What is everyone so wound up about? Aren’t El Paso and Dayton the status quo? Aren’t MSNBC et al just getting their satellite dishes ready for the next massacre at the next mall/festival/school? Don’t their ratings go up with every casualty? Or did I miss something?
It’s almost as if they expect the media to address issues like gun control instead of mainlining our catharsis.
More importantly, what’s this “media vultures” spin? Is the media supposed to be something alien? Do they live in a shadowy compound? Don’t the people of Newtown understand that we can only read so much about lobbying for gun control? I mean, it’s just like all of this talk about my privacy being invaded. Instead of going on about what this guy Snowden thinks, can’t TMZ just catch him drunk in Red Square?
In the meantime, the people of Newtown need to stay focused on news that matters:
And remember Edward R. Murrow’s famous words: “Television isn’t the classroom of the world; it’s the marketplace.” That wasn’t a bad guess for a guy who had never posted or sexted, not understanding our basic need for the simple things.
Davis and Baz bag up in the
pre-dawn light; the horizon is purple and green. They both ingest mushrooms and
take a long drink of water before going up to plant the burned ground together.
Clouds of ash rise up as they begin to work. A montage series offers close-ups
of the shovel blades going into the ground, the trees gripped in their hands,
boots tramping over the burned-out ground, interspersed with helicopter shots
of them, tiny figures in the massive dominating landscape of mountains and
DAVIS (Not stopping): Feeling it?
BAZ: Feeling it.
DAVIS: It’s good.
Montage of close-ups continues, including extreme close-up of the bright blue tape tied off on a branch, beetles scampering along the edge of a burn-out twisted stump, an abandoned chainsaw blade twisted among the weeds, a woodpecker perched on a tree at the edge of the block, sweat dripping off the nose and chin of Davis, a mosquito landing and stinging Baz on the shoulder, ending with a hard slap. They stop, look at each other, drink water, move their trees from the back bag to the side, and continue planting.
Davis and Baz continue to
plant. The sound of their heavy breathing, scuffing boots and cicadas are the
only sounds. They reach the back edge of the block and a band of shade,
planting the very edge of the road like experts, the trees rapidly dropped in.
They pause in the shadows, each eating nuts and dried fruit, drinking in heavy
gulps that spill down their necks.
DAVIS: I almost like this.
DAVIS: There’s something….
BAZ: Being an animal.
DAVIS: A burrowing creature, like a…badger.
BAZ: At 11 cents a tree.
They both laugh stupidly,
looking at each other, and then go back to planting.
BAZ: I could never work at a desk.
DAVIS: Why would anyone do that? Insane.
BAZ: Look at my arm.
DAVIS (Looking at his dirty, ash-stained arm): I see it.
BAZ: Why is that part of me?
DAVIS: It’s crooked.
BAZ (Examining it): No, it isn’t.
DAVIS: I’m not saying that like it’s a bad thing.
BAZ: It isn’t crooked.
DAVIS (Holding his arm out): Mine is too!
BAZ: You’re right. Your arm’s fucked up.
DAVIS: It isn’t fucked up.
BAZ (Taking a tree, rubbing the needles gently through his hand): My point is that this arm is mine. It’s
a part of who I am supposed to be.
BAZ: My brain commands, the electric impulses obey.
DAVIS: You’re just in your head? The master commander.
BAZ: Not even that. It’s a tiny point in the back. Or just outside, floating in the darkness.
DAVIS: That’s you?
BAZ (Planting again): Yes.
DAVIS (Following him, planting too): What about your nose?
BAZ: I don’t have a problem with my nose.
BAZ (Throwing his shovel in hard): That makes sense to me.
DAVIS: Your nipples.
BAZ: Nipples. Yeah.
DAVIS: What the fuck are you doing with nipples?
BAZ: I like nipples.
DAVIS: Your nipples?
DAVIS: You find that erotic.
BAZ: And my throat.
DAVIS: I don’t like that word.
BAZ: Throat. Man, I love a chick’s throat.
DAVIS: You mean her neck.
BAZ: No. Throat. That’s erotic.
They plant in silence, the sound of their shovels pronounced against the stillness of the day.
DAVIS (Reciting Hamlet, II, II, 228-331):What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite in… Something or other. I forget… in apprehension how like a god… and yet to me, this quintessence of dust.
There is a long pause, the
shovels once again the only sound.
BAZ (Reciting lines from Ginsberg’s Howl in a deep and booming voice):Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch in whom I dream angels!Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! Invincible mad houses! Granite cocks!
There is another long pause.
DAVIS (Unwrapping packets of trees): Granite cocks?
Davis starts planting again
and joins in the chant, done in chorus with their boot steps, the shovels in
the ground, the tree dropped in. They suddenly hear another noise, almost the
same grunting, but deeper and louder. They look up together and see a Grizzly Bear
standing right in front of them, massive, only 30 feet away. The giant creature
considers them, chewing on something methodically. Baz and Davis notice a bear
cub on the other side of her. They waver and then, in unison, continue to plant,
Baz makes a grunting noise that almost sounds like he is continuing the chant. They
plant a number of trees in succession and look up again. The bear and cub have both
DAVIS: Jesus. We just had a fucking vision.
BAZ: Both of us? At the same time?
DAVIS: What did you see?
The Grizzly and cub come out
from behind the slash, walking away, and crashing into the forest.
BAZ: I saw that.
Davis goes back to planting.
DAVIS (Looking back up): What?
BAZ: I think I just saw your cat. (Pause) Riding the cub’s back, guiding it by the ears.
DAVIS: What was that noise you were making?
BAZ: What noise?
DAVIS: You were grunting or something.
BAZ: I was asserting my presence.
DAVIS: You sounded like you were having a seizure.
BAZ: It’s what the mountain gorillas do.
DAVIS: When’s the last time you think this bear ran into a fucking mountain gorilla?
BAZ: That stuff’s universal.
DAVIS (Laughing to himself): Joint. (Pause) Universal joint, remember? The van?
They continue to plant toward
DAVIS (Planting his last tree): Last one. How many you got?
BAZ (Looking in his bag): Same, man. The exact same.
Baz plants his last tree and
they walk slowly, languidly down.
DAVIS: What are your numbers?
They walk for a few moments in
BAZ: I don’t know.
DAVIS: Me either.
BAZ: Oh, shit. One more. (Pulling a tree out and planting it)
Davis plants slowly, stops and stares off
into the grey sky. He rips a piece of flagging tape, ties it off, counts three
paces for the next tree, throws the shovel into the ground and plants a tree.
He swats at the mosquitoes, which swarm all over his face, and wipes at the
sweat dripping down his neck and face, as he continues to plant, wearily and
mechanically. He plants along the edge of the forest again, looking up into the
Davis sits slumped forward, his face down, at
the bench in the Quonset hut. It looks as if his face might actually be in his
food. A chant begins behind him.
TREEPLANTERS: Fuck this fish! Fuck this fish!
One of the treeplanters throws a plate of food at another. A food fight ensues. Timor, camera in hand, runs amongst the screaming planters, filming the scene like an action picture. Davis never raises his head, not even when the cook comes out screaming with a fire ax.
COOK: Out of my tent! Out! OUT!!!
The mob stampedes out of the Quonset hut. Davis remains slumped over.
Davis plants slowly up a steep slope. He
grabs a branch to pull himself over a pile of slash and throws the shovel in,
dropping a tree into the hole, kicking it in, and continuing up, kicking hard
through the brush.
DAVIS (Half signing Cordelia by The Tragically Hip):It takes all your power to prove that you
don’t care.(Pause)I’m not Cordelia, I will not be there.
He continues to wearily yet determinedly
plant trees. He looks up and sees Max fifty yards away, his tree-planting bags hanging
at his side, standing on a tree
stump. A crow sits on a fallen tree above, cawing at him.
MAX: Flee from me, you monster! Flee!
The crow moves
back and forth, still cawing, on the branch. Max suddenly leaps off the stump
and runs wildly away, appearing in and out of the slash, the crow paying little
attention, until he suddenly stumbles and vanishes out of sight with a hard
thud. Davis drops his bags and, as the crow flies lazily off, runs over to find
Max sprawled out face down in the muck.
DAVIS (Kneeling beside Max): Max.
MAX (Groaning, face covered in mud): Did you see that Grizzly, man?
DAVIS: It was a crow, Max.
MAX (Pause): You have anything to drink? A martini. That’s what I am thinking.
Davis sits in the hot tub with a small group,
including Max, Graham, Cindy, Emily and three other treeplanters. Allan,
wearing his Baller hat as usual, arrives, drops his towel and
climbs into the tub.
ALLAN (Opening a bottle of beer): You guys hear about the Grizzly?
CINDY: Girlfriend in town?
ALLAN: Three people mauled. (Guzzling his beer) They just radioed Tony twenty minutes ago.
MAX: I was mauled by a raven.
ALLAN: You were mauled, man? By a raven?
MAX: Well, not ‘mauled’ mauled.
ALLAN: These people were actually fucking mauled.
CINDY: (Mocking him) They were mauled, man.
ALLAN: Ask Tony.
CINDY: You know what my problem is with you?
ALLAN: That you can’t have me.
CINDY: You’re what’s wrong with this place, Allan. You just keep talking and talking. When all you’re supposed to do is plant trees, just that. (Pause) You just don’t stop. And you’re not going to stop, are you?
TREEPLANTER #1: Is that, like, Schopenhauer?
TONY (Walking by the hot tub, a load of fire axes over his shoulder): How’s the water, kiddies?
ALLAN (Almost in falsetto): Tell them about the Grizzly, Tony.
TONY: Mauled three.
ALLAN: What did I tell you?
TONY: How are your numbers, Cindy Lou?
CINDY (With contempt): What do you think, Tony-O?
TONY (To TREE-PLANTER #1): You crack a thou?
TREE-PLANTER #1: 900.
TONY (Nodding at Graham): What about this guy? You balling it or what?
GRAHAM: I got in eight and a half.
MAX (Muttering to Davis): Why doesn’t he say eight hundred and fifty, like a normal person?
TONY: You hear what this guy’s doing, Davis? You got that in you? (Turning to Max) Who’s this guy? You still even on my fucking crew?
Max stares back at him.
TONY: Clock’s ticking, buddy. You got me? Plant or walk. Got it?
Max stares back, expressionless. Tony walks
GRAHAM (Reciting from The Power of Myth):The conquest of the fear of death is the life’s joy. Life in its becoming is always shedding death and on the point of death. The conquest of fear yields the courage of life.
The following is an excerpt from the film Baller to be released in the spring of 2022:
Davis steps forward, wobbling over the uneven ground, the bags very heavy for him, makes three uncertain strides and then throws the shovel into the ground, hitting a rock. The shovel bounces out and falls as Davis shakes his hand, numb from the impact.
TONY: Watch the ground. Got to keep your eyes open, Davis. There are rocks and roots everywhere. Got it?
Davis picks up the shovel,
looks for what might be a better spot, but can only seem to see roots, rocks
and stumps all around.
TONY (Pointing): There. Go!
Davis places the shovel’s tip
on the ground and pushes down with his boot. He kicks down a couple of times
and then wedges the earth open, stands up, reaches for a tree, and has it
backwards, the top of the tree pointing down, and has to reach around with both
hands, leaning the shovel against his leg, gets it the right way around and
puts it in the ground, kicking it closed.
TONY: Too deep. Look.
Tony reaches down to the tree,
half of it buried, and kicks the tree plug in properly. Davis steps forward
again, three paces, and pushes the shovel in again. It goes in properly, and he
digs out another tree, turns it around, drops it in, and kicks it closed.
TONY: Too shallow.
Davis looks at the tree more closely
and realizes that it is high out of the ground, half of the dirt plug showing;
the tree is already falling forward. DAVIS steps forward again, going around a
TONY: Watch your line. You have to watch your line. (Pointing to the forest, a couple of hundred yards away) Find a reference point, stump, branch, whatever. Keep your line. Keep it straight. Go to the back and come back. Back and forth. Got it? Until you’ve planted your land.
DAVIS: My land?
TONY: The green tape – where you’ll stop. Allan is planting next to you. (Pause, watching Davis trying to plant again) Keep your trees three yards apart, all directions. Got it? The
inspectors are looking for that. Three yards. I’ll tie off your boundary just
down this hill.
Tony nods curtly at Davis, who
looks back, confused.
TONY: Trees in the ground, Davis. Time to make money. (He turns and jogs back to the road.) And don’t plant the road!
DAVIS: What road!?
Tony continues to jog away. Davis
looks ahead to the forest. Adjusting the bag, raising the shovel high, he steps
ahead three paces and throws the shovel in successfully, brings a tree out and
drops it in. He goes ahead again and gets another one in. And another. And
DAVIS: Almost a whole dollar. Now we’re talking.
Davis seems to be getting the hang of it and then hits a root. Unfazed, he finds another spot and puts the tree in. He looks up. The forest doesn’t look any closer. He has to step over a series of ponds, planting the trees on little rises of moss and weedy grass. They don’t look like they could possibly survive. He continues ahead, swiping at the cloud of mosquitoes around his head, methodically planting all the way up and then gets to the edge where the ground is suddenly completely open and clear. Excited, he quickly plants a succession of trees in the ground and then looks into the woods, staring into the shadows, imagining he can see something moving. He freezes, half raising his shovel, and jumps back, and then realizes it is just a branch. He turns back cautiously to the planting and realizes that he can’t see where to go because he’s forgotten to tie off any tape and so can’t see his line. He tears off his bug hat and tries to jam it in his back bag. It falls to the ground, unbeknownst to him. He stumbles ahead, searching for the trees he’s already planted, trying to make sure that he doesn’t plant them too close. He unwraps the tape and ties off almost every time he plants a tree. The tape becomes tangled in his bags and unspools in a long line, turning into streamers in the wind. The mosquitoes have arrived in a thick cloud, all over his face, getting in his eyes and ears; one flies right into his mouth. He spits it out and waves angrily. He looks for his hat and can’t find it. He continues ahead and eventually makes it back to the landing and drops the bags on the ground. He counts through his bundles, swiping at the mosquitoes, spitting them out of his face, and realizes that he has planted 45 trees and looks at his watch. Almost two hours have passed. He lights a cigarette.
TONY (Arriving on his ATV, boxes of trees tied down on the back): No smoking on the block, Davis.
DAVIS: It keeps the bugs away.
TONY (Leaning forward on the ATV handlebars): What did I tell you about planting the road?
DAVIS: What road?
TONY: The cream in the back. You can’t plant that. I saw you, Davis. You
got to take those trees out.
DAVIS: Take them out? That’s like half my trees.
TONY: It’s a fire road. We got to keep that clear. That’s the law. (Pause) How many you got in?
DAVIS: 45, I think.
TONY: You put 45 trees in the road?
DAVIS: No, total. That’s all of my trees.
TONY (Pause): Are you cut out for this, Davis? Yea or nay?
Davis stomps his cigarette out.
TONY (Leaving): Trees in the ground, Davis! That’s the name of the game.
Tony drives away. Davis puts
the bags on and begins to plant again. He is planting slower now, looking
almost in pain, as he climbs over the slash and stumps, meticulously tearing
off strips of tape, marking his line. He comes to a swampy area where it looks
like no trees could possibly be planted. He stops and stares, not knowing where
to go. He tries to plant a tree but it just sinks deep into the muck and
DAVIS: Fuck me.
He looks up to a distant ridge
and sees another treeplanter, effortless in his work, moving across, planting
tree after tree.
DAVIS (Watching and counting the trees as the figure plants): Seven trees? In like a minute. Who the fuck is that? (Squinting) Holy shit. Max? No. Is that really Max? No. The guy gets up late and he’s going to make ten times what I do.
Davis looks around again for a
place to put a tree and kicks at the ground when a large snake leaps from the
muddy grasses and launches itself, mouth wide at his leg. Davis jumps back and the
snake swims across the muddy water and vanishes back into the grass. Davis
waves his shovel through the muddy grass, trying to scare out any other snakes
and, not seeing any, he drops a tree in the water and stomps it into the mucky
water. He tries to jump the pool and falls terribly short and falls back in,
completely soaking his boots. He lunges forward and falls in again. It isn’t
until he takes the bags off that he can get out and drag the bags after him. He
puts the bags on again and then realizes he has to defecate. He takes the bags completely
off again and searches the ground intensely for animals before he pulls his
pants down and then leans against a stump and squats. The mosquitoes buzz all
around him. He swings at them, furiously trying to keep them away and then
suddenly sees a massive beetle jumping right toward his ass. He swings at it
and ends up hitting his own feces.
DAVIS (Wiping his hand violently on the ground): Fuck, fuck, fucking fuck!
He has no toilet paper and wipes
his ass with moss and shreds of bark, ants and beetles falling off in clumps,
and then scoops water from the stagnant pond and finishes with that. He puts
the bags back on, takes the shovel and looks for a place for a tree. The rain
has lessened. It is now more of a mist.
DAVIS: What’s next? The goddamn fucking puma?
He looks up, warily, squints
and recoils, thinking there really is a bear ahead. He stumbles back and
realizes that it is just a stump. He wildly waves at the mosquitoes and runs
away, stops, runs around and comes back. The bugs are everywhere. He hides his
face in his shirt.
DISSOLVE TO/INT. DAY.
Davis, his face covered in dirt
and mosquito bites, smokes a cigarette in the back of the crummy as they drive
back to camp. Baz is beside him. They are silent for a long time.
I took the train to the bar, the local, thinking I knew what I knew. She would be there. And that was that.
I had calculated the $10,000, the equivalent of 50 nights at a nice hotel, 75 bottles of very fine scotch, an Antarctic cruise or a buyout from a first marriage. Not a big deal.
I felt clarity and confidence in that, knowing exactly what I was doing, intensely so. It was what might be next – the harrowing plummet to who knows where – that I could not grasp. And then it hit me. I should have taken the express.
Chance went inside and checked his social media. The phone created its own light, its own color, its own time. It did not follow the law of gravity that forever bent all living things downward. Everything on his phone was tangled and mixed and yet smoothed out; night and day, big and small, tough and brittle, soft and rough, hot and cold, near and far.
His followers would never know how real he was, since he thinking could not be downloaded. And to him, the followers existed only as projections of his own thoughts, as images. He would never know how real they were, since he had never met them and did not know what they thought.*
*Adapted from pages 5 & 65 of Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There.
That innocent knowledge of the act, in her movements, not knowing what that is, not that half-gaped mouth or maybe that, that dread, needing, clamoring out of lost, separated, entwined. Desperately, awfully so.
He leaned against the dirty pillar, head slumped forward over his phone, unlit cigarette in hand, playing his game, watching his feed. He wore a dull blue polo shirt and was Chinese. I glanced over his shoulder, disinterested, and realized it was not a game or feed but porn, a young girl on her hands and knees, getting fucked from behind, a red background draped behind her.
He glanced back at me – much older than I had first thought, probably in his 60s – and then again at his screen, zooming in on the girl’s ass, and stepped back for the approaching train.
What if you could go to a place where you would experience the greatest moments, filled with sensual pleasure and love, genuine fulfillment, however brief, understanding and compassion in the profoundest of ways but also senseless pain, the deepest of regrets and a constant and genuine confusion for why you were there at all, and you had to stay for 85 years…would you go?
She didn’t look well, a petite woman in her late 20’s, sitting on the subway platform bench. She looked tired, terribly so, and suddenly, she threw up into her Dunkin’ Donuts. It was a full-on spew of vomit, like a penguin feeding its young, once and then again, fully and completely into the bag. She paused, exhausted, her head just pulled back from the bag, looking like she might do it again.
People walked past, me included, not noticing or not caring. She threw up again, expertly, back into the surprisingly resilient bag. She heaved once more, less in her now, paused, and wiped her mouth with a crumpled napkin, stood, looking like everyone else, and threw the bag into the garbage, like it was just a half-eaten donut, before getting on her train.