something big

In 2000 I was living in Southern California in an idiotic paradise of flowers, palm trees, skunks, echinacea, closeted Navy types and hummingbirds. The mean temperature in San Diego was neither too hot  nor too cold, the rainfall a pittance, as blondes in convertibles cruised all year long with tops down, under enamel-blue skies, to and from a cocktail-blue Pacific beside which I  lazed many a long day away,  the ocean and I tossing and turning so languidly in our sleep. Blonde bunnies battled dark-haired hunks with beach balls while lithe-but-leathery Gay men rollerbladed ornately along a boardwalk covered in all the smashed chocolates of roaches that didn’t quite make it to the sea. People said dumb shit eloquently, and did dumb things gracefully, and wanted dumb things passionately,  because that’s what sun worshipers do.

San Diego (ironic name, no?)  had a surprisingly rich secondhand book store scene (I picked up a mint second printing of Ellmann’s James Joyce for $9.95), a scene I suspect was fed daily by refugees from the East Coast turning all their books in, to the authorities, at the airport upon arrival. In my four years in the city, in and out of hundreds of houses as a house painter, I only saw two houses with books in them. That,  plus my nutso first wife (remember the time I came back to our Hillcrest flat, on University Avenue, after a month in Berlin and she pointed at the windowsill and claimed it had been clean before I had arrived that morning and that I had brought the dust with me? he chuckled to himself) … and then George W. Bush’s election, in the fall…   sent me right back to Berlin. The day I first arrived in San Diego, flying out of a wintry city to land in an airport of short sleeves and thongs, I thought “why would I ever live anywhere else?” but now I knew the answer to that question.

I thought: okay, this time we’re going to really do it. But how? Make money creatively, I mean. How? I had done some recording in Berlin during my ’90-’95 stint, had worked as a session singer and in collaboration with people who had had international hits, but being as it was the ’90s, Techno Pop was King and the music was cynically vacuous and hideous; it was like being served hard candy for Thanksgiving dinner by  in-laws I wasn’t particularly attached to (or no: it was like bug spray being used as perfume) so I spoke my Truth at recording sessions, pissed people off, couldn’t wait to get out of Berlin. Four years in Sandy Ego opened my eyes, chums. 

I stopped off in Sweden before returning to Berlin,  was nearly waylaid there, burned up a little of the house painting funds I had hidden, in a box, in order to escape Sandy Ego, spent those weeks in Stockholm doing my best not to get my beautiful/neurotic host pregnant (a story in itself) and meanwhile wracked my brains: how? How to make money with music, or writing, in Berlin? One thing I understood: the next time I found myself in a German recording studio, I would very dutifully kiss ass instead of being frank in my musical opinions. That was now a given. My fuck-you-money was only enough to flip off a beggar or two. And dwindling.

Fate intervened, in Berlin, in late 2000, early 2001, when a scammy chum drafted me into a scheme to get an old film script of his made into an actual film.  Skipping that rather complicated story:  I ended up getting slightly involved in the German film business (such as it was), writing an original script for a German production company and selling an option on that script to those producers. At the same time, I wanted to break into German Pop and was friends with a successful German Pop Producer who wanted to break into film. I suggested to this successful German Producer that we write a script together, the point being to get myself onto the premises of a proper recording studio (again), proximity being half the battle.

The German record producer… a highly intelligent and super nice guy… was not very good at writing film scripts, so, for three weeks, essentially, I wrote scripts while pretending to seek his opinion on creative decisions regarding plot and dialog… and all the while keeping an eye open for an opportunity that came within the first two weeks of the collaboration. Successful Pop Producer asked me, casually, at his kitchen table, one evening, to help with the lyrics on a pop song. “Sure,” I said, feigning my casualness, and I ended up delivering three complete and very useful sets of lyrics (strategic overkill) the next day.  Soon I was doing the same for some of the biggest Pop Producers in Germany. I embarked on a ten-year career of co-writing shitty/lucrative German Pop and this afforded me enough money (in TV royalties, mostly) to have enough confidence, in late 2004, to pursue the amazing Woman who became Beloved Wife. Who soon became Mother to Offspring. I was 45 at the time we met,  Beloved Wife was  27 and we’re still happy 15 years after.  Those TV-royalties checks changed my life, fellow Bohemians, so, you know:  keep one eye on that kind of thing before the clock runs out. Silence, Exile and Cunning… with the emphasis on Cunning.

Anyway, attached is the script I was writing,  on my own,  while pretending to require the vital feedback of my German producer friend, when he asked for help with a lyric and started my perfect little peripheral Pop Career for me. A delightful script for what could be a beautiful short film.

Any filmmakers out there…?

WARNING: no violence, ugliness or misery is present in the following artifact!


LETTERS TO THE EDITOR [letters are vetted for cogency and style]

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