I had realized I was watching for Bekka to show up, and had to force myself to stop it. Dammit, she's just a work friend, nothing to get worked up about, we just hang out sometimes, what we did yesterday was just two people blowing off steam, she's just a friend, there's no need to think about her flowing hair and her clear complexion and her perfectly-shaped peach of an ass and her largish firm breasts with their long nipples or her smooth bare vulva---
Fucking STOP IT. For all I know, her and her boyfriend were no longer exes, which meant he must die in a terrible vehicle explosion---
Oh, fuck this. I had about a dozen hits of MDMA hidden in my dashboard. I'll eat one; my nerves wouldn't be so jumpy and I'd be in a better mood. Ecstasy could blunt the news of the death of your parents. (In my case, the death of my mom would be greeted with, "Wow, what a trip, hey let's go to the water slides.")
Cameras ready and dangling, I was hanging around the driveway of the mansion, smoking cigarettes. Then I went to the pool area because I felt like I looked too obvious. Then I went back to the driveway because hey, I'm just smoking, if she wants to be an egotist and assume I'm waiting for her.... Then I went to the pool area because I was getting angry at myself for my self-deception, then I went to the car to get another pack of smokes because I was burning through them so fast, then I stood around in the driveway so I could watch a tow truck drop off Rita's car. I couldn't check the gas gauge, but the Toyota had been washed. And vacuumed. Aww, how thoughtful of them. Then I went to the can because of the two bottles of Mountain Dew I'd drank and that's when she showed up.
"Hey sweetie!" she cried when she saw me. We hugged, and gave each other a big smooch on the lips. She darted her head back and forth down the hallway, then pulled me in close and got her tongue in my mouth. I reciprocated; we stood there making out like high school kids between classes.
"And yes, I'm happy to see you too," she said, glancing with a smile at my crotch.
I cocked an eyebrow and said, "Well, if you weren't rubbing up against me like you were trying to start a fire...."
"Speaking of rubbing things, did you and Rita.... You know...."
"No!? Why the hell not?"
"Because by the time we got to her place, I was too tired for anything. Lois Ayres could have walked in naked and I'd have asked for a rain check. I ended up sleeping on her sofa, and being wakened by her brother poking me with a huge knife."
"And his reason for this?"
"I was a complete stranger and I was in their house. According to him, they've had random weirdos come in and make themselves at home. I guess I qualified as a weirdo.... Although you'd think he'd have recognized the blanket and pillows I was using."
"Good lord. You nearly got shanked for being too tired to drive."
"Actually, once I explained who I was, he was very friendly. Oh, I have bad news. Know how I'm only in love with you for your car? I'm in love with Rita's brother now. Same situation."
"Oh yeah? And what's he got that I don't have?" Then she started laughing. "Okay, that sounded really wrong, didn't it?"
I said, "Yeah, it did. And the answer is, a 1972 Cutlass with a 442.... And he turned it into a lowrider. Tiny steering wheel, hydraulics, the works. It's the most schizophrenic car I've ever seen in my life. Now if he only had bigger tits than Rita...."
She said, "A lowrider that hauls ass. That boy is different. Oh, I have news."
"Um, that three day wait thingy you wanted to do? Can I just ask you to meet me at the Days Inn in Encinitas on Friday? Six o'clock good?"
I was a bit surprised. "Umm.... Sure, that sounds great! But didn't you have some things to resolve?"
She frowned and her mouth got tight. "They've been resolved. I didn't have to put one erg of energy into resolving them, either."
"The prick sonofabitch decided last night, while we were having dinner, that he'd trash my apartment.... And he couldn't even do that right! He knocked some books off their shelves, he scattered some tapes and CDs on the floor, and he knocked my TV on its side. Oh, and he left my key. It had a note that simply read 'BITCH!' on it, except the feeb misspelled 'bitch.' He left out the 'T' in 'bitch.'
"It took me ten minutes to clean up; I've had friends' dogs do more damage in my place. At this point I can only feel pity: the boy can't even break things correctly. Or spell."
"Shit, that is sad. I know how to house-wreck right."
Bekka got a worried look. "Oh, is that so?"
I fessed up. "There were three instances where someone's place needed wrecking, for, ah, business reasons. Sort of a 'See what happens when you don't pay your bills?' situation."
"Okay, smashing and breaking shit? That's kid's stuff. You gotta be selective in what you break.... To hell with the CDs, you smash the picture of his dead mom. All his old records he loves so much? Pull 'em out, scratch the hell out of 'em, and put them back where they were. Unplug the refrigerator: who checks a fridge to see if it's plugged in when it doesn't work? They'll call the repair guy, who fixes it in two seconds and assumes you've got a head injury. Take the back off the TV and dump a couple cans of sardines in there. Think about how hot sardines smell, if they don't short out the set completely.
"Spray paint is good, but you've gotta be choosy about what you write. No 'Fuck You's, no 'Helter Skelter's.... Write bizarre, creepy things, in foreign languages if possible. Write 'My penis is stuck in the microwave' in German on one wall." Bekka started laughing at this one. [Note: this comes out to "Mein Penis wird in der Mikrowelle stecken." Because you know you wanted to know, don't lie.] "Or 'The hamster remains undercooked' in Dutch ["De hamster blijft onvoldoende verhit"], or 'Cheese shall injure your children' in Spanish ["Queso deberá perjudicar a sus hijos"]. You get the idea.
"If you can find it, hit some of the switches in the breaker box. You want 'em to have light, but having the stove, the outlets on one side of their place, and the clothes dryer not working will throw them. Even if they figure it out, they'll think something's wrong with the wiring; why else would the breakers get thrown? Turn every water valve down to about half pressure, so they spend a long time showering under a trickle, and it takes the toilet tank ten minutes to fill. Or, just sabotage the drains with Quik-Crete.
"The flip side? Three of you go in with wood mauls and destroy just about everything.... And as a parting gift, leave a quarter bag of drugs somewhere, like sticking out of a magazine. A huge destructive action like that will get at least five cop cars out, and cops are trained to use their eyes constantly. Odds are the cops will spot the baggie and say, 'Oh-ho, what's this then?' Your ex-friend now gets to have a much more interesting conversation with the pigs: 'It's not mine, the vandals must have left it!' 'So the vandals tucked a bag of drugs in a magazine and left. Riiiight...' And in our circumstances, there was no way the dude could say anything: 'I know who did it! They trashed my place because I owe them $1900 for drugs!' A weird situation: being able to be as constructively destructive as we wanted, and pretty much untouchable.
"Anyway, that's that. Wanna hear what to do about crying children on airplanes?"
Bekka was staring at me with eyes like saucers. "You know Lenny, sometimes I find myself thinking you're a sane, well-balanced man. Then something happens."
"And what's that?"
I had Friday night to look forward to. Even this afternoon was out, as she was going to lunch with a whole passel of fellow female performers. I reminded her to use the word "cocksucker" around as many old people as they could. "Naw, we're gonna discuss anal sex loudly while we eat. So long as there's a family at the table next to us, I'll be satisfied. That, or a table full of public school administrators. We'll describe, in graphic detail, what we do for a living, and ask them how much they make a week."
"And you thought I was bad."
"Oh, I know you can be bad. I plan on finding out on Friday if you can be.... Naughty."
"I was going to find out the same thing about you. Are you capable of being naughty enough to need a spanking?"
"Oh, yes. Yes, I am."
We were about to start sucking face again when Small Steve --- a vast improvement over Steve The Asshole --- called for people to start taking their marks.
"Oh, hey Lenny! My personal view? Go about fifty-fifty between close-ups on couples and long shots capturing the whole group. Whatcha think?"
"Hmmm.... I was gonna go with 40-40-20, with forty percent close-ups, forty percent longs, and the twenty percent sort of getting a third to half of the group. You get the 'orgy' feeling, but still have detail. Just bounce between different couplings, you know?"
Small Steve pondered this briefly, then said, "Good idea, run with it. Maybe shoot a bunch of small groups early on, just to see if it feels right, and if it does, run with it. If not, all we've done is burn some film."
"Right on. Let's do this."
Earlier, I'd discussed my idea with the director: Small Steve had the technical skills and experience to handle a camera and direct at the same time, the director would have the time to take care of business --- no more fourteen hour days --- and Small Steve would be a different man: he'd be back in the saddle, so to speak, as what amounted to being a unit director, he'd be using his skills, and would be ecstatic with the added responsibility. He would feel like an honest-to-God video producer. This could cost the company a whopping $50 per shoot: a pittance to the company, but the small amount of cash coupled with the job title and added responsibility would turn Small Steve into a happy and productive employee. The capper? Give him one of the many spare rooms downstairs as his own office: provide him a desk, a playback unit, and a stipend for supplies weekly. Having his name on a door would make him both pleasant and loyal.
The director stared at the ceiling for a bit. Then he said, "Okay, something's wrong here. I've got my fucking still camera guy coming in here and telling me how to do my damn job. There is something very wrong with this scene.
"The worst part is that I've been trying to figure out what the ripe fuck to do about Steve for quite a while, bouncing all kinds of ideas around in my skull, and none of them would work. I'm fully aware how hated he is on shoots.... Hell, he's hated walking through the door. So I've got a talented video guy I don't want to dump, but that's hated by the rest of the crew and performers.
And my photographer wanders in here, not a thought in his head, and hands me the solution on a fucking gold platter. Why should I put up with this kind of bullshit? This is ridiculous.
"The answer is my photographer has a few brain cells to rub together, and probably thought the idea through for a while before opening his damn mouth. Also, he hit the nail on the fucking head: The photographer, just some dumbass with a Nikon, analyzed a few different problems and figured out how to solve them all with a single move. My photographer isn't a dumbass, he's actually a genius hidden behind bleached hair and a pair of engineer boots."
He reached into a drawer and pulled out one of those bank zipper bags. From that, he extracted ten one hundred dollar bills, which he folded in quarters and tossed at me. "Earlier, I said that I believed intelligence should be rewarded. I stand by that statement. Take Bekka out to dinner twenty times, paint flames on your damn little Honda, whatever. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go talk with one of the Steves. The smaller of the two."
As he got up, I said, "Thank you, boss. I have faith in Small Steve to be a professional. I'm sure you won't be disappointed."
He smiled and said, "No problem. Umm.... You won't mind if I push your idea as mine, will you?"
I smiled back and said, "What idea of mine? I'm just some dumbass photographer hanging around your office."
He smiled again and went out.
The shoot went swimmingly. The filming went tight, with Small Steve making comments and suggestions to the performers during cuts. ("Please, lend me your ears for a few seconds before you go smoke" seemed to be his signature line, at least with a good-sized group.) Intelligent suggestions, made by someone who knew video camera work and also understood what a good suck-and-fuck video should look like. His comments were delivered in a constructive manner, with no patronizing or condescension. The shoot was done professionally from start to end. We wrapped a half-hour early, with full master tapes ready for the editor. At the wrap, he loudly announced to the performers, "Thank you so much! You're all beautiful, you did stellar work today. Group shoots are always a potential disaster. Well, you performed a difficult shoot, and you all did it flawlessly! Be proud of yourselves! You people rock!"
All the performers were confused as hell: it was like Small (Asshole) Steve had been replaced by an entirely different person, just leaving the shell, the human form, behind. They fought through their confusion and yelled back, "'Thank you! Night, Steve! See you tomorrow!" My own feeling was that it was the opposite: we were getting the really old Steve back, the one who had been in charge of fleets of camera trucks for local network news stations, coordinating shoots at multiple locations, making sure video shots looked the best they could, and attending to 1,001 details connected with video production. The total dick we knew and hated was missing, replaced by a capable, professional video director/producer who strived for perfection in his shots and treated both performers and crew with respect, giving direction with calm confidence, and even asking for input from performers and crew. I truly believed our output quality would jump way up.... Not that the director was bad, but he always had so much other shit on his mind that all he cared about was completing each shot, period. Small Steve would use his talented, well-trained eyes to get the best shots possible.... And he would love every minute. It was his career, and his passion. And he was finally back where he belonged.
Amazing how grasping what has hurt someone in the past can be reversed, and make them happy again. And how big problems actually can have small solutions.