friend.

“So I changed the note. ‘To All Parking Wardens, I am not on the boulevard. I am on my parking pad. Inquiries can be addressed to Simpleton Lanes Productions…’ And I left the phone number for the production office.”


“Anyways, another week goes by, no tickets. Then third week, Monday, I get a ticket for parking on the boulevard, Tuesday, I get a ticket for parking on the boulevard. Wednesday, I wake up. I go downstairs, fully expecting to see a ticket for parking on the boulevard. Guess what?”

“Car’s gone.”

“They fucking towed me. Out of my parking pad! And the only way they could have done that is by trespassing on private property. So I was just fuming. But I had to get to work so I put off all those emotions, got to work late, finished early, luckily, took the tube back home – and what a joy that is. You want proof that dental care in England is non-existent? Take the subway.”

“So what happened?”

“I get home. I open up the phonebook and start looking for who I should call about this – the Transport Committee. I call the number. They say, ‘Oh no sir, we handle the parking meters.’ I call the next number: ‘No sir, we handle the parking lots.’ Third number, parking enforcement – these are the pricks. I get the guy on the phone, I say, ‘I’m trying to find out if my car’s been towed or stolen.’ I give him the plate number. He goes away, comes back a minute later, tells me that the computers are “on the blink” and he doesn’t know if they’ve towed my car or not. So he gives me the phone number for the towing company.”


“Right, so I call the towing company, give the lady the plate number. She comes back ten seconds later, ‘Yes sir, we have your car, that’ll be 120 pounds and I’ll need to see your license.’ I’m like, ‘Whoa! Whoa! Slow down, Speed Racer.'”

“She probably didn’t get that reference.”

“No, you’re right, they never had Speed Racer over here. But I was at a loss. One second, I have a car; the next, someone else has taken it and is demanding 120 pounds for me to get it back. I was about to go off, y’know, I was ready to lose it. But then I realized, ‘Y’know what, this lady is just another wage slave, getting rammed by taxes which eat up fifty percent of her income. The towing company is outsourced by the municipal council; there’s nothing she could do for me even if she wanted to.’ So I got the address of the impound lot and hung up.”

“120 pounds?! That’s like 250 bucks.”

“Yeah. But even if I got the car out, I still didn’t have anywhere to park it. I wasn’t gonna park downstairs again and get towed tomorrow and rack up another 120.”

“I don’t understand why they wouldn’t let you –”

“Oh it gets better.”

“I’m listening.”

“So I needed to find a parking spot. And the neighbors across the street, they have a parking pad just like mine and they aren’t getting any tickets. So what’s so damn special about my parking pad? So I called parking enforcement back, the guy with the computers on the blink. Someone else answered, a real prick, he was really short with me.

“I said to him, ‘Listen, I’ve got these five parking tickets plus the one waiting for me at the impound lot and they all have the same infraction – parking on boulevard – but the thing is I’ve got a parking pad in front of the place–‘ He says, ‘You’ve got a pad?’ I say, ‘Yeah.’ He says, ‘It exists, right now?’ I said, ‘Yeah, it exists, I’m looking at it, right now; there’s the road, there’s the sidewalk, there’s my parking pad.’

“He says, ‘Well sir, the boulevard is our enforceable area. It’s ten meters from the middle of the road.'”

“Metric bastards,” Freddy piped up.

“But here’s the thing – ten meters from the middle of the road is actually inside the house! So if I was to sit on the sofa for too long – say I’m watching Braveheart – they could give me a ticket. Y’know?”


“So he tells me that if I want to park there I’m gonna need a permit. I’m like, ‘Why do I need a permit to park my car on my parking pad?'”

“What’d he say?”

“‘Because it’s the law, sir.'”

“That doesn’t answer your question.”

“I know! Then he starts in, ‘Without the law, sir, anarchy, anarchy –‘”

“Aw Jesus.”

“So I hang up on him, I look in the phonebook again, I find the phone number to call to apply for a front-of-house parking permit. I call the number, out of service.”


“I call the main parking permit number. They tell me I have the wrong number. I’m like, ‘Yeah I know, your other number is out of service.’ She asks, ‘Did you get it out of the phonebook?’ I say, ‘Yeah I did.’ ‘Well that’s the wrong number, sir. There’s a typo in that number.’ So she gives me the right number, it’s one digit off the number in the book. I call them – the front-of-house parking permit people.”


“Yeah, y’know that feeling you get when you go through this bureaucratic bullshit and you get the last number and you know this is the number that matters. Whoever answers this number is the man or woman who can actually do something for you. Well I got that feeling. The lady answered and I was the nicest guy in the world, ‘Hello how are you today? How is your day going? I have something maybe you’d like to help me out with.’

“I give her the address, she goes away for a minute, she comes back: ‘Well sir I have some bad news for you. We can’t let you park there, you can’t apply to park there and you can’t appeal this.'”


“Yeah, they won’t let me park there, they won’t let me ask them to let me park there and they won’t let me complain about not being able to ask them to let me park there.”

“Their ass is covered and their hands are tied.”

“Exactly. So I said, ‘But the neighbors across the street –‘”

“The Joneses.”

“Right. ‘The Joneses across the street have the exact same pad and they park there fine and dandy.'”

“You used the word ‘dandy’?”

“Yeah. I was speaking her language.”

“So what did she say?”

“She said, ‘Well sir, they probably got their permit before the Road Traffic Act was passed in 1991 and your local council took over parking enforcement.’ Apparently, one of the councillors in Stepney thought it would be a brilliant idea to ban parking on all front-of-house parking pads from then-on-in.”


“Who knows?! Maybe he’s a fan of unobstructed interlocking brick. So I said to her, ‘Let me see if I understand correctly… According to the City of London, according to the Grand Dame of the Western hemisphere, I’m screwed?'”

“What’d she say?”

“‘For lack of a better way to put it, sir, that is correct.'”

Freddy laughed and butted out his cigarette, “That’s classic.”

“So for the past week here, every time I’ve left the flat, I’ve had to look at a car-sized waste of space.”

“You didn’t go get the car?!”

“No, I didn’t have anywhere to park it. Plus I couldn’t have gotten it out anyways; it wasn’t in my name. Plus the international driver’s license I’ve been using is hot. I bought it off one of the P.A.’s on the first day of shooting.”

“So the car’s still impounded?”

“I dunno. I told the co-ordinator what happened and she said she’d get someone to take care of it. So I dunno. I’ve been taking the tube to work for the last week.”

“So you don’t have to pay for anything?”

“Oh I have to pay. Y’know what I have to pay for?”


“All the local fucking phone calls I made to try to find out why the municipal government here sucks royal ass. They charge you for local phone calls here! Can you believe it?”

“What a rip-off.”

“I fucking hate this country.”

Bing-bong, Freddy heard in the background of the line.

“I think they’re boarding me now.”

“Alright, well thanks for waking me up,” Freddy said, yawning again. “You’re back in New York tonight?”

“Yeah, this afternoon, New York time.”

“Have a good flight home.”

“Thanks. I’ve got a couple prescription muscle relaxants from one of the other actors so I’m going to have a very good flight home.”

The Death of Alain

A few times during Freddy’s interview of his parents, his father coughed viciously.

“Geez, Dad,” Freddy said to him, “you’re going to hack up a lung.”

Little did he know.

Alain’s cough continued over the holidays, into January, through the month, and finally, in February, when the cancer he didn’t know he had was becoming more and more painful, Alain went to the doctor to find out he would soon be dead, within a year according to contemporary medicine. Little did they know.

Test after test after “goddamn uncomfortable” test confirmed Alain’s condition. Over the next six months, it spread like wildfire, from his lungs, to his liver, to his stomach, to his bones, to his brain. Melting, literally melting him from the inside. Shutting him down, like a rackety old boat being put to sea permanently. He didn’t tell his children exactly how serious it was, nor his wife for she wouldn’t understand. He never said how soon he would be gone until it was practically upon him.

Gordon found out early though, overhearing a doctor’s conversation with a nurse. He asked Freddy over the phone, “Did you know that the cancer spread to his brain?”


“Well, Dad knows.”

“Why wouldn’t he tell us?”

“I guess cause he knows he’s about to go and he doesn’t want us burdened with it.”

“Burdened with it? Burdened with it? Burdened with it?! Burdened with it!!! How can we not be burdened with it?!”

“I don’t know,” was Gordon’s only answer. “But don’t ask him about it because we aren’t supposed to know and I don’t want him burdened with it.”

“Burdened with it? How can he not be burdened with it?!”

“I mean I don’t want him burdened with the knowledge that we’re burdened with the knowledge.” Like father, like son.

“Fine… Too much burden already.”

“Yeah I know.” But little did he know.

Six months in, Alain had lost 85 pounds, down from his extra-large 230 to 145. He’d eaten his own fat, not to mention other tissue.

Freddy was back in the flat, preparing some words for a poetry slam in Chicago, his first slam in Chicago. It was 10:38PM when the phone rang.

“Freddy, you’d better get back home,” Gordon said. “The hospital called a minute ago. He’s taken a turn for the worse.”

“I’m on my way.”

“I’ll call you from the –”

But Freddy had already hung up and his mind was scrambling for options. He didn’t have money for airfare. He called an airline anyways and explained his situation. They could give him a break on the cost – the terminal-illness-in-the-family discount.

He called his ride to Chicago to say he would find alternate means to get to the slam; his mind was elsewhere, his heart was beating overtime; racing. Beat the clock, beat the clock. He still needed the money – A to B, A to B, A to B. Who? First call, no one home, no answer. Second call, busy signal. Third call, answering machine. No one’s home on a Thursday night. Second call again, still busy. Time for someone to get call waiting.

He called his friend, the actress. The actress whom he’d calmed when the producers had asked her to get fake tits. He’d made her laugh with the question, “Well did they want silicone or saline? Cause y’know there’s a big difference.” She was home, shocked by Freddy’s confusion, frustration, fear. She didn’t have the money to lend him but she could get it – someone owed her.

For some reason, when he talked to her, Freddy couldn’t remember the her name, the actress. His dear friend’s name had been overrun by some brazen doom; thought, sudden, mixed, tenuous, rushed. “Thank you, thank you, call me back.”

He hung up.

He took a deep breath. He was sweating; his hands were shaking. He went to the bathroom and splashed some water in his face. “C’mon Dad, hold on.” The phone rang; he rushed to it.

It was Tammy, his friend, the actress, her name remembered in the brief respite. She was screaming, “I got you points! I got you points!”

“What? What’re you — whaddaya mean?”

“Frequent flier points! I got you enough for a ticket.”

“Oh God, thank you.” And Freddy felt the weight of a feather removed from his shoulders.

“Call the airline and book your ticket; where’s that… here it is. Here’s the information. Got a pen?”

“Yeah,” he said, picking up the cheap Bic with which he’d been planning words for Chicago, “go!”

Tammy gave him the numbers and concluded with, “Lemme know if you need anything else, okay?”

“Okay. I love you.”

It was the most he could say and, for the first time in his life, it didn’t mean “I want to screw your brains out” (though he always had wanted to screw Tammy’s brains out). This time, it meant, “Thank you, eternally.”

“You’re welcome, Freddy,” she said.

He hung up and called the airline back – he was booked, 5:45AM out of Kennedy. He looked at the clock; he had three hours. He put on the most soothing music he could find – slow ethereal trip hop and dub instrumentals. He rolled a small joint and smoked it, listening to the tunes.

“Relax. Calm down. He’s gonna make it,” he told himself.

Stoned, he began packing his clothes, grabbed his toothbrush and anti-perspirant, packed some papers, stopped, stood still for five or ten minutes, stood, thought, crawled away from the pit, stoned, continued, packed a book, two books, his favorite book, meaningful words, stopped, stood, thought, stoned, packed to the music. The Exodus Quartet came on, the last song on side two. An Eastern rhythm, a crying violin, crying, crying, crying to the mysterious beat. Disturbed by a noise. By the ring of the phone.

GOD HOLDS NO BREATH. Waits for no one.

“Hello?” It was time, no time.


Brother, dear brother, why would you call? There is no now, only now. The emptiness was all around the voice. And the voice struggled with all the might in the heart that moved it to break through the silence which was already speaking on its behalf.

“He’s gone…”

And it broke, the Earth broke through the Heavens, the Heavens broke through the space beyond. There was no past, no future and, without either, no present to record or comprehend. Shudder, snorts and tears shot quietly from inside the receiver that had suddenly become glued to the side of Freddy’s head.

“Okay,” Freddy said. And a gush of oil suddenly began to rise from his core up the flute to the surface of his life. “Okay, okay,” then suddenly… OVERLOAD. Insanity. “Holy emotion, Batman,” he sputtered as the oil spewed from his heart and covered everything around him.

Gordon couldn’t fathom the death either and all he said was, “You better get here quick.”

“I will. I’m already there.”

They both hung up and collapsed to the floor where they’d been standing – Freddy in his room with the crying violin, Gordon at the nurse’s station with the beeping mechanics of medicine. Two piles of weeping blood with only miles between them.

Whenever Freddy had flown on an airplane before, he always feared coming down the hard way. Now, he feared coming down at all.

Call Waiting for Godot

The freeway wound through neighborhoods of broken dreams, its border walls brightened by the mid-afternoon sun which burned through the haze of exhaust perennially consuming the Los Angeles basin. Palm trees stood tall, their arms bouncing gently in the air. A non-fatal car accident had brought the northbound traffic on the 405 to a stand still – thousands of imports, hogs and pickups sat in line for the two-lane conduit past the crash.

A mile back, in an S.U.V., perched the Producer, frowning as he looked out ahead of him. Within the air-conditioned environment of his bastardized Land Rover, all he could hear were the cries of the woman on the other end of the carphone — speakerphone, “ON”.

The Producer sighed.

“Did you hear what I said?” asked the tragic young woman on the speaker.

“Yes, yes,” the Producer quickly responded, “Listen to me, I don’t know why you’re reacting like this. You’re perfect for the role and, ah –”

“But Peter said I didn’t have the depth.”

The Producer rolled his eyes and inched the vehicle forward the few feet the traffic would allow. “Forget what Peter said,” he calmly reassured her. “He’s the director – he’s only one cog in the wheel. And lemme tell you, it’s a pretty big wheel. If I say you get another shot at it, then you get another shot at it. You’re a Playboy playmate for crying out loud!”

BEEP-BEEP went the carphone, interrupting the Producer’s advocation. “Donna, stay on the line,” he told her. “I’ve got another call.”

The Producer tapped the “CHANNEL” key on the pad, initiating his next problem.

“Yeah?” the Producer began.

“Ira?” came the quiet squeak of another young woman.

“Hello! Who is this?” asked the Producer.

“It’s Lisa,” came the emotive reply.

“Lisa, hi, how are you?” The Producer remembered her from the party the other night in that suite at the Marmont.

“I’m terrible. I’m so terrible,” she burst forth with a hiccup.

“What’s wrong?” asked the Producer, though he had always preferred to know what’s right. Sushi, for instance, was always right.

“Everything!” she responded, her voice cracking like a log split by a French-Canadian lumberjack named Gaston. “I auditioned for Peter and I thought it went really well, y’know, but when I asked him, he said — he said — he said that I didn’t stand a chance in Hell. What does that even mean?!”

“Look, Lisa,” the Producer said, inching his vehicle forward. “He’s just the director –”

“I’m talented,” she shrieked.

“I know you are, Lisa,” he tried to calm her. “I wouldn’t be talking to you otherwise.”


Meanwhile, the Director emerged from behind the old oak wet bar on the bottom floor of his home nestled in a corner of the Hollywood Hills. In the gruff middle-aged taskmaster’s right hand was a double scotch on the rocks, not an uncommon sight at 3PM on a Tuesday. In his left hand was a sleek black cordless phone. He casually tapped in a number as he crossed his office/den to the leather chair and rosewood desk by the window.

The Director placed his glass of booze down on a cork coaster, reclined back in his chair and finished dialing. A busy signal. The Director pressed a series of numbers and listened again.

The computerized voice of a woman crackled through the connection, “The line is busy. You will be notified by special ringing when the line is free. Please hang up now.”

The Director pressed the “END” button and put the phone down on his desk. He sipped his scotch and looked out the window at the glorious flora which filled the canyon. He spied someone on a deck several hundred yards away. From beside his desk, he lifted a pair of Bushnell’s. He put them to his sockets and squinted to see the white bikini-clad sunbather.

“Hello,” he whispered to himself, “Back for more, are you?”

The phone chirped from the desktop. The Director remained glued to his subject. Another chirp from the phone. He laid the binoculars down on the desk and shook his head in amazement at the firmness of the hotchie mama across the way.

After a third ring of the phone, the Director picked it up.

“Ira?” he immediately asked.

“No, it’s Steve,” came the disappointing voice. The Director had been playing cat-and-mouse with Steve, the Writer, since the blue pages and they were already on to the goldenrods.

“What the Hell have you done to my script?” asked the Writer. It was not the first time the Director had been asked that question.

As is usually the case with members of the trade, the Writer went on to answer his own question. “You’ve totally rewritten the ending,” he explained. “Instead of an insane asylum, the main character ends up operating a midway ride at a county fair.”

“What’s the problem?” asked the Director, without much concern for the answer.

“She’s an insane mass murderer,” iterated the Writer. “Insane mass murderers end up in insane asylums!”

“Have you ever seen a midway ride operator at a county fair?” postulated the Director.

“That’s not the point,” argued the Writer, not truly knowing whether there’d been a point. He continued, “As far as I’m concerned, this rewrite is completely unacceptable and if this is the movie you’re going to make,” he demanded, “I don’t want my name in the credits.”

The Director picked up his binoculars again and returned his gaze to the sexy young thang on the other end of the lens.


“Uh-huh,” groaned the Director.

“Did you hear what I said?”

“Yup,” concurred the Director, unwilling to play ball with the high-maintenance scribe.


BEEP-BEEP is the only response the Writer heard as he paced around the Ikea decor – Bachelorossen to be precise – in the high-ceiling living room of the two-bedroom apartment on Beachwood Drive which he shared with one of those roly-poly actors from TV commercials.

“Aw Christ, hold on,” muttered the frustrated Writer to the barely present Director, “I’ve got another call.”

The Writer clipped down on the lever of his rotary dialosaurus, dipping down into the waters of ancient telecommunications only to come back up for…

“Hello?” he began.

“Is this Steven Shedbit?” asked a sultry velvet voice.

The Writer was taken aback, his most regular reaction to the providence of a sexy-sounding woman uttering his name. It couldn’t possibly be a collection agency.

“Yes. This is, this is heem,” he mumbled the words.

“Hi,” she said invitingly, “This is Penny Gingerbimbo. I’m going to be playing Jezebel from your script.”

The Actress. Ever since the Writer had read a biography of Arthur Miller, he had lusted for the Actress on every production in which he’d taken part. “Conquest-by-word”, he called it. But there was still the matter of the Director on the other line. Art! Art must be maintained above sex drive!

“Penny, yes. Listen, Penny, I’m on the other –” He didn’t get that far.

“I was reading through your script — great script,” the Actress interjected, “and I noticed that there’s an awful lot of swearing…” The Writer knew what was coming. “… and I was thinking…” The Actress always took a moment after saying this, before continuing with, “Maybe she could be a little friendlier.”

For the Writer, the answer was simple. He’d read the how-to’s and taken several courses in script structure, standard character arc, the 37 basic dramatic situations. He knew the archetype better than anyone, having spent much money on the real thing.

“She’s a hooker.”


“The character of Jezebel is a whore.”


There was a pause – his was of undying patience, hers of confusion.

“I thought she was a nun.”

“She has sex with men under the pretense of sex-for-money then she kills them,” said the Writer, preparing to name off plot points one, two and three.


“Oh, I guess nuns don’t do that,” said the Actress as she reclined on her cushioned patio chair, bathing in the yellow rays which fell to her deck. Bug-eyed shades concealed her peepers from the harsh sunlight while a skimpy white bathing suit revealed her pre-fab body to the same.

From the earpiece of her Nokia came the noise — BEEP-BEEP.

“Oh Steven,” she said, “There’s another call. Hold please.”

She pressed the “CHANNEL” button and continued like the good secretery she once was.

“Hello, this is Penny.”

A nasal middle-aged voice entered the earpiece of the Actress’ cellphone.

“Hello, is this…” A paper flapped in the background, then, “Penny Gingerbimbo?”

“Yes. This is Penny,” she repeated, already wanting to get back to the Writer and the direction of her arc.

“Hi, Penny, this is Sidney Vine,” he introduced himself. “I’m the Executive-in-Charge-of-Production on ‘Killer Hooker Fury’.”

The Actress thought, “Writer? What writer?”

“Oh hello, Mr. Vine.” She did not know how important the man on the other end of the line truly was, but she knew enough. For instance, she knew his title had four hyphens. She knew he was ‘studio’, all the way, to the max.

“Please,” he instructed her, “call me Sidney.”

“Okay, Sidney.”

“Great. Penny, I’m calling to congratulate you on getting the part of Jezebel.”

“Oh, yes, thank you, Sidney.”

“And… well, to be blunt, I think we should get together for drinks. Maybe discuss your role.”

Meanwhile, back in the bumper-to-bumper parking lot improperly named the San Diego Freeway, the Producer had finally calmed down one of his crying women.

“The role involves nudity, y’know? And I think –”

“I do nudity. I’ve done tons of nudity!” the woman revealed, though it was hardly a revelation.

“Lisa,” he cut to the chase, “as far as I’m concerned, you’re the only one who can pull this role off. Let me talk to my people and we’ll set up another meeting, okay?”

“Okay, I guess.”

“Alright. I’ve got to go now, I’ve got traffic all around me, travelling at a very high rate of speed,” he said, inching his vehicle forward at 2MPH and returning to the first P.Y.T. crying to him over the carphone.


She was gone; nothing but a dial tone. The Producer clicked off the phone.

Temporarily deflated, with traffic at a dead stop, the Producer glanced out the passenger window at the knoll beside him. A recent work of graffiti had been sprayed on the border wall. It took the Producer a moment to translate the stylized font of the message which read, “Cova Yo Ass” [sic].

It took a moment to sink in but the Producer was soon dialing a number on the carphone.

The reflection of a mirror…

The reflection of a mirror in a bathroom reflecting the reflection of the mirror opposite it reflected in the mirror of a bathroom. Atop the clean smooth marble surface of the counter around the sink sat a soap pumper, a small bowl of mints, a condom dispenser and a think pile of aspiring actress’ photographs from which one could browse while conducting one’s business. The hand towels hanging by the door were emblazoned with the initials “S.J.V.”. Sitting on the toilet, his slacks crumpled to his ankles, was the Executive-in-Charge-of-Production, conducting his business with the Actress on his phone headset while he conducted his business on the head. He was looking at her headshot in his southpaw.

“Are you familiar with the Beverly Hills Hotel?” he asked her.

There was a knock at one of the executive bathroom’s two doors. The more accessible door. The Executive gently cupped the mouthpiece of the headset in his fist before barking, “Dammit, Bernie, I’m on the f’cking phone!”

From behind the door came the shellshocked voice of his assistant. “Sir, you have a call from Ira Gray on line two.”

“Tell him I’ll call him back,” shouted the Executive.

“He said it’s an emergency, sir,” said the muffled assistant.

“Hold on!” the Executive ordered with extreme prejudice then calmly returned to the Actress in the palm of his hand. “Penny, will you stay on the line? I have to take this call.”

“Sure,” she said, displaying immediate loyalty, “I’ll be here.”

The Executive leaned forward and pressed the “Line 2” button on the cordless waistpack clipped to the belt around his ankles.

“Ira, I’m in a meeting,” lied the Executive. “And we’re in pre-production. What could possibly be the emergency?”

“No biggie,” responded the Producer through the phoneline. “Sidney, listen, if anybody asks, we’re still casting for Jezebel.”

“What are you talking about? We finished this morning,” the Executive reminded him.

“I know, I know. But if anybody asks, we still are.”

“Who’s going to ask?” asked the Executive.

“Nobody,” the Producer assured him. “But if anybody does, then ‘Yes, we are still casting.'”

The Executive dropped the Actress’ headshot on the marble floor and scratched his head. “Ira, I’ve got Penny Gingerbimbo on the other line,” he told the Producer.

At the exact same moment, the Director was still sitting in his leather chair looking through his binocs at the attractive subject (who had recently been getting the attention of many men). She too had a phone to her ear.

“Who are you talking to?” asked the Director, to her, to himself, to the silence at the other end of his own cordless phone. Then, a click, and…

“Peter?” asked the Writer, returning to the Director, impatient with the Actress’ absence.

“Uh-huh,” replied the Director, the lens never leaving his eyes.

“I’ve got Penny Gingerbimbo on the other line and now SHE’S trying to rewrite my script!” the Writer complained to ears which had long been deaf to talk of integrity. Instead, the Director expressed jealousy.

“Why the Hell is she talking to you? Hang up on her. Now!”

Then came a long BEEP.

“Steve, hang up on her and come back to me, hold on,” the Director told him, then clicked a button on the phone, taking him over to his second line.

The computerized voice of a woman crackled to the Director, “The line has become free. Your call is being placed.” The line began to ring.

Back in traffic…

Back in traffic, the Producer explained the emergency to the Executive in a logline. “There’s still two more actresses I need to see,” he said into his carphone as he slowly glided past two crunched cars, an ambulance, three police cruisers and six towtrucks hustling for action on the 405.

“But we’ve already cast Penny,” the Executive reminded him, again.

And another BEEP-BEEP from his speakerphone caught the Producer’s attention. The LED display read “Caller Unknown”.

“I know, I know. Just hold on a second.”

The Producer clipped the Executive before he could continue and blindly took his next incoming call.


“Ira, it’s Peter,” began the Director.

Fortuity at last! thought the Producer. “Peter, great!” he exclaimed. “Listen, if anybody asks, we’re still casting for Jezebel.”

“I cast Penny Gingerbimbo this morning.”

“I know that!” uttered the Producer, becoming more frustrated with the world. “But if anybody asks, we’re still casting.”

“Jesus, Ira!” The Director complained, “I’ve got Steve Shedbit whining about script changes, now you’re telling me we’re still casting… I’m trying to remain calm!”

Executive outweighs Director, thought the Producer. “Peter, I’ve got Sidney Vine on the other line. Give me two seconds.”

“Wait, Ira –” was all the Director could get out before the Producer returned to the Executive.

“Sidney?… Sidney?” asked the Producer as he accelerated out of the traffic jam, free again.

Of course, by this time, the Executive had returned to the Actress. “Penny?” asked the Executive from atop the warm padded cushion of the toilet seat.

But he’d missed her by a moment. Needing to talk to someone – anyone – about her role, the Actress had returned to the Writer she’d had on hold. “Steven?” asked the Actress, her skin toning in the sun.

There was no response from the Writer who was on his other line, waiting for the Director to return to his call. “Peter! Peter! Come back and talk to me, Peter!” he said to himself, helpless.

And for one moment in time, one brief but ubiquitous moment, a sound could be heard eminating from every office, every loft, every apartment and home, every warehouse, production house, soundstage, photo studio, every agency and law firm in the City of Angels. The sound of a sigh, a release of air aimed to relieve the tension of everyday life. The defeated gasp of desperation. For one moment, everyone in Los Angeles was frozen in stasis. Suspended from a phonepole or satellite dish. On hold.

With the phone still glued to his ear, the Director slouched back in his chair. He took a sip of his scotch and shook the ice around. “I should move to France,” he told himself. “They’d respect me in France.”

The Producer sped northbound, past the Getty and upward through the Sepulveda Pass. He glanced at himself in the rear-view mirror and affirmed to his reflection, “All you’re asking for is two Playmates at once. Is that so much? You can do this.”

The Executive pulled on the last bit of an already-empty roll of toilet paper. “Bernie!” he screamed to his dim assistant, “Bring me some fucking toilet paper!!!”

“These people know nothing about art,” the Writer warned himself as he took a fresh hit of kind bud from the honeybear bong he’d been given by a friend who was an animator on The Simpson’s.

The Actress flipped through several pages of the Writer’s script. As she skimmed over one key scene, it finally and graciously dawned on her. “Oh yeah,” she said aloud, “she is a whore.”

Originally performed as a comedy sketch, The Rivoli, Toronto, 1997