I was just telling that guy about the helicopters in the streets. He didn’t believe me. Wasn’t even listening. Watching the fucking Cowboys. It wasn’t like I planned to sit at her table. She was just there, her boyfriend too. They were nice, from Cincinnati, and wanted to talk. They didn’t care that I was dead drunk. She had these wide, innocent eyes, innocent everything. That was the problem. She kept leaning in and asking questions, and I kept ordering drinks. And then he was gone somewhere and so were we. I don’t remember much after that. Just walking, going the wrong way, and then being along the river and looking into it.
The talking heads stare back, beleaguered, telling us of the ugliness, how unpresidential it has become. They count down the days in feigned exhaustion. Only 29 days until another president will be elected, and more importantly, when the spin cycle can begin anew and the next batch of ne’er-do-wells can be stoned.The talking heads say everything they can think of and they say it again and again – emails, rapists, locker room talk – except about how their ratings are only as good as the race is bad, that the crummier they make it, the more Viagra they sell. And so that’s what we do. We consume this reality TV, hoping that next season, in just four short years, the chosen one might appear and take care of us forever.
He’s not as bad as everybody might think.
Just Weird: Expelled from boarding school, Davis must move in with his father and step-family. His step-brother, a world-class swimmer, is indifferent to his presence while his step-mother and step-sister treat him with outright disdain. His new school, a strict all-boys institution, is another source of misery, but for a beautiful young teacher, Ms. Geisner. Davis gets a job delivering newspapers as he struggles with the drudgery of school and home-life until he stumbles upon a party at Ms. Geisner’s house and, as he watches her dance drunkenly to Rock Lobster, confesses his love to her. Humiliated and hungover, Davis must make a speech the following day to the assembly and, at the last minute, recites the lyrics of Rock Lobster, almost causing another expulsion, until his father steps in. Paint: Davis is distressed: he hates his work as a painter, he can’t talk to the girl he loves, and his father has just died. His college friends are no help, always getting stoned and hyping up for the next frat party. Memories of his father dominate Davis’ thoughts as he gets through the day, until he is confronted by his step-brother and told that he is not welcome at their father’s funeral the next day. High on mushrooms, Davis becomes a mess, blacking out and then wandering off, until he runs into his crush, Ellen. He confesses his love for her and finally unburdens his thoughts of his father late into the night, falling asleep on her couch. He gets to the funeral late, dozes off, images of his father floating through his head, and then watches his step-family walk out past, before going back to work and finding Ellen there.Baller: Out in the wilderness of British Columbia to plant trees, Davis discovers that the learning curve is painful; the mosquitoes and black flies are a constant plague, the weather is by turns baking hot and miserably wet, and the specter of snakes, bears and cougars lurk at every turn. Davis toils on, the repetitive routine of planting trees putting him into a meditative state where he can consider his place in the world. Things take a number of turns for the worse – Davis loses his van, cat and girlfriend – and yet Davis continues to rise to the challenge by relentlessly planting. And finally, when a forest fire appears on the horizon, Davis and his friends defy the foreman and escape by driving directly into the smoke, finding their way through and on to a music festival on the west coast.
A letter from death in Jose Saramago’s 2008 novel Death with Interruptions:
One day you will find out about Death with a capital D, and at that moment, in the unlikely event that she gives you the time of day, you will understand the real difference between the relative and the absolute, between full and empty, between still alive and no longer alive.
And when I say real difference, I am referring to something that mere words will never be able to to express, relative, absolute, full, empty, still alive and no longer alive, because, sir, in case you don’t know it, words move, they change from one day to the next, they are unstable as shadows, are themselves shadows.
Baller: If the bugs don’t get you, insanity will.
Davis leaves behind his easy-going university lifestyle to journey into the Canadian wilderness and a summer job of planting trees.
The learning curve is painful; the mosquitoes and black flies are a constant plague, the weather is by turns baking hot and miserably wet, and the specter of snakes, bears and cougars lurk at every turn. Davis is barely able to make $5 a day at the outset, while his pot-smoking pal Max concedes immediate defeat, hiding in his tent. The sole respite to the torturous work is the communal hot tub where everyone strips naked to drink, pontificate and listen to killer music, all the while dreaming of a better day.
Davis toils on, slowly discovering an inner strength. The repetitive routine of planting trees puts him into a meditative state where he can consider his place in the world, made all the more poignant as he surveys the stripped and burned hillside juxtaposed against the stunning beauty of the surrounding mountains. The crew finally gets a day off and celebrates their brief freedom in town with drunken antics, after which things take a number of turns for the worse, including Davis’ van getting wrecked. Davis grinds through his angst and exhaustion and, after a late-night rendezvous with the foreman’s girlfriend, goes back to town and gets into a conflict with a group of locals who accuse him of stealing their jobs. Elmer, a mysterious and spiritual planter Davis had only seen from afar, comes to the rescue by defeating their burly leader in an arm-wrestling duel.
Davis returns to work, relentlessly planting, breaking the camp’s record, shortly after which a forest fire appears on the horizon. The foreman insists that the crew stay to make as much money as possible, but Davis and his friends escape this madness by driving directly through the smoke and onto a music festival.
Paint: Everything works out for the best. Or not.
Davis, atop an extension ladder as he scrapes paint from a gas station sign, loses his balance in a gust of wind. Hanging on for his life, he tries to reflect on the loss of his recently deceased father but just curses to himself instead until finally rescued. He drives off with a co-worker to the next job and they talk idly, neither one of them approaching the topic of the death of Davis’ father. Instead they banter on about to getting drugs and beer for that evening’s frat party.
They arrive at an office building and Davis zones out while he paints a back hallway, daydreaming in vivid detail the moment he arrived at the hospital to find his father dead. Davis races off from his work, through campus, getting to his student radio show on time, while Ellen, a girl who Davis has had a crush on from afar, arrives as an intern. Davis blunders all attempts at communications, returns to his radio booth and drifts off again, remembering his final, painful visits with his father at the hospital. He finishes the radio show and shows up, already half drunk, at the frat party where his step-brother tells him that he is not wanted at their father’s funeral the next day.
High on mushrooms, Davis dissolves into a mess, blacking out and then wandering off until he runs into Ellen. He awkwardly blathers on about her beauty and then finally about his father, impulsively inviting her to the funeral before falling asleep on her couch. He wakes up late, and running across campus again, gets to the funeral at last moment where he sits in the back. Mr. Heaney, an old friend of his father’s, gives Davis life advice while sharing a bottle of scotch whiskey. Davis falls asleep, dreaming of his father, to wake as his step-family is leaving the church.
Davis returns to the gas station, back to the drudgery of scraping paint, when Ellen appears and offers to help.
Just Weird: Because you can’t be anyone else.
Expelled from boarding school, Davis moves in with his father and step-family. His step-brother, a world-class swimmer, is indifferent to his presence while his step-mother and step-sister treat him with outright disdain. His new school, a strict all-boys institution, is no refuge, but rather a breeding ground for bullies and malcontents. Davis learns of a compulsory public speaking competition from a pair of misfits, Eugene and Erdley, both of whom he befriends over hashish and an obsession with music lyrics.
Davis joins a film club, led by a stunning young film teacher, Ms. Geisner, and shortly after takes a job delivering newspapers in her neighborhood. Davis gets into a series of problems – including an evening of pyromania ending in Erdley getting badly burned – until, in an ironic turn, Martha is fired from her job for smoking pot, leading her parents to take her with them to her brother’s swim meet in Northern Ontario.
Left alone in the house, Davis sneaks into a party at Ms. Geisner’s house where he gets drunk and, after watching Ms. Geisner dance to The B-52’s Rock Lobster, confesses his love for her. It ends badly. He wakes, miserably hungover, realizing the public speaking contest is in today’s assembly. Instead of his practiced speech, he decides to recite Rock Lobster. Initially unsure, he gains confidence and ends up screaming the final lines, which is received with great enthusiasm by the student body and outrage by the administration. It appears that Davis is to be expelled yet again, until his father meets with the head of school and promises to help finance a new swimming pool.