By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Troy Farah
By Roger Calamaio
By Mark Deming
By Glenn BurnSilver
By Brian Palmer
The phone rings and I let it go. (That the thing still operates is shocking enough, considering I haven't opened a bill in months.) I sit some more and do nothing. The ringing stops.
Then it starts in again, and instead of picking it up, I count off the rings. The person trying to get ahold of me is a persistent bastard, and the agitating jingle finally lets up after a count of 25. Christ.
I get up and move to the kitchen. I open the refrigerator, grab another Old Milwaukee Ice and return to the couch. The beer pops open with a flick of the finger, and I lift the magic potion to my mouth and pour a good amount down my throat. The phone sitting on my coffee table starts in again . . . ring, ring, ring . . . it just keeps going . . . ring, ring, ring . . . on and fuckin' on . . . ring, ring, ring. Finally, I can take no more, and I grab the receiver, yank it to my ear and bark: "What? Whaddya want?"
"Er, Blake?" came the weaselly whine from the other end, and I instantly knew it was my New Times editor, the last person on Earth I ever want to talk to. "Jesus," he said. "Why don't you try picking up your phone once in a while? You never know, Blake, ya might get somewhere in life."
"Why don't you try not calling people up and letting the fucking phone ring into the millennium?" I ask. "Maybe ya wouldn't have so many fuckin' enemies in yer life, pal."
"Yeah, sarcasm noted, Blake."
"So whaddya want? Is New Times gonna gimme a raise? Fat chance, you guys prefer your writers lean and malnourished and . . ."
"Knock it off," he interrupts. "Spice World is why I'm calling. I want you to go to the movie. Write about it."
"You heard me."
"Wha . . . ?"
"GO TO THE SPICE GIRLS MOVIE AND WRITE ABOUT IT," he shouts.
I hang up.
Less than a minute later, the phone rings again. I answer it, knowing full well I have absolutely no intention of bearing witness to any G-rated puppy-dog porn meant as jerk-off ammo for 12-year-old boys.
Instead, I could say I went, then write the piece and pocket the expense money.
After some quick math, I say into the receiver: "I need 20 bucks for the movie and popcorn, plus another 20 for beer on top of my usual column pay. And oh, yeah, I'll also need $125 for cab fare from my trailer to the theater, 'cause the LTD is up on blocks and the nearest showing is all the way in Phoenix."
"Listen, Blake," came the response. "You'll have to find your own way to the theater, and I'll give you 10 bucks for a ticket and a bag of popcorn. That's it. And I don't know if you've ever been to a movie theater before, but they don't serve beer with the popcorn."
"So? I subscribe to the BYOB theory; besides, you mean to tell me all New Times is willing to cough up is 10 bucks for expenses? I bet you spend more New Times dough on coffee each morning."
"Whatever, Blake . . . look, I gotta go. You know the score, so save the receipt and I'll reimburse you. And look at the bright side--you'll be able to get the hell out of your trailer-park jail for a day." Click. The line went dead. He hung up on me, the bastard.
Well, a few days later, my column was well past deadline as always, and I had to get the hell out of the stinking trailer, so I gave in to my editor's request and braved the two-hour-plus bus ride into Phoenix from Apache Junction.
The mass-transit system in greater Phoenix operates under the evil right-wing presumption that its users are second-class citizens and therefore should be treated as such: A timely arrival at one's destination is but a dream, and the lengthy waits one must endure at bus stops suggest that only an idiot would partake. I got on the bus headed for Phoenix.
I get off in midtown at a used-record store to hawk the crap promo CDs I brought along for quick beer $$$. (I unloaded the Great Expectations soundtrack, Yoko Love, Alannah Miles, new Heaven 17 and one that my editor said he wanted back [!?], Zep's BBC Sessions.) I hoof it a good two miles to the theater with a quick stop at a Circle K for a couple 40s of King Kobra malt liquor.
The theater is situated in a fading strip mall--a dismal chicken-wire-and-spit affair with hearty helpings of stucco sprayed on to simulate architectural depth and house various rip-off retail and food businesses--one of many that make up a good portion of the Phoenix landscape. A man could die here and no one would notice.
Worse, as I walk closer to where Spice World is showing, I see a line of mass-produced suburban white kids snaking out from the box office; cum-filled, prepubescent boys wearing $150 shoes and mall coifs, and even younger girls chewing gum with a snotty vengeance while aping MTV hip-sway. And, like me, they are all there to see this decade's version of the Madonna PG slut-goddess. Joy.