Wayning Interests

Random thoughts on and of the modern age

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FOLDED IN HALF

dogeared-book

I’d bought the book, an autobiography of an outspoken 90s basketballer, from a Salvation Army store for $3; a far cry from the big money he would have seen after inking the book deal. Even though I knew he’d never see a cent of the money paid and thus, would never know I (as a reader or a sales figure) existed, I was still looking forward to reading his opinions on issues ten years gone. Perhaps I’d find the time to knock it over during a slow shift at work, or inbetween writing sessions for my screenplay…just as long as the baller’s policy of keeping it real didn’t seep its way into my work – heaven forbid. But things didn’t work out that way, and before long the paperback had been relegated to the bedside table. There, it could boast that it was the last thing I saw before turning off the light each night, but I imagine that’s not exactly a fulfilling purpose for a book.

It was during one of these nightly exchanges that I noticed the dog ear.

There it was, about halfway through. It’s not exactly a tome, this book (I guess his views only stretched as far as his editor was willing to read, or he’d shrewdly saved the really juicy stuff for the sequel), so the tone of my imagination as it began to form an image of the book’s previous owner became somewhat patronising. You only got halfway? And was that in one sitting? But as the portrait became clearer, I started to experience the self-doubt and inferiority complex that accompanies second hand ownership syndrome. Had they paid full price, and in doing so become a blip on the author’s radar, at least moreso than I was? Surely someone willing to pay full price for a brand new paperback wouldn’t then proceed to ruin the book’s condition by dog-earing it. Surely someone that decadent would have a bookmark, perhaps one with a tassel. Perhaps in living so rich, they had led a busier life than me, so finishing the book in one sitting wasn’t as feasible, despite all the first class flights and departure lounges? Perhaps they needed glasses, and those glasses had not been available for the entire duration of the book’s value to them, rendering the pages blank and useless. What if the original owner had cared more about basketball than I did, and this was a signpost along a second, third or even fourth read-through?

What if the book was being used for some higher purpose, like research? And this dog-eared page contained information vital to that research?

Suddenly, my trivial, impulse purchase of the book felt like a petty, almost tawdry episode in the book’s imagined lifespan. Would it remember me on its deathbed? Would I make the will?

Why had the previous owner gotten rid of the book, anyway? And was I somehow second best because I’d picked up their refuse? Did all this analysis say more about me than about either the owner or the appeal of a paperback full of someone else’s opinions?

Probably.

The weight of it all was crippling, I needed to end the madness. What was on the page?! I turned to the marked chapter…

…only to discover that the dog ear was made up of two or three pages folded over together; classic wear and tear. No one had ever dogeared this book. Worse still, perhaps no one had ever read it. The realisation makes our nightly routine that much more bittersweet. Maybe one of these nights I’ll read it. I’ve been saving a bookmark for just such an occasion.

MEETING RAOUL

Hubris is an ugly thing. If I had my time again, would I have respected the wishes of a spiteful has-been instead of letting my pride get in the way? Could it have changed my entire life, and saved another? Lemme tell ya a story…

Several years ago now, a friend and I came up with a brilliant idea for a television sitcom. So brilliant was this idea that we put together a package to send to prospective producers that included a CD of us as the characters from the show in a series of sketches leading into the show’s storyline itself (I may upload it on here one of these days). So brilliant was this idea that we found ten surefire picks to send the package to.

So brilliant that we only got one considered response. Of the ten places we sent it to, most were the kind of ‘we can’t read unsolicited stuff for legal reasons’ replies we’d half expected, one never sent a reply, and the last was Raoul. In a former life he’d been big in the Australian comedy scene; edgy, hip, dangerous. His comedy efforts had encouraged a fanatical following, one that still persists to this day. I have to admit I hadn’t been heavily into his stuff back in the day; I’d only caught onto his career once he’d gone commercial.

But that was then, and this was now, and the now hadn’t been as kind to Raoul as had the past. Things had wound down for him performance-wise by this point in his career. He was simultaneously teaching an expensive course on comedy writing, and writing a much cheaper book on the same subject. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

We met up with Raoul, and I’ll freely admit I was psyched. It felt as if it was my first real validation as a writer (or performer, for that matter, given the CD). For two hours, Raoul sat with us at Bondi Westfield, chatting about a variety of things…but primarily his uni comedy writing course. I didn’t understand – was he trying to tell us we needed his course? That our writing wasn’t good enough? The other problem was he was sending mixed messages: he gave us all of the notes from his course, and even told us that we now had everything we needed to teach the course ourselves.

The more we talked, and particularly when we talked about our pitch, I got the impression he hadn’t actually read it. He must have read the cover letter and opportunistically thought that we could use his comedy teachings. He kept referencing Everybody Loves Raymond, a show my friend and I both detested, as the perfect sitcom; not a good sign. By the end of the meeting, all he’d successfully convinced us of was that taking his uni course would be a waste of time, since we’d already just heard it all.

Raoul didn’t leave us completely empty handed, though; we had homework. We were to write up a character relationship tree for the main characters of our sitcom. ‘Hell no,’ I said to my friend. There was no way I was doing a character tree for this guy when it was all so clear in the pitch. It was insulting because it was further evidence that he just hadn’t read it, and that even if we did do the tree for him, he either wouldn’t read it or we’d get it back to find our characters had become Raymond and his loving family. We left it at that for a few weeks.

During that silent era, my friend and I made a short film. Once it was done, we thought it’d be a good idea to send it to Raoul, so that he could get a sense of how we approached comedy on film. We emailed him to ask if he’d check it out, and where to send it. ‘Sure, send it,’ he replied. ‘How are you going with the character tree?’

Really? Over eight weeks later, and here he was still adamant that the character tree was the way to go. We ignored that part and sent him the film.

It’s now four years later, and we have received no reply. I guess in a way I’m grateful – I wasn’t going to write a character tree for the man and the duck. The story doesn’t end there, though. Not long after we sent him the film (but long enough to know we weren’t getting a reply), I attended a writers conference in the Barossa Valley, and who was in attendance but Raoul. He was hanging out with his contemporaries, other once-big names who’d been relegated to events as fruitless, so to speak, as writers conferences doubling as an excuse to drink wine. I wasn’t going to approach him – I’d sent him the film, he’d never responded. The ball was in his court. He skilfully managed to maintain possession of the ball for the entire day, noticing me but not actively recognising me, and certainly not approaching me. Maybe he was expecting me to march up with the character tree for him. After walking out of the conference during a self-congratulatory speech by one of the 11 writers of Shrek 2, I did as Raoul had done, and turned my back on the saga for good.

Or so I thought.

It turns out time really does heal all wounds, and that there’s nothing like a crisis to pull people together, and all those other cliched lessons you’ve learned a million times on Everybody Loves Raymond. Two weeks ago, I received the first email I’d gotten from Raoul in four years:

Vaya con Dios, Raoul.

HUNGER GAMES

An open letter to McDonalds, Pizza Hut and KFC.

It’s over.

It hasn’t been an easy decision to make, and I’ve spent many sleepless nights deliberating. We’ve had it so good for so long, but I’ve finally mustered up the courage to walk away. I know this comes as a shock, and you’re probably wondering what you did wrong. It’s…it’s honestly one of those things that’s nobody’s fault. Things were said, mistakes were made…nobody knew when to say ‘when’. But I’m saying it now.

Sure, we had some good times. When we first met, you were young and I was even younger, maybe too young. You stood out in a crowd. Your colour, your shape, your charm. You sold yourself to me like I was the only one on the planet…and it worked. Mickey D, you promised me happiness wrapped up in a box. Colonel, you seduced me with your forwardness – the idea of licking fingers scandalised me…as much as it electrified me. Pizza Hut, you were just so selfless, and it won me over. You said I could have as much of you as I wanted. You promised so much…and you delivered.

There was chemistry from the get-go. I couldn’t help feeling guilty for entertaining all three of you at once, but I’m sure it worked both ways – you don’t serve over a billion in an exclusive relationship. Young love works in mysterious, yet not unwelcome ways. I started seeing you everywhere. Bus stops, cinemas, shopping centres. Even watching TV in the comfort of my home, you’d appear…and entice me with your wares. The honeymoon, it seemed, would never end.

We laughed together when I told you of the others, the failed suitors attempting to steal me away from you. You slyly asked why you had succeeded where they had failed, and I admit I got a buzz from telling you. Jack’s hunger came off as too desperate. Wendy didn’t offer the whole package, only dessert. Red was too quick to get his cock out. Simple things, really…but important ones.

But along the way, you started to get complacent. You let yourselves go in the way lovers so often do when they think they’ve got it made. You thought you had my love on tap, and that I would follow you wherever you went. Mickey, I know you tried hard for awhile; you showered me with gifts whenever we’d dine, you weren’t afraid to try new things…but somewhere along the way I think you lost track of who you were. You were too busy trying to attract the MILFs (yes, I noticed your eyes wandering) and clean up your act that you stopped being the one I fell in love with. Suddenly, you felt so distant. You weren’t there for me as I watched TV anymore. You listlessly offered me apples and juices, like you hadn’t spent years indulging my sweet tooth. I suddenly felt so anonymous. Then came the day where you stopped asking me if I wanted fries (that old in-joke of ours). You just gave me a salad without asking. I’m sorry, but you just don’t know me anymore. And I don’t know you.

Colonel, our encounters used to be so quick ‘n dirty, skin on skin. I’d end up with sticky fingers every time we hooked up. I know you gave me those moist towelettes, but I knew you liked it better without protection. If only I’d known how much you liked it, and how far you were willing to go. I started to notice how sick you were looking.  How your other lovers were catching illnesses they shouldn’t have…couldn’t have…if you’d been doing the right thing. Potato and gravy isn’t meant to look like that. I realised you were hopelessly addicted to taking risks, and as exciting as that was at first, it’s a new era. Disease is rampant, and I just can’t take those risks anymore. Please get yourself checked, you’re not being fair to the ones who will come after me.

Pizza Hut…your doors were always open to me. I’d ask “Your place or mine?” and both options were always on the table. I always felt I could call you, and you always inquired after my needs. I don’t know if you knew it then, but you were the only one brave enough to come to my place. But if I felt I needed something more than a one nighter, I knew the invitation was always there to visit you, to rest my head on your shoulder. Suddenly, that went away. Suddenly, you were always at my place. I asked you a few times why I could no longer visit you, why I could no longer have as much of you as I wanted, but you’d brush me off. That’s just how I felt: brushed off. I was always having to call you, and I don’t like to always have to do the work. Sometimes I liked to pop in on you and grab lunch, or those intimate dinners your place was so suited for. Obviously it wasn’t as good for you as you let on, and that realisation makes me feel like I can’t trust you anymore.

So this is goodbye. You must have known in your heart of hearts that it was young love, and that it couldn’t last forever. I know it may just sound like I can’t handle change, progression, maturity, but it’s not that simple. It’s not easy for me, believe me – I’ve thrown so much of my time and money into these relationships, trying to make them work…but it’s just so clear to me now that it can’t. Your actions, my wants and needs, your long term strategies…they’re just not as compatible as they once were.

I know I’ll still feel your eyes on my body as I walk past, but you need to know that you can’t have it anymore. I worked hard to keep myself in good shape while we were together, and that will be even easier now. I can’t help the way I look. You just never let me know if you appreciated it. Sometimes I felt you would have preferred me as a fat tub of lard. I caught you a few times eyeing the fatties, and it upset me. In the back of my mind I knew you preferred them, and at the same time I knew I could never be what you wanted me to be.

I hope you realise now why this has to end. I hope you understand.

All the best.