Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Sidewalk Smokers Club - Chapter 42

Chapter Forty-two (chapter one ran April 9, 2005)

Now for a bit of housekeeping.

The event at Joya’s Joyas has been repeatedly referred to as the press benefit/press conference. It must be recorded that there were brisk sales to reporter girls of rings and things, from which Joya contributed a percentage of the proceeds to Jordan; no questions asked. Of course, the real benefit was to be reaped from the collected business cards, promises of help, and planned parties with newfound friends the event had yielded. In days following that seminal event, Yvonne, Corey, Randall, and Joya all helped in tracking down leads and asking for help with the lawsuit and related legal expenses. The response had been overwhelming; further testimony to the fact Yvonne’s situation had tapped into some heretofore hidden vein of public sentiment.

She herself felt trapped by the situation confected, walking in a direction that no longer held draw, pulled at both arms by likeable people whom were giving the help she’d asked of them.

But this chapter is not about Yvonne. It’s about Randall and the aforementioned housekeeping was necessary to the explanation of how he became financially self-sufficient without doing a short and clumsy installation covering his monetary wherewithal(s) first.

Generous as Joya, Yvonne had offered, without prompting, to pay he and Corey from the benefit proceeds something out of her own legal fund. Randall accepted. Corey courteously declined, happy to wait and harvest untold riches following the propagation of bum philosophy across the system of flows.

Randall was solvent for the first time in how many years he could not even say and, although the cushion was marginal, it was thrilling for him. He noticed how much easier it was to do well by people, be a cool guy even, when his wallet was stuffed with salad and credit cards were sources of money – juice – rather than persecution.

He could leave that little extra tip which would accumulate interest with the recipient in record time. He could pay off old debts to good friends and do so over a nice meal at his favorite Argentine restaurant. He could toss somebody a joint and make his or her day. And all this accrued to his benefit, rolled over, even. The paid debt came back as a hedge on future financial complications, the meal became an invitation out, the joint came back grown into a full bag of happy grass.

The same way being broke meant bounced checks and bank-initiated punishment, which then marked Randall’s file for the next round of trouble, so it was that when things began rolling his way there was only more good to be gotten.

There was, by way of concrete example, that invitation to the A-list actress’s party. It hovered over him like a bright Moroccan sun of fortune. When stuck in traffic or waiting on an endless line at the supermarket, he thought about this wide-open door to a new world and all was well again. It colored his entire perception of life, which is beautiful under such circumstances if we only let it be so. Randall did.

And this complicated his goal of self-destruction by tobacco. In the same way a rabble-rousing union organizer gets a desk job or a revolutionary quietly recedes from the scene upon finding love and making a baby, Randall grew content so that almost (no absolutes!) every fiber in his body went against the proposed smoke-out of his health.

He expressed this thought to Corey who was the plumber in their partnership.

“You’re invited to that party because of your own master plan,” Corey pointed out. “Every element of it is important and if you don’t see each to the end, we’ll – you’ll – be right back where you started.”

He was 100 percent correct in this. Both statement and example are here injected to demonstrate just how much more effective two people working enthusiastically toward a goal can be than one.

The party itself began for Randall well before his arrival at the star’s house. He had dropped by one of the city’s few surviving humidors to squander his newfound wealth on some overpriced cigars he knew nothing about. And then he pulled off at a discount drug emporium to buy some mouthwash. He drove up into the rich, Spanish-accented hills and marveled at how such different atmospheres as this and the rough surface streets he normally roamed came under the rubric of the same city. Randall did not particularly enjoy the cigar he lit for the journey, but he got a warm sense of satisfaction he’d once believed only possible in the final version of a well-articulated thought, knowing that another constructive step toward the destruction of his health had been taken.

He accidentally passed the A-list actress’s house once in the expectation of something bigger. Next, R. backtracked and located the residence and then had to turn around again to park his vehicle along the woodsy incline. In what is second nature to all urban dwellers, he looked up in search of a sign proscribing his right to leave a car unattended and saw nothing.

He felt a little nervous and was forced to take a deep breath before sauntering up the walkway with the tin of expensive (for him) cigars under his arm.

Randall rang the bell and was half-surprised to see the A-list actress open the door all on her lonesome. Stripped of so much stage setting she could have been any other of the ravishing muses in the world. Out a corner of his eye – the rest of it being occupied with her – he caught a glimpse of at least three A-list actors and actresses whom were daily fare on the covers of magazines in supermarkets across the land. He opted for a cool play and stumbled a little on the intricate Persian rug that covered the floor of A-girl’s anteroom. The stars didn’t mind; they were used to that kind of thing. They’d read the accounts and viewed the telereports of the benefit/press conference for Yvonne. They were totally behind her in the battle against an exploitative media megamonster because, rich as they were, it was to a large degree their fight, too.

He dumped the cigars on his hostess who then escorted him up to a pair of well-known buddy actors and introduced him thusly: “Here’s the leader of The Sidewalk Smokers Club!” The two handsome, thin, utterly charismatic young blades smiled kindly and gave manly pats on the shoulders. She smoothed over her departure with a primer on where the booze and food might be found and then shimmied away leaving a bit of heaven lingering behind.

Randall struck the egalitarian note by pointing out that he was not, in fact, the leader of The Sidewalk Smokers Club, a non-hierarchical organization in which the creative impulses of its ever-changing ranks were never oppressed by someone’s weightier status. Randall had forgotten that those in whose company he now found himself were very dependent upon repeated recognition of their weightier status, but unwittingly recovered when he said, “As bum philosophy holds, he who leads sometimes dies first.”

Bum philosophy did not, up until that moment, hold any such thing, but it would thereafter, for the system was an elastic one that shrank and grew with the necessities of its creators.

And besides, he was playing a role. He was invited as a bum philosopher and by gosh he’d better bum philosophize if he wanted a return trip to this little Eden.

It took him a few minutes to get his bearings. After all, it could have been a dream. Everybody present was young and famous and it rather rattled him to think such people actually hung out together, unbeknownst to him. The guys, with a few colorful exceptions, were good-looking and practiced in the small gestures of the feigned or real boredom that say C.O.O.L. None were quite as original as Randall, just excellent in meeting a pre-established and (almost) universal standard of manhood. The girls were of course beautiful, some less so than on screen and others beyond compare in person. They were not guarded, for they were among their own guild of the gilded and Randall almost fooled himself into thinking their openness had to do with his good looks or beastly magnetism.

He felt a bit the dancing bear. But in the end there was empathy and admiration, for what were any of them but dancing bears of one sort or another?

His hostess, the A-list actress – had invited him in that moment when her social antennae informed that the event at Joya’s was a dirty, nasty, funky hit and the people who had pulled it off were comers. Everyone there wanted to know about Randall’s friends, about the sexy girl who had showed up in the magazine and was stealing all their air time with her gutsy story of taking on the same concentrated media companies in whose hands their bank accounts resided.

In short, The Sidewalk Smokers Club was doing the dirty work everyone present fantasized over, but were too compromised by personal pleasures and possession to act on. Having been summonsed to the head of the class like good little students, each fearfully awaited the day of summary dismissal.

Anyhow it didn’t matter. Not at the moment. The party was raucous. Fabulous stringy, sandy-haired, honey-voiced, loosey-goosey girls grabbed him by the hand and took him from magic room to magic room where it is best to let mystery sprinkle its own insinuations rather than deflate the imagination with demystifying, clinical detail.

One or two of them suggested he stop smoking, but Randall was a delegate from the other world, carrying a banner, and these were the people whom he wanted under that banner. They didn’t know this. They did. They cared. They didn’t. They were taken aback and admiring of the fact he would deign to tell sirens such as they “no” (much as it killed him).

He maxim-ized in his mind: “Saying no to a beautiful woman will get you either nowhere or everywhere,” and promised to do his best to remember it “morning next” as the British refer to the morrow.

R. was having a blast, flirting with drunken effusiveness, but in the end too keen of purpose to blow it with giddiness. And besides, things turned out to be rather natural. One star turned out to be a delicate guitarist, accompanied by the surprisingly heartfelt vocal stylings of what Randall had thought was a rather meretricious comedian. A sit-com silly-girl danced like a crystal nymph with another feature-length actress of higher status, and he was stunned to learn that they were not fakes.

No, these people were special, finely honed instruments. Their having been reduced to commodities for sale was but the ransom for a life of riches. They were worth more, it seemed to him, than the sum total of things they were known for. They were deeper than their tabloid dimensions. So, mindful of their reduction and massification, and given his long past of disdainful rebellion against such things,
why did Randall want to be involved?

Because he did.

Rebellion, he’d decided, was stupid if nobody knew who you were or why you were doing it. The only revolution worth its salt was that acted out upon the stage of conformity. Doomed to failure, it at least provided those with free-spirited temperaments a distinctive role in the battle for success.

The actor Hat Midone, who’d been subjected to this particular discourse, agreed wholeheartedly. Randall gave Hat his card. Hat gave Randall his publicist’s.
R. chose a moment just after the party had peaked – when the A-list actress had opened a pantry revealing case after case of a quality tequila – to depart and, with his head held high lest everyone who was anyone be watching, rejected all pleas and temptations that he stay.

Heading out, the hostess caught up and intimated that this was not the last of it, that there would be more. He kissed her goodbye and coughed roughly enough for those in proximity to notice. Nonchalantly sweeping the room before exiting (stage left as it were) Randall saw that all the cigars he’d brought had been put to use.

Sometimes the world comes around to us.

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