Days 20 and 21
I read in some book somewhere that the more time you spend with a character in a book or play or movie or whatever the more you sympathize with them even if they’re like a hideous merciless monster because when you see them doing everyday crap like brushing their teeth and going grocery shopping and taking a crap it makes you think hey this guy/gal is still a human being and hey maybe deep down he/she isn’t so different from me or anybody else, I mean I brush my teeth six times a day on account of all the sweets and cavities and all that so maybe we have more in common than I thought and we’re all just people who need air and water and cereal and meat to survive and like a sack or two of sweets every few hours to treat ourselves and fight off the crazy stupor that eating all healthy and boring puts you in just a few hours after eating fun.
The reason I’m rambling on about all this crap is because I’ve now spent three weeks with these crazy artists and for three weeks I’ve heard Abraham in his bedroom at night reading his stories out loud over and over and I’ve seen him brushing his teeth and shopping for groceries at the Great Barrington co-op with all the other horny-rimmed four-eyes and yep I’ve even smelled his crap in the bathroom we share and at this point I feel like I gotta admit that maybe me and ole Abraham aren’t so different after all, except for him being all famous and successful and old (he’s at LEAST forty and his hair looks like someone’s been clapping erasers above his head) and snooty while I am only known at this small theater in Minnesota where my play was named Best in Snow (cough cough yeah no bigs just a $300 prize cough), and also I’m pretty young and pretty much the least pretentious writer in history, look it up. But I mean I read my scripts out loud too so it was kind of a relief to find out I’m not the only one who sounds like a total schizoid wackjob when they’re working on their stuff, and even if I don’t like Abraham I do respect how hard he works on his crap and obviously it pays off because he’s in The New Yorker all the flipping time and his big fat novels seem to sell like pancakes drizzled in gold awards and yes his reading at the crawl was real swell which is what I was supposed to be talking about this entire time I’M SORRY DIARY I GET SIDETRACKED ON ACCOUNT OF ALL THE SWEETS.
Ole Abraham’s reading at the crawl was real swell, he really projected and he has a powerful reading voice not unlike a white Uncle Phil so you could hear him all the way in the second row (there were only two rows) and you could tell he takes this sort of thing and himself real serious and maybe that’s the other reason he reads his stuff out loud in his room, not just to hear how it sounds and the rhythm and which word combos sound stupider out loud but as a kinda rehearsal. He read a new story he wrote while he was here at artist camp about a young soldier back from the war who seems to have a lot of blood and shouting pumping through his head and it’s really mucking up his marriage in a major way, and yeah there were a lot more ten-dollar words than I care for but then again I’m a simple kinda fella but more important than the flipping diction, Diary, is that I was really rooting for this young soldier because I’m pretty sure he had PMS (Post Military Stress) and ask any couple, PMS is a VERY serious problem and it’s jeopardized and ended probably thousands of relationships which I think is really sad because if we all had a better understanding of PMS maybe we could work through it better. Anyhow my only beef with Abraham’s reading besides the hundred-dollar words (inflation is real!!!!!!) was that there was a serious lack of beef and non-alcoholic beverages but what do you expect from a guy who shops at a co-op, all gluten-free minibrews and cheese-free cheeses and vegan smellicacies, ugh gag me with a spool.
I’m a big fan of juxtaposition, Diary (why do you think I roomed next to Abraham?? LOL!!!!!!!!), but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it as beautiful and pure as when Laurel whipped out a big piping hot tray of PIGS IN A FLIPPING BLANKET on the heels of Abe’s taste-free pupu platter, if she weren’t such a huge lesbian she’d be a woman after my own heart, Diary, pigs-in-a-blanket basically translates to put-a-ring-on-it in Evantarctica. Laurel also had the common decency to supply orange soda ‘cause she knows it’s my favorite which I thought was real nice that she remembered, and she also had adult beverages for the grown-ups and Lennon not that he needed any more, he was already so drunk he could barely stand or remember my name, he kept calling me Ed which was strange but I can’t say it’s the first time someone forgot my name and it certainly won’t be the last, people tell me I just have one of those names/faces/personalities.
So Laurel was showing these awesome drawings she’s been working on, she found a buncha aerial photographs of Auschwitz and used them as inspiration for these real nice landscapey type drawings that she did all by hand, unfortunately Lennon kept asking if this line symbolized “the metaphurrical boundaries we er… erect in our pershonal lives” or if that tree cluster represented tall people with green hair occupying Wall Street or something and Laurel was all like NO LENNON THEY’RE JUST LANDSCAPES STOP BEING SUCH AN INSUFFERABLE BLOWHARD okay she didn’t put it quite like that but if you read between her very polite lines that’s what you came away with. The other great thing Laurel did is have each of us write our name and address on an envelope and then we stuck them all in a hat and pulled them out like a Secret Santa type situation only I got to participate and now we have to send that person a letter at some point so that some of us keep in touch. I was bummed to get Lennon at first but then I realized how easy that’ll make it to order a hundred pepperoni pizzas to his apartment in Williamsburg or subscribe him to a buncha magazines he’ll hate like Sports Illustrated or Maxim or Decent Writing Monthly or anything else remotely macho or cool. Sounds petty I know but I’m a very mischievous person (people are always calling me a real Puck-er) and that Lennon is a real pill so I’m just gonna go ahead and consider myself an agent of karma here, which basically makes me some kinda cause-and-effect ninja which I’m adding to my CV ASAP.
But Diary you must just be dying to know how my reading of The Next Great American Screenplay went, I guess I buried the load here a bit but that’s what some people like to call saving the best for last because as you might expect from a ninja-writer MY SCRIPT KILLED, DIARY. At first I was gonna do a super-hilarious Christmas Eve scene but at the last minute I decided to go with one of the most serious scenes in the movie just on a gut feeling (my belly never lies, Diary) and I asked Abraham and his Uncle Phil baritone to read the dad’s lines and Laurel offered to read the love interest’s lines (that’s right, Diary, a little romance) and then I was just dreading Drunk Lennon slurring the main character Kevin’s lines but thank god out of nowhere like an altruistic shadow-angel Jason stepped up to the plate and oh my god Diary he brought down the house and blew everyone’s minds all over their blouses. He was like a young Martin Brando but more Italian or Spanish or whatever and he had an even better understanding of the character than I did (gotta make some revisions!!!) and just totally became Kevin and by the time he was finished Heather and Agnes and yes Drunk Lennon were all in tears and if I wasn’t so tough and rugged and brooding I probably would’ve squirted some too, Diary. It was truly my shining moment, not just of this artist camp but of all artist camps and maybe my entire life, I only wish Jason had stuck around to savor it with us like a tasty moose steak but he disappeared just moments after taking a bow, what an exit, cripes I could learn some things from that guy, I bet he brushes legs with chicks as often as I brush my teeth. We haven’t seen him since he disappeared, Diary, and I don’t know that we ever will.
So after I singlehandedly brought down the house with my amazing script and the peanut butter and banana s’mores I made basically from scratch (bananas, peanut butter chips, marshmallows, Graham Crackers) and everyone finished telling me how blown askew they were by my ability to assume different voices and we all played Apples to Apples but fun this time and Drunk Lennon passed out face-first at the table and Agnes took him back to the barn to put him to bed and Heather went to smoke some pots and go to sleep and Abraham shook my hand and told me he knew a producer he met through HBO (they shot a pilot of one of his books) and told me he’d put me in touch with him and then went to bed, after all that Laurel and I went to her studio to drink Fernet Blanca and listen to The Tallest Man on Earth and I told her how sorry I was for spilling her greens to my sister and she said it’s okay she knows I didn’t mean to muck things up and she offered me some Fernet and I said I probably shouldn’t because (here’s something I never told anyone at artist camp in my whole life) I’m a distant relative of Edna Millay which is why I’m allowed back at artist camp every year and which is also why I never drink because I’m probably an alcoholic like her and just don’t know it yet but then I figured what the heck this was pretty much the greatest night of my life so I clinked little glasses with Laurel and we drank Fernet together and yep it tasted like exotic burny cough syrup but I’ve never been so warm inside not even post-soup and by the time I finished my little glass I had a serious case of permagrin because I felt like the King of Spain and like the world was my ouster, ousting me from cold lonely Evantarctica where I was liable to fall through a frozen lake of depression or get eaten by one of those polar fears that are always roaming around my brain-tundra into some sunny bustling town where I knew a few people and could sit and write scripts and Diary entries at a nice little cafe every day and maybe really make something of myself, maybe, just maybe, all I want is a few people and the maybe.
Thanks for always being there, goodnight Diary.
Evan Allgood's work has appeared in McSweeney's, The Millions, LA Review of Books, The Toast, and The Billfold. He lives in Brooklyn and contributes regularly to Paste. Follow and maybe later unfollow him on Twitter @evoooooooooooo.