💡
Hey kittens: I took a longer space between posts than expected. Truth is I've been buried in Kickstarter-planning for a few weeks/months. I'll tell you ALL about it as it gets closer, though a few of you have been helping immensely already. In the meantime, my daily design/writing/art grind is building something I'm stupidly passionate about, which feels so, so good.

But TODAY! Today, I has a nice little tale for you. A story of romance, crime, after-hours french fries and chance encounters. Please to enjoy!

I only noticed the letter on the kitchen table when I grabbed my keys to leave.

My brother left it out for me, its top-left corner torn off when he yanked it off our front door in (imagined) excitement. It was a request from a film location scout who wanted to use the exterior and front hallway of our shitty old house (!) in our broke-ass end of Park Slope (!!) — so busted we called it "Park Slump" – for a new movie by director Wes Anderson (!!!)

We were both a big fans of Rushmore, so how cool would that be? I folded up the flyer into quarters, stuffed it into my shoulder bag and headed out for the evening. I had a late date with a spicy thing I'd been chatting to online.

It was a 20-minute walk through tailpipe-flavored winter down to the 9th Street/4th Avenue F train. Businesses down Fifth Ave were closing right and left as real estate costs went through the roof, priming the South Slope for the incoming wave of gentrification that would inevitably price me out of my creative cocoon of the last two years.

I absolutely loved it down here: the Old Brooklyn attitude, the cheap international food, the sloppy corners, cracked windows, grimy hustle of shop owners and neighbors alike. Everybody was trying to make it, to shine, even if just on the block they grew up on. Halfway there, somebody covered an MTA bus stop in dripping fat marker tags overnight, its schedule drowned in an ant-pile of tiny fluorescent pink tags that all read the same thing: OOOPS. WAIT. Over and over again: OOOPS. WAIT. It must've taken whoever did this all night.

I dug into my bag for "my main brain": my PP, aka my Palm Pilot. This handheld device was organizational magic for a creative young man with my high-level of tree-smoke. I had amazing ideas but was also an otherwise-forgetter, so I needed a capture system to rescue les bon mots from later. With its custom transparent red shell and flip-up cover, the PP didn't have wifi, email, a camera nor a voice recorder, just a tiny monochrome LCD screen I wrote constantly into using its tiny stylus. The device's OS demanded you change your handwriting into something readable they called Grafitti™. As a constant note-jotter, sometimes-writer and a PP power user, over time my Grafitti™ skills rewrote the grade-school muscle memory, contorting my once-handsome handwriting into an unbroken-line-of-thought scribble that I still can barely read myself.

The idea of "OOOPS. WAIT." was logged into my PP's "NY Speaks 2 Me" folder. I had a plethora of folders on my PP, most filled with character ideas, outlines and a few scripts for comics that would ever be produced, or short stories I used to bang out at Midtown diners during lunch breaks on a fold-up keyboard powered by a calculator battery. In the up-all-night greasy spoons of Brooklyn, I felt like I was The Cyberpunk Future no one else saw coming.

On the train, I check my calendar for the address for FUN, a big underground club tucked under the Manhattan Bridge where Chinatown and the Lower East Side touch. A cool place – my suggestion – to meet an equally-cool blue-haired writer named "Bloubessie" for the first time IRL. We'd always messaged via a secure personals site — still working towards phone number exchange — and her texts were both laugh-out-loud funny and stop-it-I'm-at-work horny.

++++

Exiting at East Broadway, the temperature had dropped. It had recently rained in Lower Manhattan; the snow was wet and black and stunk of oil. Rain pattering cold on my scalp, I skulked my way from awning to awning for blocks until I spied the burning neon “FUN” sign under the bridge. And beneath it: a pale-skinned girl with bright blue hair.

ME: Hey, uh... Bloubessie..?

In a sea of red neon, she rolled her eyes:

BLOUBESSIE: That's my screen-name, dummy. I'm Jemma.

She took my hand in hers, damp wool mitten on wet pleather glove. It was warm. We flashed our IDs to the mountain of a bouncer with a squeaky voice and embroidered “FUN” baseball cap:

BOUNCER: Aww... y'all cute. G'wan inside.

++++

Inside FUN was too loud to talk, but we knew each other a bit from our messages. I knew she liked vodka, she knew I preferred weed to alcohol. When I left her on one of the velvet couches to get her a gimlet from the bar (and myself a pineapple juice), she’d begun rolling us a joint.

As we smoked, bobbed our heads to German tech-house, both “Dan” and “Jemma” grew lower in the mix until I completely stopped thinking — which was why I got daily for like two decades — and my heart just opened up.

I looked over at her: messy blue bob full of sculpting product, a thousand bracelets on each skinny wrist, smeared eyeliner across her left cheek where she'd pressed her gimlet as a big beat dropped. Jemma was cool. Really cool. Maybe even… a keeper?

She caught me looking at her, smiled as she took a sip from her straw. The DJ leaned into a thumpier bass hit and we were yanked far away from all conscious thought. She leaned into me, her breath sweet:

JEMMA: Dance?

I saw her mouth form a word but couldn’t hear its sound, so she wiggled two fingers down like legs, bobbing her shoulders to the music. We left our coats and things on the couch and danced together, fully dorks who did not care. Dorks who’d found each other.

Looking up, lights crawled across the high ceiling of FUN above us, colors timed with the music reflecting off the disco ball, creating a dome around us of color and promise and fun.

Watching her, I very much wanted to kiss her then, but every time I got close, she floated backwards an inch outside of my orbit with a sly smile.

Was this..? Was I…?

++++

Some time later: we found a diner with flashing neon in its fogged-up windows, parked ourselves above a heaping plate of thick-cut French fries and tzatziki. She leaned over, picked a fat fry and crushed its head between her molars while watching me watch her:

JEMMA [with her mouth full]: I’m glad you’re not, like, grabby paws all over me. You’re an actual gentleman.

ME: Thanks. I mean, this is a first date, right? I don't even know if I like you. Yet.

JEMMA: Exactly! It's a first date! I’m definitely not sleeping with you. Tonight.

ME: Fantastic. I’m good like this, techno and French fries.

JEMMA: I am... also good like this.

The energy between feels loaded but somehow still easy, reminds me of a story I’d been writing, in a folder on my PP, that she’d enjoy. Reaching for my bag, I realized it isn’t here.

A flashbulb goes off, the universe blasted bright blank white. As the diner slowly seeps back into my vision, I’m already up on my feet, all muscles coiling:

ME: Oh. Oh no. Fuck. Fuckfuckfuckfuck.

I’m grabbing my coat, throwing cold raindrops on our fries.

JEMMA: “Fuckfuck”…? Wait, what’s wrong? Where are you going?

++++

Of course I explain what happened before I rushed out; I'm not an asshole. I’d be right back, but my house keys! My writing! I sprinted out into the freezing rain and back under the bridge to FUN. There now was a line around the block that I brazenly cut, faced down the bouncer to make my plea.

BOUNCER: Hmmm yea remember you, go on in... but [sucks teeth] good luck?

++++

My bag was not on our velvet couch. I checked under every table, under every dancing foot, stumbling heel, drink-spill puddle. And here I began to panick. Thinking back to the last time I remember having my bag: on the couch when Jemma and I got up to dance. So I asked around:

The busboy shook his head, gave me a you-are-so-fucked grin.

WAITRESS (no sympathy): You took your eyes off your bag? In New York City? Where are you actually from...?

BARTENDER (shrugs): Nah, we don’t even got a lost and found.

++++

Back at the diner, I explained to Jemma the monumental loss of what was inside:

  • My wallet: containing $63 in cash, my ID, a fresh 30-day MetroCard
  • House keys: how the fuck was I gonna get home?
  • But horror of horrors, the only thing in there I actually cared about: my dear red PP with full of my stories and notes, whole universes within.

Jemma was sympathetic — she feels bad, pays for our fries — but our energy was thoroughly squashed. We parted ways with hug and a peck and I had exactly one subway ride’s worth of cash to get home with.

++++

I don’t get back to my neighborhood until after three a.m. Brooklyn-bound F train service was suspended between Jay Street and Bergen, meaning I waited in the cold for a shuttle bus and a paper MTA transfer ticket that didn’t work. The driver took pity on me and let me ride for free.

Walking back up Fifth Avenue in the rain, my heart pulled between the loss of my not-backed-up work and tanking my first (last?) date with that blue-haired girl who seemed to get me in an easy, uncomplicated way… for a few hours. Through gritted teeth, I double-cursed myself for not paying attention to my surroundings and for prioritizing my PP over Jemma.

Finally: I reached my house, without my keys. I jumped the chain-link fence and sidle between houses until I reach the backyard. Stepping up onto our wobbling concrete picnic table, I grabbed the roof gutter and jumped, hoping it would hold my weight long enough to scramble my bacon up onto the roof. The roof was slippery with ice, but held.

My bedroom window slid right open, the dirty secret of that shitty Brooklyn house: anybody could’ve gotten right in at any time, it didn't even have a lock. One dripping boot in front of the other, I get my whole body through the window and close it, standing in a melting puddle of ice. My tabby Wedge stares back at me, refusing to leave the cozy tangle of my bed sheets. Satisfied I'm home, he goes back to sleep.

Stripping down, I flopped down onto my bachelor's futon mattress on the floor, semi-stoned, adrenaline-crashed, drained, then gone.

++++

Slowly, behind the heavy curtain of sleep, I began to hear jingling: keys below me, in the lock downstairs. My keys of course. Whoever took my bag has them – and my drivers license with my address on it. I leapt to my feet in the cold, groggy and naked.

Grabbing the nearest item of clothing — my yukata, a thin kimono from an old girlfriend — I covered myself and silently lifted a dented aluminum baseball bat from the hall closet that was there when I moved in. Keys still jingled… but I didn’t have that many keys. I reached the bottom of the stairs as the front door opened, revealing the persistent thief:

A young teen — wiry, long-legged, definitely still in high school — with a black bandana tied around his face like he’s about to rob a stagecoach. Across his chest he'd slung my shoulder bag. His eyes snapped wide, seeing me in my half-open yukata, winding up the bat like a samurai sword:

ME [tough guy growl]: Give me back my shit, little man.

He froze long enough to take one long inhale of cold air through his nostrils before he bolting, leaving my house keys hanging from the front door.

It was thirty degrees outside and I was dressed for a cherry blossom festival, but all I could think about was losing two years of work to this kid like this. So I gave chase:

ME: Yo! Wait! I'm not even mad! Toss me my Palm Pilot, you can keep the rest! Come on, bro... please!

He didn't stop so I ran after him full-bore, every moment getting readier to tap my bat against back of his skull to save my work when my bare feet suddenly slid across black ice. I remembered how cold it was, how bad I'd fuck myself up taking a wild spill out here, one thin yukata from naked and with no health insurance.

I hesitated, cautious, and he got away from me. It didn't take but a few seconds and I’m left there, panting clouds in the cold, balls shrunk, teeth chattering. 4:16am on a Thursday in Brooklyn.

++++

Back to bed with washed feet, my body’s still vibrating with adrenaline. I can't fall back asleep for what feels like hours, thinking about stolen cards I have to report, money I’d lost, but mostly the irreplaceable two years of notes and ideas in my PP.

My bedroom was so cold. It was always cold during winter, even with the heat cranked, because there was a hole in the attic all the heat escaped through. Always my protector, Wedge came in for a snuggle, laid out across my chest. I stroked his fur, sparking static crackles in the dark until once again, I fell asleep.

++++

Only to be awakened by the beeping of reversing trucks downstairs, just in front of the house. Opening one eye at the window, I watched the purple sky turning rosy-orange: it was still very early. I went to the window to see:

Production trucks outside. Lots of folks — crew, actors, catering — downstairs in the twilight. Surely it’s the Wes Anderson movie shoot. I threw back on my yukata, shuffled back downstairs.

Opening my front door, I stepped out barefoot only to find myself in the direct eyeline of Bill Murray. He stands in front of the rusty chain-link fence enclosing my completely-dead front yard, whose only pop of color in its landscaping is a giant purple dildo I found under the bathroom sink when I moved in and planted in the flower bed only to have it surprise me anew every winter when the violet bushes dry up.

Bill crinkled his eyes at me. He was dressed like an English professor, in a tweed jacket with elbow patches, sporting a fluffy gray beard. From the way he took a long sip from his craft services coffee, I knew he'd been staring at the purple dildo.

BILL MURRAY: Morning.

Shit. If he only knew.

ME: Hah. Yeah, morning.

He motioned with his paper coffee cup at my house:

BILL MURRAY : This your house?

ME: This one I’m coming out of? [His eyes light up; we’re having fun now] Yep.

BILL MURRAY: Nice house.

It wasn’t a nice house. It was a sad old dump, just like the slightly-sadder old dump two doors down that they chose over ours. But Bill didn’t have to be nice about it.

ME: Thank you, Bill.

He smiled and nodded toodle-oo, floated back towards set. Which absolutely killed me, because I love Bill Murray, I have loved him my whole life. Of course I wanted to follow him, talk to him, tell him about last night's crazy adventure that had only just ended. I knew he'd say something hysterically insightful... but I'm also very nearly naked in the cold and that is creepy.

Instead I looked around. I saw Wes Anderson and then: Ben Stiller, Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Martin Starr, and Anjelica Huston, all in-character period wardrobe for their roles in The Royal Tenenbaums.

I watched them shoot their scene from my porch until my legs began to shiver from the cold, then I tore myself away to make a cup of coffee.

++++

💡
BONUS: There's the scene they shot, two doors down from me (01:53):
💡
And now we're here at the end of the story. I do hope you enjoyed it. Maybe you want to share with a friend?

Or if you are that friend, maybe consider subscribing below? I write stories and send these out all the time-ish.

And YOU, dear already-subscriber! Don't be shy: let me know what you thought in the comments below or just reply to this email. Like I always say, I'm truly here to make new friends!

Thanks again for reading to the end! See you next time 😎