Things have been going surprisingly well recently. After a year that saw a good amount of shit thrown my way, it’s reassuring that it’s finishing up better than it began, and that I managed to survive it. But, every silver lining needs a cloud, so with that in mind, it’s time to let loose on the things that piss me off. Grab onto your seat and hold on tight.
I know, you’re thinking “what kind of monster doesn’t like dogs?” And honestly, I do like dogs. I like animals, period; even cats, which I’m not particularly fond of, are fine. What I don’t like are dogs in the city – this city to be exact. That’s New York City – and anybody who owns a dog in this city is insane. No, not you — you’re a perfectly responsible dog owner and an exception to the rule. You’re Aces, really and should be proud. But have you seen this place? Concrete and steel from end to end. The only greenery you find are in the city parks, all of which are overrun with dogs and their owners. My favorite park in NYC is the one on Governor’s Island – an oasis of calm off the southern tip of Manhattan – where there are No Dogs Allowed. It’s bliss. Frankly, I realize I like dogs too much to want to own one here. It’s cruel – how many dog owners work 8-10 hours a day, and then commute home to their St. Bernard, which has been cooped up in a shitty 500 square foot studio apartment on the Lower East Side? What does the poor animal do the time their owner’s away? If it’s my building they bark and howl constantly. Dogs need a backyard to roam around in, not an open window overlooking the street. Yes, some people hire a professional “walker” to take their pooches to the park; more often they go with the lowest bidder – in the case of this building and up until recently, a guy in the building who would routinely let the dogs piss in the elevator, which would get into the wiring and put the damn thing out of order. I live on the ground floor and rarely use the elevator – too bad about the people on the fifth floor who use a walker to get around, huh? Aside from that, I’ve taken to sleeping with earplugs because I’ve been woken up too many times at five or six in the morning as some jackass takes Rover out to piss in the street and the damn thing barks and yaps all the way there and back again. So yeah, my dislike of dogs translates more to “dislike of people who own dogs without taking the animal’s welfare into account” but it doesn’t change the fact that if you own a Dog in Manhattan, you’re an asshole. And speaking of assholes …
People who know me find it a constant source of amusement that as a notorious misanthrope I choose to live in one of the most densely populated cities on Earth, and not some shack in the woods, miles from the nearest person. Well what can I say? I’m an Enigma. Now living in New York means your nice home with the picket fence and backyard and driveway are unattainable, unless you decide to live in one of the outer Boroughs. If you live in New York (and apologies to people in Queens and Brooklyn and the Bronx – Manhattan is New York), you live in an apartment, or a condominium. That means you’re sharing your walls and floors and ceiling with other people. And by “other people” I mean assholes. Yes, we’re all guilty of forgetting that we’re not the only person on the fucking planet, and that we sometimes would be better served by showing some consideration for others. I know this, so why don’t other people? Up until I reamed him out at 4:30 in the morning, our next door neighbor would BLAST the Meringue music to the point the pictures on the wall and the fixtures in the ceiling would rattle. 4:30 in the morning. Nice, huh? He’s since mellowed somewhat (I think building management finally told him he was being evicted if he kept pulling his shit), but a mellow asshole is still an asshole. There’s also the upstairs neighbors who, if you listen closely enough (i.e. midnight Wednesday and you’re trying to sleep) can hear screw loudly and grunting and groaning. What’s the big deal? You say … I say this; I’ve seen these people; picture LURCH getting it on with that Snookie thing from that Jersey Show. If that doesn’t ruin your sleep I don’t know what will. We all have impossible dreams, as Don Quixote sang; mine is to make so much money I can afford to buy my own goddamn apartment building and evict everyone who lives in it and have the whole thing to myself, forever. But even then, I know I’d still have to deal with the goddamn …
A friend is an avid motorcyclist, and yet I know she’s not revving her engine and popping wheelies and roaring up and down a street with a senior’s center and a school and a playground always crammed with kids along the path. I doubt she and a hundred of her pals spend every summer evening roaring up and down a mixed residential street, setting off car alarms, riding on the sidewalk, and popping wheelies. I know this because she’s in Toronto, not in New York where with all the predictability of the change in seasons, the motorcycles come. Contrary to popular opinion, a guy furiously typing to meet his deadline does not find the constant revving of engines and the screech of rubber on asphalt conducive to the process. I know, I know, “suck it up” right? And I do indeed “suck it up” because it’s part of life in the big bad city. But know this; any time I hear about some dirt bag on his dirt bike wiping out on FDR Drive and taking a one-way trip into the concrete abutment, I laugh. Loud and long.
Because this is supposedly a blog about screenwriters who screenwrite, let me alienate a bunch of people in the community and say how much actors can piss me off. Again, not all actors. Most of the ones I’ve worked with and dealt with have been aces – one even made suggestions on RoboCop that actually made for a better movie. Usually, like 99% of the time, they’re there to work, to bring it day after day, and give you everything. But, there’s that vocal 1% that makes you wonder how they function in normal life; that the virtue of pretending to be someone else for a living gives them a license to be the most annoying dickbags on the planet.
Case in point – and I bring this up because 15 years is a long enough time – filming my final year project at Ryerson, I mistakenly cast an actor who claimed to be “physical” and “intense” and “able to do his own stunts” on a film heavy on the physical intense stunts. He was cast, we rolled film, and then he wussed out. He wouldn’t do the stuff we cast him for. He had a glass jaw, I bet. He wouldn’t jump when we asked him to; he wouldn’t perform the way he promised he could. He complained, a lot, he hit on the female members of the crew… in short he was a disaster. He was also an idiot to pull the prima donna act because he failed to take into consideration that his character was a) masked for the largest portion of the filming, and b) anybody could wear that mask. This meant that we put that masks on anyone and everyone who’d wear it, and film them over him, which only got him more mad about it (one of the crew who donned the mask was a girl and she looked tougher in it than he ever did). My frustration boiled over when our physical, intense actor refused to jump from a platform to the ground below – maybe six feet distance. He was worried about hurting his ankle, even though everyone on the crew and some of the actors demonstrated the ease of said jump. Finally I said, okay; give your costume to the camera assistant, he’ll do the jump. The actor handed over the jacket and the mask, but balked at the pants. This prompted a command that became legendary at Ryerson in 1995 and is still remembered by people who weren’t even there that day as I bellowed “You either JUMP, or give Alex your PANTS!” The actor relented and wrapped himself in a smelly sound blanket, the camera assistant Alex did the jump, and we wrapped. So to actors out there great and small; your job is to act, not give grief. Do the former, skip the latter, and you will never, ever want for work.
I don’t give to charity. Not money. Time? Yes. You need someone to stuff envelopes or help at an event I’ll probably be there. But I no longer give money to people or organizations because I know it doesn’t make a difference to them or to me. My wife does, occasionally – rather she did give to one organization recently and guess what happened? The mail started arriving. Word got out that she’s a kind, giving, altruistic person and they saw an easy mark. They call us now looking for donations, and reminded me of a time years ago when I made a mistake in giving to a charity. In that case they called me again and again, almost monthly as part of their “annual Appeal” forgetting that “Annual” means “once a fucking year, not twelve times). I do still give money to the Billy Bishop Museum in Owen Sound – the lone exception to this rule – because we have a special relationship; they agree not to bug me, and I agree to donate a fixed sum once a year. I’ve been doing it for eight years now and that’s the best I’ll do. What, you ask, does this have to do with panhandling? They’re kind of the same thing in my book; someone asking you to give money to them, and giving me nothing in return. “But, what about the good feeling that you made a difference?” I’ll go on the record here; your charitable donation doesn’t make a difference. You know what does make a difference? Action, on your part. Go volunteer at a soup kitchen, go volunteer to help a cause you believe in. Just don’t give them your money because all you’re doing is encouraging them. Ditto the subway panhandlers – 99% of whom are professional scammers who are going to use your money for booze and drugs.
Once some guy asked me for money to “buy a coffee.” This was as I was going to buy a coffee for myself so in I went, and got myself a cup, and a cup for him. On my way out I handed it to him. He then asked me for money. I told him I don’t have money to give him because I just bought him a coffee. He threw the coffee onto the ground and called me a motherfucker. That’s why I don’t give to panhandlers.
And lastly …
People – answer your fucking email. You just insult the sender and embarrass yourself when you don’t.